Monthly Archives: November 2011

Just the Six of Us

There are six people living in this house.

That’s six people who need food. Six people who need clothes bought, washed, and put away. Six people who get sick, ornery and loud. Though those six people struggle to get along at times, they also care for, help, and love each other.

Sometimes I do not get along with them, especially during the time of the month that I remember Eve and her apple. (And I hope it tasted really, really good! ) There are moments that Sissy does not get along with her older brother, and moments when our oldest son does not get along with his dad.

But then there are the moments God allows me to see, when they snuggle together on the couch to watch Kung Fu Panda (though that could be a tactic to ensure that someone is near when the kung fu power overwhelms them). The times that oldest brother helps sissy get something she can’t reach. The moment that dad walks in the door and the house erupts in screams and pounding feet. The times when our second youngest finds me for an after-nap cuddle. The way they each look out for the baby and treat him like their brother, even though we still don’t know for sure if his future includes staying with us permanently.

Six distinct personalities. Six minds, hearts, and souls all trying to learn to live together. While we work toward family harmony and peace, Jer and I also are responsible for slowly teaching them to learn to be independent. Sometimes it’s a huge chaotic mess. Having a family is harder and more demanding than I ever imagined. But among this chaos there is a mix of blessing, grace and joy.

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Christmas 2011 Officially Begins



Never before in my life have I gotten a real Christmas tree in November, until this year. Last Saturday we piled everyone in the Suburban and headed to a local farm to cut our own tree, and for many reasons I loved it.

What exactly did I “LOVE” about it?

I loved that it was so warm. 65 degrees. If you don’t think that that is warm for Thanksgiving weekend, you haven’t ever lived in Michigan.

I loved that no snow boots, or snow pants, or gloves were worn at the cutting of this tree.

I loved that no one had to be carried or pushed in a stroller.

I loved that our oldest son made a half a dozen ornaments with construction paper and had them in a box, waiting for the tree.

I loved that all of the ornaments were put on the tree without my assistance.

I loved that the tree did not fall over this year, as it did twice last year.

If only it would be 65 degrees every year when we cut the tree. Though that rarely happens in Michigan, I choose to shun reality and hope for it next year anyway.

Photoshop Magic: Black and White

The earliest surviving photograph was produced in 1826 by the French inventor Joseph Nicéphore Niépce. Long before that there is evidence of pinhole cameras, even as early as the 4th century BC. The Daguerreotype became popular in America in 1839. Almost 100 years later, in 1935, Kodak introduced the first color film called Kodachrome. By the early 1940’s Kodak began commercially producing color films, and the first Polaroid camera was available for sale in 1948. Canon demonstrated their invention, the digital camera, in 1984.

Yet, with all the advancements made in camera and film technology, I am drawn back to black and white photography. Why with all the improvements in quality, do I, in 2011, take the vibrant colors out of some of my photos?

Perhaps it’s a throwback to my Intro to Photography days, when I took my photos on black and white film, developed that film myself, and created my own prints in a darkroom. Maybe it’s because black and white helps me to focus on the subject of the photo, instead of the competing colors. Sometimes it’s simply preference.

Often simply changing a photo from color to black and white can produce meager results. Editing with Photoshop can take those meager results, and make lemonade. Below I have created examples with some of my own photos. First, you can see the original. Next, the same image, changed to grayscale, and the final image, with adjustments made to the curves/levels and adding a RadLab Photoshop action.

If you have a minute, leave me a comment below. I’d like to hear what you think about black and white photography.

DIY – Christmas Card Wreath



Items you’ll need:

Hot glue gun

12″ embroidery hoop

5 clothespins

1 roll of ribbon (Note: 3/8″ wide covers a regular sized clothespin)

Wreath bow – Buy one or make your own by following this tutorial

3 Christmas bells

Optional: 5 buttons to attach to the clothespins

Directions:

1. Prepare the Clothespins

Cut 5 lengths of ribbon 4 1/2″ long. Use the hot glue gun to attach the ribbon to the underside of the top of the clothespin. Pull tight across and glue under the other end of the clothespin. Optional: attach five buttons to the end of the clothespins. Set these aside.

