Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Top Five Favorite Things About Autumn

Fall is my favorite time of year and always has been.  There's so much to love about this season.  Here is my Top Five Favorite Things About Autumn.

1. The fall colors- The artist in me can't help but be inspired by the contrast of red, orange, yellow, and brown leaves against the deep blue of the sky.  Even the grass seems greener to me.  The pallette sure makes beautiful landscapes.  It makes me want to break out the oil paints, or at least take a lot of pictures.

2. Scented candles- I set candles out year round, but for some reason, I forget to light them during the spring and summer months.  In the fall, I almost crave them.  Perhaps I associate the candle flame with a warm fire on a chilly autumn night.  Maybe I just like the spicy autumn scents more than the perfumey floral ones.  They evoke fond memories from childhood, like making applesauce with Grandma Daisy, eating my sister Patty's pecan pie, carving pumpkins with my family, or sipping hot cinnamon apple cider after a hay ride.  Some of my favorite candle scents this season are Farmer's Market and Morrocan Market, (both Colonial Candles), and Apple Cider, (a Yankee Candle).  Yum!

3. The cooler temperatures- I've lived in multiple climates, and summer has never been my favorite.  The summer months can be so hot in the Southern states that it's uncomfortable to be outside for any length of time.  If I try to walk the dog, I'm soaking wet half a block later.  The air feels thick and stuffy, like I can't catch a deep breath.  My face feels flushed and hot, and everything swells.  Plus, there's only so many clothes I can take off before my modesty kicks in.  I tend to stay indoors more, and for me, that also means less physical activity.  It takes every bit of energy I have to get up and go.  When autumn arrives, the cooler temps rejuvenate me.  I've never been a runner, yet on crisp mornings like these I feel the urge to run.  In my opinion, there's no better time to start a new exercise program than this.  I won't have to feel so guilty about that piece of pumpkin pie.

4. Comfort food- Speaking of temperatures, who wants to turn on the oven in the middle of July? We do use our toaster oven extensively, but pot roast just won't fit in there.  If we were in the mood for a roast in July, perhaps we'd break out the crock pot, but something about summer just makes us want to grill instead, and eat a steady supply of fresh fruits and vegetables.  When those temperatures start dropping, our oven makes a comeback.  My husband loves to bake fresh bread and bagels, while I cook roasts with hearty vegetables.  The house smells fantastic!

5. The emphasis on family- This time of year has a way of bringing family together.  The return of comfort food means more sit down family meals where we linger longer and actually talk to each other face to face.  I find that I call family more often too.  Whether we are planning holiday gatherings, discussing gift suggestions, or just saying hello, the extra calls make me feel more connected to my loved ones who are far away.

What are your top five favorite things about autumn?  Post them below!

Autumn Candle Sleeve
Speaking of candles, I like to add a little bling to the outside.  I made a this sleeve to make my candle a bit more decorative.  Since it's made out of paper, you have to take extra precautions if you intend to light the candle.  You could use a no-flame candle (battery-operated) or you could use a candle that has burnt down enough to accomodate a tealight candle.  Simply insert the tealight into the center and burn the tealight instead of the pillar candle.  Of course, never leave a burning candle unattended.

To make this sleeve, take a slip of paper or piece of string and wrap it around your candle to measure it's diameter.  Then, cut a piece of patterned paper that is a centimeter longer than the diameter of your candle, so it will overlap at the ends.  I made my sleeve 4 inches wide and cut a decorative edge on the top and bottom with a scalloped edge punch.  You could also use decorative edge scissors or even tear the edge for a more distressed look. 

