Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Decorating (& a Card)

Hubby and I made a quick trip to Ikea yesterday; I spent the evening putting this together:

They're just two little cheap-y desks (we're talking US$15 each!), but they fit the space perfectly and go with the rest of our dark furniture. Up until now this little nook off of our living room had just been wasted space; I thought it would be nice to make it into a little informal work area. (DH and I have large desks set up in our home office/spare bedroom.) Turns out it's quite cozy!

I also have a quick holiday card to share. This one uses patterned paper from a stack I bought at Hobby Lobby a couple of years ago:

I just love how bright and cheery the paper is. I ended up going with a tall & skinny design; the finished size is 3 1/2 x 8". The letters were cut from dollar store adhesive fun foam with a Cuttlebug alphabet - it slices right through, easy as pie. Makes me wish I had more alphabet dies!

Well, off to finish dinner. We're having curry tonight! Yummo!

Card Supplies:
Patterned Paper: Hobby Lobby "Christmas 2008;" Accessories: adhesive craft foam, Cuttlebug / Red Tag Sale alphabet / circle Nestabilities / Herringbone embossing folder, corner rounder punch, button, foam dimensionals

Sunday, November 28, 2010


This Thanksgiving season, I'm thankful for so many things. These are just a few:
  • VPNs that let me access this blog (and everyone else's!)
  • International flat-rate envelopes, and the crafty goodies that fit inside them
  • Western toilets
  • Eggcrate mattress foam
  • My own two feet, that have carried me more places than I ever dreamed possible
  • My husband, Seth, who I fall deeper in love with every day

 I hope you've all had a wonderful holiday weekend!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hubby and I have had a wonderful Thanksgiving. It's always a bit strange on holidays, as right now we're 14 hours ahead of US Central Standard Time  - our Thanksgiving is drawing to a close while our friends and family in the US are still in bed! Today we headed out to the same restaurant as last year for a fabulous three-course meal with turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, veggies... 

So, so good. Definitely better than the Thanksgiving meals we've tried at various fancy hotels. And for dessert later on tonight, we have some Starbucks' pecan tarts waiting for us in the kitchen. (Hubby is a southern boy, so it wouldn't be Thanksgiving without some pecan pie!)

Speaking of food, I still haven't told you about that luncheon I went to, have I? First of all, you have to know a little bit about my friend. She's a little ball of energy: always on the go, always on the phone with this person or that person, talks up a storm and never takes no for an answer. She has far greater confidence in my Chinese language ability than she should, and while our conversations always start out nice and slow, just a few sentences in and she's rattling away a mile a minute, while my head is spinning just trying to keep up. So, a few weeks ago, she says she wants to invite me to have lunch on a certain day in November. She says there are going to be a lot of ladies there, and she has a certain number of people she can invite, and she wants me to be her guest, yadda yadda... Now, at this point, she starts to lose me on what the luncheon is actually for. But I tell her sure, sure, I can come; it sounds like fun. A couple of weeks later, my husband is talking with her and tries to get a few more details. He finds out that there are going to be about 200 women there, and it's a luncheon where they're going to demo some health and beauty products. Oh, now I'm starting to get a better picture, I think. I've been to something similar before, where they let you try some innovative skin product, and then try to sell it to you for an arm and a leg. But she's assured him that I'm not obligated to buy anything; it's just for fun. Okay. 

So, on the appointed day, I make my way out to the address I've been given. It's a hotel banquet hall; the concierge at the desk tells me to take the escalator upstairs. As I reach the second floor, my stomach sinks. The foyer is crowded with women in sequined gowns, velvets, stilletos... I'm in a casual black dress with a grey pullover sweater and knee-high black boots. Ack! So underdressed! I'm also the only foreigner in a sea of Chinese women. And of course my friend is nowhere to be seen, and isn't answering her phone... After several minutes of standing awkwardly by the entrance while everyone else gives me the once-over, my friend finally appears. She's all decked out in a gorgeous embroidered red qipao with a fur capelet, her gleaming dark hair freshly cut in a '30s bob - the quintessential Shanghai girl. Stunning! (Why, oh why didn't she tell me - or Seth - that this was a dress-up event?) 

