Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Solitary Pursuits

My inlaws came this weekend and we had such a fun day.

Mostly because we did absolutely nothing. It was a gorgeous day and we just sat out in the backyard all afternoon and talked. If you feel like you don't often take an afternoon to do nothing (not easy for me, I'll admit) - you really should.

Many hilarious topics came up over the course of the day (the Fiedlers are funny people), but my favorite one, believe it or not, was about golf.

I was asking my FIL about going to play golf at one of his regular courses, and if he ever felt weird getting paired (or quadded) up with strangers. From the outside looking in, I've always thought that this was an offputting characteristic of golf - that it couldn't be a solitary pursuit. You can't just go play a round of golf alone, unless your town has been beset by zombies and everyone else who use to golf is dead. Wait - undead.

It's even ODDER for a sport that makes you shush all the time. I mean really - you're going to make me shut up AND spend five hours with a stranger?

He said it wasn't awkward, and that very few times in his whole golfy life had he ever been matched up with people that he didn't like or that made it less fun.

I tried to explain how weird it seemed to me like this:

What if I got up on Saturday morning and walked into my stamp room to play and someone met me at the door and said "Hi Lydia - thanks for coming to stamp today - here's Frida, and she'll be with you all day."


Just no.

It would be so awkward and weird!

And while I love to STAMP with other people - like at swaps or at convention, there's no way I can CREATE with other people. I absolutely cannot design in any condition other than complete solitude. I can only replicate.

Can any of you do the design part of your work in a group setting? Even in an art class I'm not designing, just learning. I'm fascinated to know if all of the creative process is truly a solitary pursuit or if I'm just a freak.

You know what's not a solitary pursuit?? The Stampin' Up! Catalog premiere I went to last night with 7600 of my closest friends!

It. Was. Awesome.

We were in theaters all across the country watching a live broadcast from a theater in Long Beach, CA. They introduced the new catalog, gave us peeks, did demonstrations, gave out prizes, and as we left WE GOT THE CATALOG! And it's amazing. I stayed up until nearly 2 AM last night poring over every page, putting flags on the has-to-haves and stifling squeals.

I'm about to go through it again. I can't wait until you can all see it!

We of course got a set from the catalog and I had to ink it up with our new In Colors, which are gorgeous.  They are Blackberry Bliss, Hey Honey, Tangelo Twist, Lost Lagoon and Mossy Meadow.

I won the ink prize patrol so I got to go home with Blackberry Bliss, Hey Honey and Tangelo Twist and I married them with our all attendee prize - the Work of Art stamp set. The second I laid my eyes on this set I knew what I was going to do with it - make a rainbow! I love the brushstroke look of the whole set, and this greeting is spectacular. The Blackberry Bliss, Hey Honey and Tangelo Twist are all stamped off once here, so you're seeing them at half strength. Tempting Turquoise is full strength and Old Olive is half strength.

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You ARE a fabulous work of art, you know - fearfully and wonderfully made. :)


Friday, April 25, 2014

The Legulator #weloveDS

This morning, I was trying to use temperature legulation. You know - where you stick one leg out from under the blankets to give yourself the perfect balance of cool and warm.

This is infinitely more difficult with two feline leg weights. You have to be very careful and move slowly so that they don't freak out and shoot off at 80 miles an hour, which elevates your heart rate and makes it impossible to go back to sleep.

I don't know why someone hasn't invented the Legulator blanket that pops into my head every time this happens. The Legulator basically has a leg length buttonhole that you can pop your leg out of, so that you don't have the blanket awkwardly bunched around your exposed leg - instead, just an easy to use vent.

Get right on that, comforter industry - because no matter how hot it is, I like my down comforter.

I'm hosting today's Mix-Ability challenge on Splitcoast, and I thought it would be fun to play with crayons! There are three technique videos in the challenge post, and one of them is my Crayon Rubbed Embossing Video. But I decided to do a different spin on that. Here's a peek:

First I embossed a die cut butterfly (Beautiful Butterflies die) from watercolor paper, and then embossed it with my Alphabet Press embossing folder. Then I unwrapped a yellow crayon (which was kind of a pain - they put adhesive all over them now so it's impossible to cleanly unwrap them) and rubbed the side of the crayon all over the raised letters on the butterfly.

You need to really saturate the raised area with color if you're going to do what I did, which is to use my Aquapainter and Tempting Turquoise reinker and watercolor all the debossed areas.

I wanted to use color because I'm so used to seeing white crayons used for a resist, but rarely color.

So this is today's #weloveDS card - what do you think?