2. Prepare the Bells

Cut three pieces of ribbon in the following lengths: 9″, 11″ and 13″. Put one end of the ribbon through the hole in the top of the bell and tie a knot in the ribbon 5 times in a row. Use a little hot glue to hold the ribbon together after tying the last knot and trim the short end of the ribbon. Once you have all the bells finished, tie all three together around the tightening screw on the hoop.


3. Prepare the Embroidery Hoop

Mark the 2:00, 4:00, 6:00, 8:00, and 10:00 positions on the embroidery hoop with a pencil or pen.

4. Attach the Wreath Bow

Attach the bow to the tightening screw. If you are using wire, you can make a loop with it to hang the bow on, or you use the hoop itself for hanging.

5. Attach the Clothespins

Put hot glue onto the mark you made at 2:00 on the hoop and attach one of the clothespins. Press and hold for a minute. Repeat until all five clothespins are attached.

Here are some ways you could alter this project:

Spray paint the hoop

Spray paint the clothespins

Wrap ribbon around the hoop before attaching the clothespins

Add glitter to the front edge of the hoop with ModPodge or watered down school glue

Add more clothespins by moving them closer together

Listed onthe following Link Parties:

Uncommon

Delicate Construction

Remember to Give Thanks

I am celebrating Thanksgiving here on the blog by offering two new free downloads. Print these off to hang on the fridge, or near your desk at work. I will be adding these both to the Freebies page today. Check back Friday for a new Christmas tutorial.

You can download the high-resolution PDF by clicking on the link below.

Thank God- Elephant PDF

1 Chronicles PDF

Happy Thanksgiving!




Photoshop Magic: The Photo Shoot

Sprinkled among my other daily duties, I’ve been spending time getting items ready for my Etsy shop. I knew I could really enhance my store items by getting someone to model them. Fortunately for me, my sister visited yesterday and was a willing participant. I do not have a studio, or lights, or a fancy digital camera (I am using a point and shoot Canon PowerShot A95). I really did not know what kind of results I would get, but I hoped with a little Photoshop magic I could make my items stand out more on Etsy. So I pinned up a white bed sheet on our front porch and had my sister stand in front of it to model some hats and a necklace and bracelet set I have created.

Here is a collage of the raw images, straight from my camera to the computer, with the “after” photo below it. In Photoshop, I adjusted curves and levels, and applied two different Rad Lab Photoshop Actions to get the final results.

Works in Progress

I’ve been working on a mix of things the past week and thought I’d share.

My sketchbook has been sitting untouched for a few weeks, while I got everything set up here on the blog, in my Etsy store and on Facebook. But last Thursday I got it back out and sketched a girly giraffe inspired by my girly girl. I also took the opportunity to work on hand lettering and font design.

Saturday morning I made this brooch, an idea that had been floating around in my head for a while now. Too bad I forgot to wear it to church this morning.

I have been working on a tutorial to make a Christmas card wreath, and here is the project half-finished. I will be posting the full tutorial later in the week.

I have been saving Christmas cards from last year, hoping to recycle them into new Christmas cards this year. I started by tearing the cards into pieces, and now I have to work on turning this mess into something cute.

Lastly, I worked on creating a few examples to showcase the new digital collage font sheets I designed (you can view that by clicking here). This is the card that I made using the digital collage font sheet printed on patterned scrapbooking paper, white paint, tissue paper and ribbon.

Inspiring Creativity in Kids: Toys and Gifts

I think toys and gifts that inspire kids to be creative are more difficult to come by these days. It seems that most toys are promoting licensed characters (like Superman, Batman, Dora or Barbie) or useful for only a single purpose. Plus, there are so many toys to choose from, it’s very difficult to pick a toy I think they might like and actually play with. Many of their toys go untouched, at least until I am putting them in a garage sale or goodwill box. Suddenly they become their most precious possession.