Once inside the banquet hall, I realize that there is a stage/runway set up - and that they've moved me from my friend's table at the back of the room to a table front and center, right at the end of the runway. Umm... I take my seat between two middle-aged, obviously wealthy Chinese women, whom I've never met. Awkward! Luckily, the food begins coming soon after. What follows is 2 1/2 hours of food, interspersed with entertainment (drummers, acrobats, break dancers) and awards for the host company's top sales-reps. Just as the final dish is (finally) brought to the table, the fashion show begins. (Oh, did I mention that this company sells not just health and beauty products, but a full line of shapewear as well? As in, girdles, thigh slimmers, all forms of Spanx-style garments. See where this is going?) The lights go down, and the models begin to walk the runway - yep, in their shapewear. But this isn't Victoria's Secret - think "flesh-colored, full-coverage, sucks it all in and gives you abs of steel" shapewear. Altogether so NOT what I'm expecting!

The crowning moment (for me) comes as the models are demoing how the shapewear can be worn under activewear (do people really do that?). Six women, strutting down the runway in hoodies, thigh slimmers, and tennis shoes, jauntily carrying badminton rackets, followed by a tall, athletic man with sculpted cheekbones and feathered hair, carrying his own badminton racket and wearing nothing but tennis shoes and a thigh slimmer. It's all I can do not to start giggling out loud.The runway ends right at my table, and he's standing there posing with his badminton racket, turning this way and that - this guy is in Spanx, people! How can he keep a straight face? Somehow I manage to keep it together until it's over - but I laugh the whole way home!

It just goes to show you, when it comes to living overseas, never assume you know what to expect in a given situation - you just might end up spending the day eating roast duck with wealthy Asian women while watching male models strut around in shapewear!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Peaceful Pigeons

Since switching almost entirely to clear stamps about three years ago, I've somehow managed to only buy a few Christmas/winter sets, mostly small cheap sets like Studio G. How is that possible?! I'm trying to remedy that this year, although I'm afraid my purchases won't reach me in time to do much holiday crafting (I'm having some things sent to my stateside in-laws so they can compile everything into one flat-rate package and send it here). At the moment, I'm making good use of what I've got - these particular stamps were put out by Walmart a couple of Christmases ago; I think they were around $2. At the time, my hubby was traveling around the state on business, and he would stop at various Walmarts trying to find them for me. Yep, he's the best!

I used a square Nestie to emboss the cardfront (following these steps), and left the Nestie in place while I repeatedly stamped the light blue background image. The rest is pretty self-explanatory. I was really pleased with how well these cheap-y stamps worked; I used a white eraser to "prime" the stamps, and had no trouble getting a clean imprint even from the detailed birds. (Oh, and in reference to the title, I know they're not supposed to be pigeons, but "peaceful doves" just doesn't have quite the same ring, now does it? wink )

Next post  I'll tell you about my recent "luncheon" experience - it's a doozy!

Card Supplies:
Stamps: Walmart; Ink: ColorBox pigment (Robin's Egg), Ink It Up'! pigment (red); Accessories: Cuttlebug / Square Nestabilities, rhinestones, foam dimensionals

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Mod Monochrome Holidays

It's been a crazy-busy week; we had guests in town, which meant lots of eating out and lots of shopping (for the ladies, that is). I did, however, squeeze in time to make this super-quick card using my favorite Slice design card, Fa La La. I cut the reindeer head at 3 1/2", then lightly sponged the edges with ink for a little contrast. I added a rhinestone nose, and attached the head to the cardfront with foam tape. You could whip up a whole set of these in a rainbow of colors in no time flat!