Wrap the sleeve around your candle snuggly and glue or tape the seam.  I used snail adhesive strip.  Next, stamp two leaves on two coordinating colors using brown ink and cut them out.  I stamped a third leaf onto the mustard yellow paper, stamped the word "Grateful" over the top of it in a dark brown ink, and used a large oval punch to cut it out.  Note: if you flip the punch upside down and the paper right side up, you can frame it better and see where the cut lines will be.  Next, stamp acorns onto white or vanilla, and color them in to give them more dimension.  Glue all of these onto your sleeve, but don't glue down all the edges.  This allows the leaves to "pop" off the page.  Lastly, take a bit of twine, raffia, or thin ribbon and tie it around the candle.  This is a very quick craft and works well with many color pallettes.  Try doing a Christmas one using pine boughs and pinecones instead of leaves and acorns.    Happy Crafting!!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

A House More Meaningful...

A few years ago, I visited a home in central Minnesota that made a huge impression on me. It wasn't a half a million dollar home. It didn't flaunt its riches. It didn't look like my favorite Pottery Barn catalog or the latest Home & Garden magazine. What struck me was how warm, comfortable and inviting it felt. It was obvious to me that they hadn't chosen their belongings at random. Every item had a story or a history. In addition, they had hired a painter to paint quotes and other flourishes on the walls that were meaningful to them. These personal touches were everywhere...above the doorways, interwoven between collections of framed photos, above the bed, etc. This family had created a home that was deeply personal. It was beautiful, and spoke volumes to me about who these people were, what was important to them, and even to a certain degree, told a story about the events that had shaped their lives.
When we were selling our previous house, the realtor suggested that we remove anything personal. He said that the house would sell easier if potential buyers could envision themselves and their family in the space. Having too many of your own personal items, such as photographs, would get in the way of that vision. At the time, we didn't have to remove much (aside from extra clutter), and I thought that was a good thing. Looking back on it now, I'm almost ashamed to admit that it meant our house was pretty generic.

Upon returning home from that fateful Minnesota trip, I studied our house with new eyes. While my house looked nice and comfortable, I had a hard time finding anything that was truly "me" or that described "us" as a family. Aside from a couple of photographs, our house could have belonged to anyone. I began to contemplate how and why I choose the items that fill up my house and what my possessions have to say about me.

In our current house, we just finished our basement and added quite a bit more living space. Now we have several empty rooms to fill. I guess that's why I've been thinking about this topic. This would be a good time for me to start letting go of the things that just aren't working. This applies not only to the stuff, but also to my ideal image of how I think my house should look. Rather than trying to make it worthy of a magazine spread, I'm choosing to focus instead on how it makes us feel to be living in the space.
My husband unknowingly helped me in this endeavor when he purchased a painting of Venice for our living room. It has a story.  In June of 2009, my sister came to watch our kids so we could take a trip just the two of us.  We spent 6 days traveling through Italy, and Venice was one of the stops. Every time I look at the painting, it brings me right back there again, remembering with all 5 senses the wonderful experience of being there together.
My friend Jennifer gave me this beautiful, weathered ladder for my birthday two years ago. It has old world charm and character. I added eye hooks and wire so I could hang photographs on it using library clips. I love it! I can swap out photos or artwork as it suits me.  It reminds me of our friendship and also of our time in Germany. It's one of my favorite things in our living room.
If I asked you to look around your house and describe the people who live there based on its contents, what's the first thing that pops into your head? Hopefully it's not a statement about wealth.  This isn't supposed to be about how much money you spend (or do not spend) on the material items in your house. I've been to houses that were quite lavish; filled to the brim through a "spared no expense" mentality. That kind of house can be gorgeous, but it can also be the best example of how a dry, cold, impersonal, and/or completely disconnected space feels. I'm certainly not making a generalization.  Any house, lavish or not, can feel cold and empty no matter how much stuff is in it, if it's only goal is to communicate how much money the family makes for a living or how important it is for them to live up to a certain status quo. Don't get me wrong...I want a beautiful house too! That's only normal. I'm simply suggesting that you consider making your space more you, more personal, rather than creating a space based on what you think other people like. They don't have to live there. I challenge you to consider your surroundings carefully and choose things that are truly meaningful to you. Make your home a place you love.