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My downline and I have a little surprise for the Demonstrator Support group on Monday, and man is it ever hard to keep a secret! :)

Wish I could buy them all Legulators!!

Thanks for stopping by.


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Life Is Like a Box Of...

Don't finish that sentence.

I have issues with it.

Here's why: when you open a box of chocolates, you DO know what you're gonna get. You're gonna get chocolate. There's even a little map on the bottom telling you which is which. And if you're over five years old, you darn sure know that a pink swirly means raspberry filling, a white swirly means coconut, etc. Seriously. Have the people that wrote that line ever even HAD chocolate??

In actual fact, life is like a box of avocados.

With an avocado, you really DON'T know what you're going to get. You do the best you can at the store with those black, bumpy balls of mystery. You choose only the ones with the perfect squeezability, shiny, healthy skin. You do spells and incantations as you bag them up.

And $10 later, you get home, lovingly wash them, slice them open, and find out if you've won the 50/50 lottery or if you scream in terror at black, mysterious mess.

Such is the life of a Texican and self proclaimed avocado addict. You never know what you're gonna get. Part of the adventure.

Here's another #weloveDS card for our fabulous peeps in Demonstrator Support.

This card was a sample for my Everything You Can Do With Framelits part III class. We had tons of fun with different die cut inlay techniques and this was one of my faves. It features the banners framelits and the matching Perfect Pennants stamp set, which I use almost daily.

Love these colors together - Coastal Cabana, Bermuda Bay, Baked Brown Sugar, Soft Suede.

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You know what's like a box of chocolates? Demonstrator Support. I ALWAYS know I'm gonna get something sweet. :)


Monday, April 21, 2014


Have you ever worked in a front-facing service job?

My very first job was when I was 13 years old at the health food store my mom managed in Bryan, Texas. Well, I supposed, my first job was really as a sales person for the Girl Scouts of America, but we'll revisit that later.

I got paid $1 an hour to work at this store. For the most part, I loved it. I got to work with my mom and her best buddy, Ann, who was spunky and hilarious. I worked with my someday sister-in-law's cousin, Kendall, who used to go play Space Invaders with me on our lunch break at Mr. Gatti's in downtown Bryan. Downtown Bryan was the subject of this, my favorite Lyle Lovett song. I used to go see Lyle at Morganstern's a few years later, before he got famous. Speaking of famous, if you're a Whole Foods fan, John Mackey, before he hit the big time, used to deliver to our little store.

But I digress.

From this $1/hour job, I saved up $640, which I spent on Gloria Vanderbilt jeans and Polo shirts which my mother drove me and my BFF Mary to Houston to buy at the Galleria.

Not every one of those dollars was hard won, but many were.

Customer service is not for the faint of heart. People aren't nice to service people. Some people don't think of them as equivalent life forms, and their behavior indicates that. I yes ma'am'd and no ma'am'd many times when other words came to mind.

One day, a guy pushed me right over the "be nice" line. My mother remembers it to this day. This old coot was buying some hippie frozen bread we sold, but felt the need to grumble about how awful it was, all the way to the freezer and all the way up to the counter. Don't get me wrong - this bread sucked - we didn't disagree on that. But then he felt like he needed to tell me at great length how awful it was. I snapped. I bared my fangs and fluffed up my tail and told him in no uncertain terms that he needed to pick that bread up, walk back to the freezer, put it up and not darken our door again. Much to my surprise and delight, he complied. This was the beginning of what eventually became my terrifying and all-powerful scary whisper, which I only use for good, not evil.

I then worked at McDonald's when I was 16 (great employer) and then at a local Mexican restaurant at 17. These jobs offered further lessons in service which I use to this day. Most of all, they taught me patience and negotiating skills.

These experiences are the reason that I try very hard to be kind to people in service industries. I cringe when I see customers who go through a checkout process on their cell phone without looking at a cashier (something my friend Kelli just posted about), because I remember how important it was to be acknowledged as a human life form in that type of job. I try hard to separate frustration with a process or a product from the person helping me, because I remember getting yelled at over things I couldn't and didn't control.

So today, I'm expressing appreciation for the 39 people in Demonstrator Support at Stampin' Up!

These are the people who answer our calls all day every day, and probably get yelled at a few times. They are the sweetest, kindest, friendliest customer support team I've ever worked with, and I truly do know that they care about us and about what we do. I've never received anything less than STELLAR and graceful, sweet service from them.