Edited to add: I forgot to mention that to get the cleanest looking cut possible, I actually flipped my cardstock over and cut the "backside" - so in this case, the smoother side was facing up on my glass mat as I cut. After the image was cut, I peeled it off the glass mat, flipped it over, and adhered it so that the textured side was facing out. It helps hide some of the little imperfections that occur in corners as the blade lifts and lowers. Hope that makes sense!

Card Supplies:
Ink: Palette Hybrid (Vintage Cream); Cardstock: American Crafts; Accessories: Making Memories Slice / Fa La La design card, rhinestone, foam tape

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Enabler Alert! Wednesday Only!

For all you Cosmo Cricket lovers out there, check out these digital downloads from Jessica Sprague's One Buck Wednesday:

Yep, that's right- today only you can download these for just $1each! Awesome, huh? What are you waiting for? Go, go now! (I am in no way affiliated with Jessica Sprague or Cosmo Cricket, just an equal opportunity lover of yummy patterned goodness!)

CAS93 - Simple is Best

Whew! We finally had a day with a few minutes of sun, so I was able to snap some card pics. This one is for the Clean and Simple challenge over on Splitcoaststampers; it's a sketch challenge this week. I pared the sketch down to the bare bones - rotated it 90 degrees, left out the layer, and used the sentiment as the vertical element. 

The first thing that popped into my head was a dangling ornament, so I cut a 3 1/2" shape with my Slice, and added a center that I cut and embossed with a Nestie. Stamped the sentiment, adhered the ornament with foam dimensionals, and rounded the bottom corners - easily a 10-minute card (at best). I thought about adding something, maybe a few rhinestones, but then I decided simple was best. Yep, this is definitely putting me in the holiday spirit!

Card Supplies:
Stamp: Studio G; Ink: Ink It Up! pigment; Patterned Paper: DCWV; Accessories: Making Memories Slice / Fa La La design card, Cuttlebug / circle Nestabilities, corner rounder punch, foam dimensionals

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Cream in my Coffee

Oh my word, have you seen the new coffee set that Papertrey is releasing this month? LOVE!  I'm dying to get this set (and the original coordinating set) from PTI. I love the fact that they have a solid "filler" stamp for each outline image, and decorative stamps so you can customize your cups. Plus, they have a die for the cups! Santa, are you listening?

Seeing their projects inspired me to pull out one of my coffee sets (yes, I have a few) and play around. I really like the sayings in this particular set, but as a whole it's only so-so. I had to perform major stamp surgery to remove some obnoxious "steam" lines that were coming out of each cup; I didn't like how they dipped down into the cups. They made it so that if you wanted, say, a green outlined cup, you'd have to have green colored steam. And that just makes me think of toxic coffee, which is never a good association to make.

This is so me and my hubby; I always have the pretty little coffee cup, and he always has the biggest cup he can find.  I wasn't even a coffee drinker until after we were married; I finally caved to the peer pressure (his whole family are huge coffee drinkers). Now my day isn't complete without at least one cup of coffee, most times two!

The patterned paper for the blue mug has orange rings around the white polka dots; I used that color for the large mug. The background panel was double-embossed, first with the Herringbone folder, then with the Houndstooth folder. I think it gives it a cozy feel, like a warm afghan or a snuggly sweater. Nothing beats a hot cup of coffee and a fuzzy blanket on a cold morning!

Speaking of coffee, Seth just surprised me with a donut and a cup of coffee from Dunkin' Donuts! Gotta go!

Card Supplies:
Stamps: TPC Studio "Coffee Cafe;" Ink: Stampin' Up craft "Not Quite Navy," ColorBox pigment "Roussillon," "Chestnut;" Patterned Paper: My Mind's Eye; Accessories: Cuttlebug, rectangle Nestabilities, Herringbone embossing folder, Houndstooth embossing folder, foam dimensionals