With Black Friday only one week away, I thought I would share the toys and gifts that I think really inspire creativity.

1. Fisher Price Trio Blocks and Legos – (Minus the Assembly Directions)

Our kids range in age from 18 months to 8, and the three older kids play with Trio blocks many times a month. We have acquired several sets, and I have quickly thrown away the “assembly directions” that came with each one and added them all together in a big basket. Our oldest is really becoming interested in Legos, and again we have thrown away the “directions.” He has made very creative weapons, cars, airplanes and castles using his imagination and these building blocks.



2. Playdoh and Modeling Clay

Not only do they make their own animals, people, flowers and cookies, but then they play with them. It’s fun to hear them creating little scenes and making funny voices.


3. Dress Up Clothes

Dress up clothes are easy to find at garage sales, second hand shops, and I have even found some superhero suits on Ebay. They have put on clothes that Mr. Sir and I are going to get rid of. The boys have used Halloween costumes, and little lady has worn dance recital costumes and flower girls dresses. Items like scarves and mittens, robes, bracelets and necklaces, purses, shoes, ties, and hats have made great additions to the dress up box. They have gotten married, hunted deer, taken care of babies, captured the dangerous Darth Vader, and traveled as dinosaurs to a far off land in search of water.



4. Art Supplies

Sketchbooks, paints, markers, and crayons have gotten hours of use in this home, along with coloring and activity books, stickers, glitter, and stamps, old magazines, and construction paper.

UPDATE: Check out this very informative guide on creative play and toys. (Thanks Mary Sue!)

There are millions of toys out there, but these are the ones that have come through our home that have truly inspired creativity in our kids. Leave me a comment below and tell me what your favorite toy or gift to inspire creativity is.

Place Cards for Your Guests or the Buffet Table – Free Download

Seven days from now you may be stuffing yourself full of turkey and pumpkin pie! Take advantage of this free download for your table, or use the cards to identify the casserole surprise your Aunt Thelma brought.

It’s easy to add your own color:
Any type of marker works well
Print on patterned scrapbooking paper
Give the kids the crayons or markers and let them enjoy coloring them while you get a pre-dinner nap

There is still time to order one of the color versions from my Etsy store. To get the file in time for Thanksgiving, orders must be placed by Monday. To view those click on the picture below.


Blessed?


Over the course of a few days, I had been working on a new sketchbook page. I was determined to finish it, even though I wasn’t happy with the color scheme, and there were a few things I’d change if I were to do it over again.

I was sitting at the kitchen table adding the final touches with my sharpie when the phone rang. I spoke briefly with someone and as I turned to go back to the table, there he was.

Holding a bottle of green paint in his hand.
Green paint was on his shirt.
Green paint was globbed on his hand.
And laying underneath his hand?
My sketchbook.
Green paint globbed on the page.

At first, I admit, I was mad, but I did hold my tongue. This child has a lot of difficulty with touching things. He just can’t resist. If it looks shiny, interesting, dangerous, yummy, or breakable, he must touch it. But as I cleaned up his hands and the sketchbook page, I started laughing.

Here I was, upset with him for getting green paint all over his hand, his clothes and my page (which I didn’t even like that well.) And the word jumped out at me like slap in the face. Blessed.

How many times am I in the midst of trial, but too scared and overwhelmed by the “giant” to see the blessings? How often do I miss a blessing because I am too focused on things that aren’t that important? Why is my perspective so often skewed that I can’t recognize a blessing?  Why do I sometimes receive a blessing, but perceive it as a curse?

The song “Blessings” by Laura Story is a beautiful illustration of God’s mercy and blessings in a believers life. I can get so focused on wanting good health, peace and comfort, that I miss the blessings all around me. Even worse, I may be tempted to accuse God of not answering my prayers, or to doubt His love, faithfulness and mercy.

‘Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

May my eyes and ears be opened to the blessings I receive each day from my family, my friends, my church, and my God.

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