And yet, I don't know that I've ever written about them or thanked them publicly, so today, I say thank you.Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Thank you for looking up my order number that I should have had before I called you. Thank you for replacing an item mangled by the post office. Thank you for asking me how I am and how you can help me with your cute Utah accent - yes, you have accents. Thank you for fixing things for my customers so that I can keep them happy. Thank you for knowing my name every time I call. Thank you for thanking me for what I do and telling me you appreciate me.

You make me happy. :)
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I will be expressing my thanks all week to this amazing team and I hope you'll join me, using hashtag #weloveDS on any social media outlet. .

Speaking of Salt Lake awesomeness, I made a fabulous recipe last night that I got from one of my favorite restaurants there. I've modified it a lot, and it's amazing. I really had to restrain myself from eating all of it and going to the hospital for a corn overdose.

Here it is. Enjoy.

Lime Corn with Smoked Paprika Aioli

6 ears sweet corn
1 tablespoon butter
2 TBS aioli (below)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Ground red chili flakes
 Chopped herbs for garnish: tarragon, chives, parsley

Scrape corn off the cob using a mandolin or a very sharp chef’s knife.
Heat a dry sauté pan over medium-high heat. Throw kernels into pan and toast for a few seconds. Add butter, followed by a squeeze of lime. Add a pinch of salt and pepper.
Sauté for 5 minutes until kernels are soft and lightly charred.
Turn out onto a serving dish.

Top with aioli and Parmesan cheese. Finish with hot pepper and herbs and an extra squeeze of lime.

1/2 cup mayonnaise
3 cloves roasted garlic (I roast mine with olive oil and Confituras lime chile salt)
1 tsp Spanish paprika, toasted
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground pepper

SUCH a yummy dish. The aioli can be used for a long time - that recipe makes way more than you need.

And before you go, the retired list is out - and guess what? For FOUR DAYS you get free shipping with no minimum just to help you grab these things before they're gone forever!

So click below to get started!



Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Worst Thing Isn't Ever The Last Thing

I went to a funeral yesterday of a great man who had a long, happy and healthy life.

It's always interesting to hear a one hour summary of a life which, in this case was 867,240 hours long.

That's a lot of hours. You can't tell that whole story.

Since the service took place during Holy Week, I thought the pastor made some really great observations.

One of the things he said several times, about the meaning of Easter and on human life and the life of the soul, was this:

"The worst thing isn't ever the last thing."

He had a funny, repetitive cadence and I was glad that I heard this several times because it took some thought.

It was both profound and optimistic. Sobering and hopeful at the same time.

As I rolled it around in the rock tumbler later in the day, I thought of course of how perfect a metaphor it is for art.

A few backyard happy hour coloring sessions ago, I was watercoloring different versions of the coffee cup in Perfect Blend with my Koi watercolors and an Aquapainter. Here's the first one I did.

I was just practicing, so I didn't make a card or anything - just playing with color.

Because I forgot to bring a paper towel or a chamois to clean my brush on, I actually started cleaning my brush on an extra stamped image I had planned to color. Yes, I'm that lazy. When the birds are singing and the sun is shining, there's not much that will get me to walk inside, so I do whatever I need to do.

But to get the muted colors you see above, I had to get the saturated colors off my brush, so I used the cup. I squiggled off the greens on the left side of the cup and the deep purples on the right side of the cup and the blues everywhere else. This helped me not muddy the colors I was going to use on the softer version above.

Then I came inside and put everything in a big pile as is my custom.

In going through the pile after we got home from the funeral, I tossed the garish palette/coffee cup in the trash. It was hurting my eyes.

After walking past the trashcan a few times and seeing the sort of Liberace'd up coffee cup, I thought - maybe I should give it another chance. Let the worst thing not be the last thing. Maybe a crazy bright, messily colored coffee cup didn't have to go to the landfill.

So I got the Koi set back out and added a yellow glow, some deeper shadows and a greeting from Another Thanks and I decided that indeed, the worst thing was not the last thing.

I sort of like little Liberace. What do you think? It would definitely wake you up in the morning!

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Immediately preceding this funeral, I had a serious technological blackout - a fiber cut nearby cut my entire neighborhood off from internet service, and oddly, also from cell service.

Sometimes a quiet few days and just the right message come together nicely.

I try to tell my stamping students this all the time - don't give up - keep working. Even if you don't like it later, at least you've learned something. I just never said it as well as that pastor did. Now I know. Keep it pithy. :)


Sunday, April 13, 2014

Cutting Glass With Fire

I just realized I forgot to tell you about my glass cutting experiment.

I had watched a bunch of videos on how to cut wine bottles with twine and acetone and fire and wanted to try it myself.

So out into the backyard I went, with a bucket, an empty wine bottle (look - if you're gonna make an omelet, you gotta break a couple eggs), some twine and some pure acetone.