Friday, November 12, 2010

A Funny Story and a Card

Taking a cab here in China can be quite the adventure; you never know quite what to expect. One day you'll get a driver who has Formula One racing aspirations; another day you'll get a driver who wants to spend the whole ride practicing his English. On yet another day, you might find yourself with a driver who has no idea how to even get you to your destination. The other night my husband was coming home late, and his cab driver happened to be playing a John Denver tape. Now, Chinese love to sing. Karaoke clubs are everywhere. We've even come across people crowded around portable karaoke machines on the sidewalk. It's a serious pastime. So there Seth is, sitting in the backseat of the cab, while the driver is bellowing out the chorus to "Leaving on a Jetplane" in broken English. At first, Seth just listened good-humoredly, occasionally humming a bar or two. But after a few more songs, he and the cabbie were belting out "Country Roads" together at the top of their lungs, flying through the streets of Shanghai. The cabbie proceeded to tell Seth that he LOVES American music, and that Seth is the first American to actually sing with him. He's had a Japanese passenger sing some songs with him, but never an American. He was quite tickled. I tell you, my hubby has the most interesting cab rides!

I also have a quick card to share today. These 2-step stamps from We R Memory Keepers have a cool retro-graphic feel that I just love. (You can see how I used the bird set here.) This one was a simple design that came together pretty quickly - I cut and embossed a white circle with a Nestie, then stamped my images; adhered a piece of patterned paper to an identical-sized piece of cardstock for stability; cut a circle window out of the patterned paper layer with the same circle Nestie; tied on the raffia; attached the patterned paper layer to the cardfront with foam tape; and  glued the circle with image into place. I'm trying to use up more of my patterned paper; I've acquired quite the little stash!

Card Supplies:
Stamps: We R Memory Keepers "2 Step Berry" (Vintage Blue collection), Biblical Impressions (verse); Ink: ColorBox pigment "Chestnut," Roussillon;" Patterned Paper: K & Company; Accessories: Cuttlebug, circle Nestabilities, raffia twine, foam dimensionals

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Thinking of Fall

Can you believe Thanksgiving is only two weeks away? I stopped by the import store the other day, and noticed they had gotten their frozen turkeys in. Unfortunately, at almost US$100 for a smallish turkey, it looks like we're going to pass on fixing our own. Another restaurant Thanksgiving it will be!

It struck me the other day how few autumn-themed stamps I actually have. It's strange, considering it's my favorite time of year! I have a few Halloween stamps that I bought last year, but no pumpkins that aren't jack o' lanterns; only two leaf stamps, and not a single Thanksgiving sentiment. What was I thinking?! However, I was looking through some of my older Christmas stamps, and found this:

But wait, that's not really a medallion stamp. That image is actually made up of these three teeny little Martha Stewart stamps:

I was inspired by Betsy Veldman's beautiful card, here. My card is nowhere near as intricate as hers, but I really like the way it turned out. To frame my medallion, I did some cardfront Nestie embossing (Nichole Heady has a great tutorial here.) I added two different sizes of rhinestones (colored with a brown Sharpie) for some extra oomph. Who knew I'd be able to make a fall card with Christmas stamps?

Card Supplies:
Stamps: Martha Stewart "Christmas Tree" (acorn cluster), Martha Stewart "Holiday Accent" (single acorn, starburst), Hero Arts "Everyday Sayings" (sentiment); Ink: ColorBox pigment "Chestnut;" Accessories: Cuttlebug, square Nestabilities, rhinestones, brown Sharpie, foam dimensionals

Monday, November 8, 2010

Damask # 2

Well, I couldn't resist making one more card for Moxie Fab World's Diggin' on Damask challenge (scroll down to see the first one). Since I already had the basic supplies out, this one came together in a snap!

I cut out my butterfly with that same 3x3 cuttlebug die, this time using an old cereal box for "chipboard." I stamped the butterfly with a damask border and adhered it to my cardfront with foam tape, stamped the sentiment (those Hero Arts sentiment sets really are handy!), added my rhinestones (again, colored with a black Sharpie), and done! This time I left the corners as-is; I felt the clean angles of the font looked best mirrored by the nice sharp edges of the card. Now for the life of me I can't decide which card I like best!