What Do You Think?
Do you have favorite objects in your house that tell your story? What do your possessions communicate about you? Please share your comments at the bottom of the page.
Project of the Day:
Since I loved the idea of putting words or quotes or other flourishes up on the walls, today we'll explore some ways to do that. The least expensive option is to paint them yourself. Draw freehand with a light pencil until you get the look you want, and then paint it with water based acrylics. If you make mistakes, wipe those areas with baby wipes, Clorox wipes, or a wet papertowel. You can also make touch-ups with the original wall color if necessary. I've seen some examples where people outline the painted letters or shapes with a marker. If painting freehand scares you, try using a projector to project your image or letters up onto the area, trace the outlines, and then paint. Or try using stencils. There are stencils available for most common words, like "Family," and hundreds of shapes. At a previous house we lived in, I stencilled morning glories as a border around the top of our kitchen.
I painted this whimsical willow tree freehand onto the wall in my daughter's fairy-themed bedroom.
We move around a lot, so whenever I paint directly on our walls, I cringe at the thought of leaving it behind. I either want to take them with me, or at least get rid of them easily when the time comes to sell our house. The realtor was right after all. So, if you want to paint, but want to be able to remove it later, try painting on clear contact paper. Here's a faux window that I painted onto clear contact paper in our kid's castle-themed playroom.  When they outgrow the room, or we decide to make the space into an office, we'll simply peel it off (and take down the curtains too of course).  You can also paint onto canvas, wooden or metal boards, and many other surfaces. 
Faux window in the castle-themed play room.
If you aren't confident in your painting skills, a great alternative is vinyl stickers. These are quite popular and there are dozens of sources to get them on the internet, as well as home based businesses that sell them. Most brands will peel back off again (cleanly and easily), but you should read the fine print to be sure, as some are better quality than others. They adhere to smooth surfaces, such as laptops, windows, mirrors, wood or metal signs, dry erase boards, plastic bins, etc. They usually come with an applicator, but I've used one of those Pampered Chef Nylon Scrapers and that worked well.

Here are some of the projects I've done using vinyl stickers:
IKEA plate with Stampin' Up! Decor Elements sticker

Unfinished wooden sign was purchased from a hobby shop.  I painted it, added gold glitter spray, and the phrase from Stampin' Up!
Both the metal sign and the vinyl stickers are from Uppercase Living.

Here are some of the online sources that I've found that sell vinyl wall stickers: (they have stencils too).

Happy crafting!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Grateful, Part Three

Looking for a way to fill up your family member's love tanks? Here's another quick idea that I remember reading about in the book "Chicken Soup for the Soul." A teacher did an exercise similar to this with her classroom when morale was low. Many of the students were so touched by this, it became one of their most treasured possessions that they kept into adulthood. Here's the exercise: Using little slips of paper, write the name of each person in your family on one side of the paper. On the back of each one, write a compliment for that person; something you love about them, something that makes them unique and special. Have each family member do this same exercise. Even 2 and 3 year olds can do this with a little help. Just ask them, "What do you like about your [family member]?" Then, take another piece of paper, write the name of one person at the top, then take all of the slips with their name on them and glue them to the paper so that the compliment is face up. Repeat for each person, then give it to that person. This exercise could easily work for any club or group whose members know each other pretty club, girls night out, youth group, etc. You can make this as simple or as fancy as you'd like with the paper you select. Try using scrapbooking paper and cardstock to jazz it up for a frameable work of art that is meaningful. If you want the comments to be anonymous, you can re-type them and print them. If you have members who compete, compare, or get jealous of each other easily, don't read them outloud. Pass them out quietly, one-on-one. If you have never read the book, "Chicken Soup for the Soul," I definitely recommend it. It's full of short, heart-warming, true stories that live up to its title.
Grateful, Part Three:
Here's the last card for the theme Grateful, (tomorrow we'll be doing something totally different).  For this project you'll need a stamp set that has 4 small leaf patterns and the word grateful or thankful. I used a Stampin' Up! set called Falling Leaves.

1) Make a card measuring 5.5 X 4.25 that opens at the side using medium brown cardstock, such as Soft Suede. Tear along the right side of the front to create the torn edge look (as shown).

