Monday, January 16, 2017

Dream Without Fear

I binge watched Leah Remini's Scientology and the Aftermath show on Saturday. It was rainy, and I had about 80 thank you cards to make, so it was a perfect time to see the whole series.

It. Was. Gripping.

I had read two books before I watched this show - Going Clear (outstanding, objective examination of Scientology by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author who wrote The Looming Tower about Bin Laden) and Troublemaker - Leah Remini's book.

Leah's book was nowhere near as detailed as Going Clear - but it had a lot of personal details of her experiences, including some really wacky things about Tom Cruise's wedding.

But neither of these prepared me for this show. If you haven't seen it - I won't spoil it. But in my opinion, it's a must watch. What has happened to the families interviewed on the show is truly shocking. She's a brave girl - several times during each episode, a little worry for her safety crept into my mind - you will see what I mean when you watch. You have to watch online at - it's not available on Netflix as of now.

As always happens to me when I see or read something that is eye opening, it sort of seeps into my artwork. I was thinking about one episode in particular, and sort of unconsciously gravitated to an of peace and safety, and that's what I decided to work on.

I have my Stampin' Up! team online meeting on Sundays at 2, and so I did this project live with them. They are so much fun, and give me tips while I'm working that always make the project better. I also got a tip about an art journaling class and found out that you can use Amazon payment methods at Dick Blick! They are a wealth of knowledge. If you'd like to join these fun sessions, you can get a heck of a deal on the starter bundle right now - up to $200 worth of goodies for $99.

What I did was a no-line watercolor of the most DARLING stamp set in the Occasions Catalog - Moon Baby.

I can't think of the last time I needed a baby card - #oldpeopleproblems - but this set doesn't have to be about new babies. I knew it was the perfect image for the sort of soothing and hopeful card I had in mind.
Moon Baby Watercolor by Understand Blue
links to supplies

One of the things I notice when I teach is fear. People are so afraid to make a mistake, that they are timid with both technique and product. Fear is creativity's worst enemy, so I try to teach people to let it go - it's just paper. Deliberately screw a few things up as a warmup so that you can practice throwing things away, and that will help you be more fearless.

I want you to be the Leah Remini of papercrafters. Brave little troublemakers.

One of my favorite quotes by Van Gogh is this:

If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.

That's all it takes to be brave :).

I edited the Facebook live video I did with my team - it was 65 minutes long to start with! So you can enjoy a sped up watercolor of this image that's just about five minutes. I do recommend watching on YouTube though - since Facebook live compresses the video, it's not the normal resolution and you'll be able to see better here.

I wanted to share a recipe with you all before I go. I LOVE cucumbers. I named my first cat Cucumber (because orange tabbies look just like cucumbers, right?) Cucumber used to go to Baskin-Robbins with us and eat teeny tiny ice cream cones they used to give out for cats. He was an awesome cat. After a long, happy life, he was ultimately killed by a mockingbird - they are horrid birds. Unfortunately, they are the Texas state bird, otherwise, I would operate a food trailer that served mockingbird nuggets. But I digress.

Cucumbers are really at the top of my veggie list - I love them just about any way you can have them - plain, in sour cream with salt and pepper (my mom made this a lot), in tzatziki, as pickles, in a gimlet, tea sandwiches - all the ways. They are a delight.

But one of my favorite ways to have them is in an Asian salad preparation. A restaurant that I used to work near had the best spicy cucumber salad, and I've tried for 20 years to recreate it, and I finally found a recipe I love. Here it is, with my tweaks. Most of the ones you get in restaurants are too sweet.

1 pound cucumbers (I used English), peeled and sliced thin on a mandoline
3 TBS vinegar (I used cider - original recipe calls for rice wine vinegar)
1 TBS sesame oil (My preference is chili sesame oil, but it's suddenly hard to find, so I added red pepper)
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
Green onions, sliced thin
Crushed red pepper to taste - the more, the better
Sesame seeds

Combine everything except the cucumbers and sesame seeds. Add cucumber, stir and let sit in the fridge for several hours. Add sesame seeds when serving. Tip - I dry the cucumbers on paper towels after slicing - they will shed water in the dressing, so you want them as dry as possible before you start.


I am headed to CHA (Creativation / Craft and Hobby Association show) soon, so be sure and check in on Facebook and Instagram for photos and video from the show. It's always fun to see the new products and my old friends. My show pick last year was the stencil brushes - I'm hoping for something equally life-changing this year. One thing I can tell you is that My Sweet Petunia has a VERY fun new product that will be introduced at the show - so definitely follow me to see that live.


Friday, January 13, 2017

Let's Taco 'Bout It

I got asked a question this week that I get asked a lot, so I thought - hey - let's taco 'bout it!

Someone asked me how long I'd been a demonstrator with Stampin' Up! and was surprised to hear that this spring it will be sixteen years. Sixteen years is a long time to do anything. To me, it seems like it all just started last week.

It started for me like it started for all of us. A coworker's wife was having a party, and so everyone in the office got invited. I loved her, but I didn't want to go (surprising, since I had been stamping already for 15 years at that point) - but I didn't know what it was about and that it was actually a craft-focused gathering. I just knew it was something I should do for a friend.

I went to her party, and after the food and drinks, our demonstrator (soon to be my team leader) grabbed the Posy & Vine Stampin' Around wheels, some Green Galore and Pink Passion ink, a white lunchbag - and that was the moment my life changed forever.

I squealed for the entire rest of the demo, all the way through the Make & Take, and if I'm not mistaken, I placed a $700 order.