Card Supplies:
Stamps: American Crafts "Thanks" (Letterbox collection), Hero Arts "All Occasion Messages;" Ink: Brilliance "Graphite Black;" Accessories: Cuttlebug / 3x3 butterfly die, cereal box, adhesive rhinestones, black Sharpie, foam dimensionals

Masked Damask

Have you seen the current challenge over at Moxie Fab World, "Diggin' on Damask?" Damask is one of my favorite patterns to play with, so this challenge was right up my alley! I decided to change things up a bit by using a mask to create a stamped shape on my cardfront, rather than use a shaped piece of patterned paper. I decided a damask butterfly would be elegant but fun:

To make the mask, I used a 3x3 cuttlebug die with some very thin cardstock (if your cardstock is too thick, you'll have a hard time getting a crisp outline when stamping over the edges of the mask). 

This particular die has a pair of antennae that I don't really care for; to remedy that, I simply used an x-acto knife to cut a V-shaped notch continuing with the curve of the wings, dissecting the antennae from the rest of the body. After removing the butterfly body, I taped the antennae securely back into the mask, like so:

I used a Zig 2-way glue pen to trace around the backside edges of the butterfly outline and at the four corners, and set aside to dry for a temporary adhesive. I then lined up my mask on my cardfront, made sure all the edges were securely adhered, and started stamping. I stamped the center damask first, then worked out from there. Easy peasy! After I finished stamping my butterfly, I carefully removed the mask, stamped my sentiment (clear stamps make lining things up so easy!), and added two rhinestones for balance. (Here's a secret: I didn't have black rhinestones in the right size, so I used a black Sharpie to color two clear jewels. Shh, don't tell!)

The mask can be saved and reused for future projects. You can add even more depth to your masked image by first sponging inside the mask with a lighter ink, then stamping on top with a darker color. A big impact in just a few easy steps!

Card Supplies:
Stamps: Prima "Cantaria," Hero Arts "Everyday Sayings;" Ink: ColorBox pigment "Roussillon," Brilliance "Graphite Black;" Accessories: Cuttlebug / 3x3 Butterfly die, small corner rounder punch, adhesive rhinestones, Zig 2-way glue pen

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Vintage Charm

When I was growing up, my Austrian grandmother always had one of those vintage-style tea towel calendars hanging in her kitchen - the kind with European folk motifs like flowers and cottages and quaint little couples. Always the current year, always clean and crisp. The moment I saw this bold flower stamp, I was immediately reminded of those colorful calendars. Cosmo Cricket papers and a little distress ink add the perfect vintage feel - a fun little homage to bygone days. {Happy Smile}

Card Supplies:
Stamps: Craft Affair by Hampton Art "Fabulous Flowers," TPC Studio (sentiment), Martha Stewart (leaves); Ink: Ink It Up! pigment (red, olive), SEI chalk (cocoa), Ranger distress (Antique Linen); Patterned Paper: Cosmo Cricket "Early Bird;" Accessories: Cuttlebug / rectangle Nestabilities, small corner rounder punch, foam dimensionals

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Fun with Cork

For months now, I've been wanting to try making my own cork diecuts - but China's lack of craft stores put a bit of a damper on that idea. I finally found a set of cork placemats at Ikea - they looked a little thick, but I figured it was worth a shot. It worked! I cut off a small strip with scissors, then ran it through my cuttlebug with a 2x2 cuttlebug die (between two B plates). It cut like butter on the very first pass! 

Don't those leaves look great? I love it when an idea works out. 

On a side note, it's getting harder and harder to find diet coke around here! My friend down in Shenzhen (a city in southern China) said they've phased it out completely there and replaced it all with coke zero - I'm afraid that's what they're doing here. Coke zero's just not the same!