2) Stamp 4 leaves onto Very Vanilla cardstock using 4 coordinating colors of ink. I used More Mustard, Cajun Craze, Old Olive and Chocolate Chip inks. Trim closely leaving a tiny border around the leaves.

3) Use paper punches to cut out 4 shapes as follows: Use the 1 1/4 inch circle with Cajun Craze cardstock, 1 1/5 inch circle on More Mustard cardstock, scalloped square on Old Olive cardstock, and the curly label punch on Summer Sun cardstock or another yellow.
4) Glue the leaves onto the shapes of a contrasting color.  For example, don't glue the Cajun Craze leaf on the Cajun Craze shape...pick a different color.  Arrange them in a slightly overlapping fashion while leaving a 1.5 inch empty column along the lefthand side of the card.  When you like the way they are arranged, glue them down.

5) Tie a piece of twine around the front flap of the card and secure with a knot.  I also stapled the twine just below the knot so the twine wouldn't slide left or right.  Above the knot, tie a small piece of Old Olive ribbon and another piece of Very Vanilla ribbon onto the twine and snip the ends diagonally.

6) Stamp the word Grateful or Thankful onto Very Vanilla cardstock with Chocolate Chip ink.  Cut it out, leaving a 1/4 inch border all around it.  Glue it onto dark brown cardstock such as Chocolate Chip.  Cut that out, also leaving a 1/4 inch border.  Glue it over the top of the twine string so that it overlaps some of the shapes, as shown in the example.

Try using this same layout with different color schemes and different stamp sets, such as Christmas images or snowflakes. Use birthday stamps like cake, balloons and confetti sprinkles to create a fun birthday card. Here's the basic template:

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Grateful, Part Two

Do you remember making collages when you were a kid? I distinctly remember going through old magazines and cutting out everything that looked appealing, and then pasting them all in a random, overlapping fashion onto a giant piece of paper. I actually kept one that I did and it's fun to see what was meaningful to me at that time in my life.
What if you did one now? Instead of picking random pictures out of magazine, take snapshots of your real life. Photograph whatever is important to you...people, pets, prized possessions...and assemble them into a visual reminder of what you are thankful for. Then hang it somewhere you'll be able to see it every day, perhaps in a spot that only few will see, like in your closet, or on the back of your bedroom door. Every time you see it, say "Thank you," outloud. Focusing on what you are thankful for automatically brightens your mood because it forces you to emphasize the positive things about your life. 
Here's the collage I made using Picasa's collage feature
Here's another exercise: throughout the day, when you notice you are complaining, whining, or saying something negative about another person or situation...catch yourself and stop. Then in your head, come up with 5 good things about that person or situation instead; things you could even say you were thankful for. 

How do you bring about a more gracious attitude? Do you have any strategies that work for you? Feel free to share them in the comments section.

Now onto today's greeting card project: 
Grateful, Part Two:
You'll need a stamp set that has 3 different leaf patterns, acorns and the word grateful or thankful. I used a Stampin' Up! set called Autumn Splendor.

1) Make a card measuring 4.25 X 5.5 that opens at the bottom using a dark orange cardstock such as Really Rust or Cajun Craze. 

2) Cut a rectangle out of patterned paper that measures 3.75 X 5. The paper I used had a woodgrain texture that looked weathered with rust and teal accents. Glue it onto the card centered.

3) Stamp three different leaves and acorns using four different colors onto Very Vanilla cardstock. I used Chocolate Chip ink for the oak leaf, More Mustard ink for the maple leaf and Taken With Teal ink for the last leaf, plus Really Rust ink for the acorns.
4) Use a 1 1/4 inch circle punch to make a circle out of patterned paper that coordinates with your background paper. Mine is predominantly Taken With Teal in color. Cut out all the leaves and the acorns, leaving a barely visible edge around them. Glue the acorns to the middle of the circle. 

5) Arrange the leaves in a cluster, using the circle with the acorns as the middle of the cluster, as shown. When it looks balanced, glue it all down. Use linen thread or thin twine to tie a bow around the top flap of the card, (it will be visible on the inside of the card).