I diligently followed the instructions of the numerous YouTube wine bottle cutting people and got to the dramatic moment when the fire goes out and you dunk the bottle and.... NOTHING.

These YouTubers tell you to tie the twine around the bottle (wrapping a few times - I had maybe four wraps), then slip it off, dunk it in acetone, slip it back on (which is nigh onto impossible), light it on fire, spinning the bottle while it burns, and then plunge it into water when the fire goes out. Supposedly the bottle breaks cleanly at the twine.

I'm not sure if these people actually live inside vacuums where there is no oxygen or what, but when I did this, the acetone dried INSTANTLY - by the time I got it back on the bottle, there wasn't enough left on the twine to burn the twine for longer than a few seconds, so the bottle didn't get hot enough to break in water.

So I did it my way.

Loop twine around the bottle so that your twine line is four or five twine widths high. Make it perfectly level or you'll have a wonky candleholder. Then, quickly pour acetone all over the twine, soaking it. Holding the wine bottle over the bucket of water, light the twine on fire, and constantly rotate the bottle so that the fire is moving all the way around the bottle. I did all of this outside.

The second the fire is out, dunk it in the bucket of water and BOOM - you hear a satisfying little plink and you have a gorgeous, outdoor candleholder which the wind will not affect! I love mine, and light it every afternoon when I go outside to color. You can sand the edges if you need to. And the bottom makes a cute little dish/candleholder too. So there you go Tania - sorry I forgot to post this!

Also, I bear no responsibility for you setting your face on fire or otherwise injuring yourself while doing this :).

Here it is with an old candle I made in one of my classes. 

And here's what I do after I light the candle:

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More fun with Country Morning and Derwent Inktense. They go together like peas and carrots.

Or like Lennon & McCartney. Tell me if this video is not the coolest thing you've seen all week! Snagged it from my friend Ilene's Facebook page.

Born to be together. :)


Saturday, April 12, 2014

Emerging From Chillpocalypse

I know you northerners won't appreciate our struggle down here, but it actually has been an unusually cool spring in Austin.

I've actually had to wear pants. Like, more than once!

I know - I will wait while you cry it out.

So it's a good thing that I got us a pop up greenhouse for Christmas, because our delicate Texas plants wouldn't have made it through the chillpocalypse of early 2014.

Because we had the greenhouse, we actually already have about 20 tomatoes on our tomato plants - they are about 4' tall! We are really having good luck with the Sweet Million - we went this direction after last year's $2000 single tomato - and it seems like it will really be a producer. We are also growing our favorite heirloom - the Black Krim. This is the tastiest, funniest looking tomato I've ever had. I hope it does well - we have some teeny tomatoes on it right now.

Now that the plants have been liberated from the greenhouse it's fun to see a little color in the yard, which is tough in our extended drought.

Here's one of the tomato blossoms.

 And this is newly planted this spring - a Leopard Jew. It seems a little tougher than the classic Wandering Jew, which struggles in our heat - so I hope this one makes it. It's beautiful.
 My favorite planting so far is my Oxalis Coppertone. It has such beautiful colors, and teeny yellow flowers. Really, really pretty.
 And my chives, which are going like gangbusters and survived winter in the greenhouse, even gave me a flower this week.

That color and my little goldfinches on their feeder are great inspiration for backyard coloring.

This coloring experiment was with Country Morning (retired) and Derwent Inktense pencils

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I checked this morning and I have three buds on my roses too - so soon I can pop some real flowers in a vase!

Now, in case you missed it, here are two great videos illustrating the profound differences between cats and dogs with how they react to magic:

First - dogs.

And now - cats.

Yep - that pretty much sums it up.


Thursday, April 10, 2014

If Your Website Does This, Please Have Someone Punch You In The Throat

I was trying to read a news article the other day.

I can read quite well. I've been reading since I was three, thanks to my sister. I love to read. I'm good at it. I was an English major, for Pete's sake.

(Who is Pete by the way, and why are we always doing things for his sake, for Pete's sake?)

But for the life of me I could not read this danged article, and that's because it looked like this.

How is anyone supposed to concentrate on ANYTHING when a "news" story looks like this?? And by the way, the title of the article is "YouTube needs a competitor" which I found interesting. But then I went into this ridiculous mash-up of disruptive "see also" non-relevant ads, intra-article social sharing buttons and finally a completely irrelevant video and my face just hurt. Also, I can assure you that Yahoo is not going to do anything anyone cares about.

About 10% of the space is devoted to anything remotely approaching the supposed topic and that 10% is remarkably data-free and clearly designed just to have the user load the page.