Card Supplies:
Stamps: Hero Arts "All Occasion Messages;" Ink: Stampin' Up craft "Close to Cocoa;" Patterned Paper: Miss Elizabeth (Dollar Tree); Accessories: Cuttlebug / Forest Branches embossing folder / 2x2 Leaves die, corkboard, raffia, foam dimensionals

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Belated Boo & Comfort Foods

As I was putting away my Halloween decorations (all two of them, lol), I realized I had never shared this little "Boo" banner. I actually made it last year, but somehow forgot to take pictures till now. I cut the base from a cardboard box using an exacto-knife and a metal ruler; the letters were cut from kraft cardstock with my Slice. To make the letters sturdier, I cut out two of each and glued them together. The layers were adhered using lots of foam tape for extra dimension. I really went to town with my distress inks on this one; I don't do that often, but I have to say it was a lot of fun!

Yesterday I had salisbury steak on the brain. Back when I was in high school, every Thursday was "salisbury steak day" in the cafeteria - you either loved it or hated it, and it gained quite the cult following. To me it became one of my favorite comfort foods, especially in the fall - that rich gravy, a side of creamy mashed potatoes... heaven. Today at lunch I was still craving it. Alas, I didn't have the ingredients on hand to make my own - but then it hit me: Swedish meatballs might do the trick! And Ikea just so happens to have a tasty little Swedish meatball plate with mashed potatoes and gravy and a dollop of lingonberry sauce on the side. I wouldn't even have to cook! So off to Ikea we went. Oh my, it was good. So good that I even brought home a bag of frozen meatballs and a jar of lingonberry jam. 


Project Supplies:
Stamps: Studio G (spiderweb); Ink: Ranger Distress Ink (Walnut Stain, Tea Dye, Black Soot), black pigment; Accessories: cardboard, Cuttlebug / Distressed Stripes embossing folder / Rectangle Nestabilities, Making Memories Slice / Just Chillin' Teen design card, Crop-A-Dile, ribbon, foam dimensionals

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

World Expo 2010

We finally made it out to see the World Expo before it ended; boy was it crowded! Over 760,000 visitors that day. The blue character below is Haibao (海宝), the mascot of the 2010 World Expo. His name means "treasure of the sea." If you look closely, you'll see that he resembles the Chinese character for "person": 人. 

  (Image from Expo2010.cn)

The Expo was divided into two sections, one on each side of the river; we kept to the west side, which was comprised of Asian/Middle Eastern countries' pavilions. The lines to get into each pavilion were incredibly long; some of the more popular pavilions had waits of over 7 hours!  We managed to visit two: the China Pavilion and the Israel Pavilion. At the Israel Pavilion (one of the shorter waits) we stood in line for over an hour and a half. When we finally got inside, we were corralled into a planetarium-like room, to be greeted with a (very) brief video presentation extolling the country's various technological innovations. Then the lights came back up, an exit door was opened, and back outside we all went. Um, yeah, not exactly what we were expecting. 

This is the line we waited in for the China Pavilion. We were all headed towards the opening in the back center of the picture, between the blue mural on the left and the white umbrella on the right. We had already moved quite a bit forward in line when I took this picture - there were scores more people behind us. It was a long line.

The China Pavilion (below) is one of the few structures that will be kept permanently after the end of the Expo. Inside were intricate walk-through exhibits from each of China's twenty-two provinces, which visitors could view at their own leisure. Definitely worth the time spent waiting in line.

We ended the day with some Sri Lankan street food, which was quite tasty! We tried fish balls, marinated chicken wings, and samosas. Unfortunately, it was dark by the time we ate (and we were sitting outside), so I didn't get any pics. Just believe me when I say it was all really good! 

Unfortunately, there was no time to see even half of what we would have liked. After spending the majority of the day doing nothing but stand in line with crowds of people, we were ready for some peace and quiet. Around 6 o'clock we called it a day and crowded onto the metro (with what seemed like half the city) to make our slow way home. All in all, I think the day was summed up quite perfectly by the saying going around Shanghai, "不去世博会后悔, 去了世博后悔一辈子!" which roughly translated means, "If you don't go to the Expo, you'll regret it; if you go to the Expo, you'll regret it even more!"