6) Stamp the word Grateful or Thankful onto Very Vanilla cardstock with Taken With Teal ink. Cut it out, leaving a 1/4 inch border all around it. Glue it onto dark brown cardstock such as Chocolate Chip. Cut that out, also leaving a 1/4 inch border. Glue it to the bottom right corner, and you're done!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Grateful, Part One

In the past, the Christmas holiday season didn’t officially start until the day after Thanksgiving. This year, I was disappointed to see Christmas decorations and hear Christmas songs playing on the radio THE DAY AFTER HALLOWEEN!! Huh? What happened to Thanksgiving? Is the country skipping the Thanksgiving holiday altogether?

Many of my friends, determined to observe and uphold the Thanksgiving holiday, have started new traditions this year. One friend put up a dry-erase board in her living room. She and her family members take turns leaving notes to each other about what they are thankful for. For example, “Mom, thanks for making sure my uniform was clean for my game today.” Or, “Sweetie, thanks for having such a great attitude about doing your chores today.” Another crafty friend made a mini-chalkboard by painting 3 layers of black chalkboard paint onto the bottom of an old bar pan (a cookie sheet with an edge around it). She hung it in her dining room, and they make a short list of things they are thankful for during grace. Another friend is publicly declaring her thanks in daily Facebook posts. 

What kinds of things are you doing to inspire a grateful attitude in your homes or workplaces? How do you make the season last beyond having a turkey dinner one day out of the year? 
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I decided to make greeting cards that I titled, “Grateful.” I intend to make multiple copies and mail out one card each day between now and Thanksgiving. I will pick one friend each day, jot them a little note, and let them know how grateful I am to have them in my life.

Over the next three days I’ll post samples of three of my cards along with instructions on how to make them. Most of the supplies I used are from Stampin’ Up! (and the actual stamps I used are available in their current catalog).
Grateful, Part One:
1) Take one 8 ½ by 11 piece of medium brown card stock and cut it in half so it measures 8 ½ by 5 ½ inches. I used Close To Cocoa, but you could use Soft Suede or any other medium brown shade. Fold it in half to make a card that measures 4.25 X 5.5 and opens at the bottom.

2) Cut a rectangle out of Really Rust (or Cajun Craze or any dark orange) that measures 3.75 X 5 and glue it onto the front of the card, centering it.

3) Next cut a 3.25 X 4.5 inch rectangle out of a rustic, weathered looking patterned paper that uses autumn shades. I used leftover paper from last year that had a teal grid pattern on top of a vanilla background with brown “paint” splatters. 

4) Using the French Foliage stamp set from Stampin’ Up!, stamp the French words onto the top center of the patterned rectangle (as shown). Since my paper had teal in it, I used Taken With Teal, but you could use any blue-green ink, or pick a different accent color that coordinates with the other colors you’ve chosen. Stamp paint splatters onto the lower left-hand corner using Really Rust (or whatever dark orange color you already picked). Stamp the Paris postal mark near the splatters using Chocolate Chip or dark brown, as shown. Glue the rectangle onto the center of the card.

5) Stamp three different leaves using the color scheme you’ve already established: dark brown, medium brown and a dark orange, all onto a cream colored cardstock such as Very Vanilla. Trim around them closely, leaving a slight border visible. Glue them onto the patterned paper as shown.
6) I borrowed the Grateful word stamp from a different set called Falling Leaves, and stamped it onto Very Vanilla paper using Chocolate Chip ink. Use a trimmer tool or scissors to cut around the word leaving a ¼ inch border on all sides. Glue it onto Chocolate Chip cardstock and then trim around that, again leaving a ¼ inch border all around. Glue it onto the card slightly off center, as shown.

Voila! Your French inspired Thanksgiving card is complete! Try using alternate color schemes with this layout, such as:
Real Red with Soft Suede and Old Olive

More Mustard with Cherry Cobbler and Always Artichoke

Share your results…and have a grateful season!