I'm all for online advertising. In designated spaces, and without hostage content.  But this is complete garbage.

I think sites like the TechCrunch (example) do a great job of presenting news, WITH ads. Without interrupting an article.

I would like designers of other websites to please begin having people punch them in the throat for giving us all internet-induced ADD. I could probably get a grant to study cognitive disruptions from such horrendous marketing practices.

Sadly, I have neither the time nor the patience for grant writing, probably because of the cognitive disruption presented by interruption marketing. I managed to read War and Peace after all before the internet looked like this...

You know where I have zero cognitive disruptions? Outside, in my backyard, in my after work outdoor coloring sessions known as #backyardhappyhour.

It's a happy hour indeed. Birds tweeting, coloring practice, sunshine, watching my tomatoes grow.

Lately I've been trying to practice a different, specific technique each day.

Yesterday, I was practicing working with complementary colors.

I first stamped the images from Peaceful Petals onto watercolor paper in Groovy Guava. Why use Groovy Guava for the base outline? Glad you asked! It's because my craftastrophe is horrendous right now and that's the ink that I could reach. Keeping it real here. Remember - perfection is for serial killers.

Next, I used Derwent Inktense Pencils - in Shiraz, Cadmium Yellow and Bark to very slowly paint the flower. I was out here for two hours maybe? Mostly because I threw away my first attempt that I spent an hour on, and I was much more careful the second time.

I was perfecting a technique I'm teaching in my Love What You Have class at my retreat in Salt Lake. So obviously I can't tell you what it is yet :).

I'm really happy with the way it turned out - it looks very different from the image you see when you buy the stamp.

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I posted the work in progress on Facebook and one of my friends described the colors as vintage, which I think is accurate. I like the warmth of them and how they are a little more subdued than what I normally do. A wee bit more natural.

I couldn't bring myself to add a sentiment because if I'd stamped it crooked I'd have cried.

Well I'm sure that some of you are probably getting text messages from people who need you to punch them in the throat, so I won't keep you.

God speed - and remember - punch from the shoulder.


Sunday, April 6, 2014

1/7th of The Deadly Sins

I saw something on Splitcoast the other day that has been rolling around in my head (the rock tumbler, as I call it.)

A friend posted that one time she had spent a lot of time on a beautiful handmade gift for someone, given it to them, and their response to this gift was the dreaded phrase all of us arty types have heard at least once:

"Some people have too much time on their hands."

Everyone who has ever said this deserves a smack, in my opinion. A firm, well placed smack. Perhaps an eye poke as well.

It really hurt her feelings, which makes me sad. My response to her was this, after observing this behavior for many decades.

What people are REALLY saying when they say this is actually:  

"I feel an immense amount of envy that you manage to do all the fun things you do in addition work/home/kids/yard etc. - I'm not as organized as you are and/or I don't have a fulfilling hobby that I look forward to immersing myself in every spare moment I have, and I should probably go to church now because envy is a sin."

And in reality, it's a lie. People who spend every spare moment in hobbies they love are the ones with NO time on their hands. The people with time on their hands are the ones not making/doing/seeing things in every waking moment.

We all have the same amount of time. And we all decide what to do with it. And if any portion of that time is spent being envious of other people's choices, then hopefully a smack or a visit to church will set that person on the right track. Perhaps there's a church somewhere that smacks people, which would really bring it all together. Maybe I'll start the Holy Order of the Smack. Or Our Lady of the Eye Poke. Now accepting applications for smackers and pokers.

So instead of folding laundry or doing any number of other things I COULD be doing on this rainy Sunday, I chose to make a card for the Challenge Chicks April challenge which is an I miss you card.

At work, we use heat maps to look at what people are clicking on on the website so that we can make the content more relevant and make the site easier to use.

The heat maps are beautiful little informational rainbows and I love them. Here's what one looks like - the red or "hot" areas are the ones people click the most:

 So, so pretty.

So I thought I'd turn that into a card. A bright, happy card to combat the grey outside.

Step one was to use washi tape to mask off all the vases from Vivid Vases except the middle one.

Then I inked that one up in black and carefully removed the tape and stamped it.

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Hard to see here, but the colored vases are actually cut out and glued onto the card. I inked the edges of them with a black marker after cutting them out so that no white showed.

Then I used a marker to ink up the greeting from Just Sayin so that I didn't get the talk bubble around it and I stamped that under the vases, which are colored very quickly with dry Derwent Inktense pencils.

Love all that color.

So now I'm off to use my time however the heck I want to. I hope you are too.


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