Yes, you read that right. I was FREAKING OUT. As is my custom, I did not read one single thing that she gave me - I just wanted STAMPS. I signed up to have my own party (that ended up being a $1500 workshop) in the conference room at my work, and I infected a lot of people - all of whom are STILL my customers and team members - with the stamping bug.

I signed up after that event, and have been to 15 conventions, every regional, Leadership and OnStage - I've never missed an event.

I have always had a very demanding full-time job - and stamping - since my early teen years - has always been "just" my weekend art love. I just love paper and color. And over the many decades I've crafted, I've been a loyal customer of many companies - my first loves - Magenta and Hero Arts, and then A Muse, Starving Artistamps, Ranger - and the thousands of stamp companies I've bought from in the last decade or so - I love them all. I have been, and always will be an artistic omnivore and I'm so grateful the industry thrives today. Every purchase I make is so exciting, and I love that we are always seeing new stamp companies, new tools like the MISTI - just great things from great people.

But Stampin' Up! has given me a lot more than stamps. As a matter of fact - I'd say that's the smallest portion of what it's given me. It's given me my best friends, many travel adventures, cherished memories of trips that were filled with laughter and hugs and love from start to finish. It's the core of my larger stamping tribe, and it's brought wonderful, sweet treasures into my life that I honestly don't think I could live without - including you - your sweet comments and encouragement. It's why I haven't burned out, and why I go to sleep at night designing and wake up designing.

It's given me my incredible team community - people who make me laugh every day - inspire me with their projects in our Facebook group, and who are always willing to help each other and me, and send a card to a friend.

When I got asked about how long I'd been doing it, I realized I was unable to remember my life before I started - what in the world did I do for fun? I honestly can't remember. I've always been a papercrafter, but before Stampin' Up! it was a solitary sport, and I think that's true for most people. I love that now I have a community that truly circles the globe, and that we are all the same kind of crazy.

I signed up in May of 2001, and in September, that felt like fate. I had an outlet to deal with what we were all dealing with - and as helpless as I felt - I knew there was one thing I could do - and that one thing was make cards. I made and sent cards for months - to firefighters, to the White House, to city leaders in New York. I received thank yous from every single one. It gave me hope and it gave me a small break from worry and fear.

Since the day I signed up - I have never used one dollar of my day job paycheck to subsidize my hobby - and I'm extremely proud of that. It has been a self-funding enterprise from the get-go - and if you've been to my house - you know that's worth a lot. :) #fullsetsyndrome

So while it's one of many crafty brands I love - it's also a lot more than that. The people in my life who would get on a plane in the middle of the night if I needed them to be here came to me through Stampin' Up!, and those types of friends continue to come into my life through my classes, or on my team, or on my blog or at my retreats.

So yes, it's been sixteen years, and yes, it's been great. Now you pretty much know everything about me, except the Arkansas story, which as I told you in this post - I'm STILL not ready to tell.

NOW. Let's taco 'bout TACOS!! If you cut an Austinite open (which I don't recommend) you will find their bodies are completely made of tacos. Tacos are a holy thing here. People when they get to the word "taco" in a sentence immediately change their tone to a reverent, almost romantic one. A faraway look may appear in their eyes as they speak the most beloved two syllable word in Texas. Tahhhhhco.

So when I saw one of the Sale-A-Bration sets WAS A TACO TRUCK - I MIGHT have screamed a little. I might have screamed a lot. It may or may not be preserved on video.

So today, while waiting on my internet guy, I decided to make a quick video with an appropriately reverent taco card.
Tasty Trucks Card by Understand Blue

links to supplies

I used the MISTI to stamp the tacos in a straight line, and then colored and masked the center taco. Then I created sun rays around the taco and stamped the sentiment. A few tips for lining things up in your MISTI in the video.

If love this set and the other goodies from the Occasions Mini, or you want to see what it's like to be part of my online community of stampers from all over the country - think about the starter bundle. For $99 you get up to $200 worth of anything you want from either the Occasions or the big catalog. $125 in merchandise plus two free stamp sets of any value during Sale-A-Bration. It's a great way to buy a Big Shot if you don't have one yet. And for that $99 you know what else you get? No strings. You don't have to sell anything, you don't have to have events - nothing. You will enjoy a big discount on everything until July 31st at a minimum and you can have fun with us in our group - I have lots of challenges, and a weekly Facebook live with projects and tips for you. Here's where you can join.

I would love it if everyone had the experience I've had over the last sixteen years. If you'd asked me then how long I'd be a demonstrator - I would have said "maybe three months." I wouldn't trade it for the world. Not even for a delicious taco.

Well - maybe a brisket taco. No - no, I wouldn't. :)

I have my winner from Seasons Givings - so sorry I'm late - I just haven't had time to do a blog post this week! I LOVED all your comments - I read every one on every post, you know. I loved how many of you had grandchildren as your favorite moments, and some sweet stories of reconciliation with loved ones. They were a joy to read.

My winner is Margaret.

I will draw again if I don't hear from Margaret by January 20th at noon Central.

I head off to CHA (Craft and Hobby Association show) next week, so maybe I will see some of you there!

As always, thank you for being part of my stampy world. I really appreciate you.


Friday, January 6, 2017

Make a Scene

Are you familiar with Stampscapes stamps?

More years ago than I care to specify, my mother and I took a stamping class using Stampscapes stamps.

Those things are magical. They are designed so that the elements all work together to build scenes, and the finely detailed texture stamps for things like grass, rocks, sand, etc. seamlessly blend with each other to create highly realistic landscapes.

I remember all the EXCLAIMING we did as we learned to use them.

You know you're in a great stamp class when you do some EXCLAIMING. That's why I like to have my friend Dana Keith around at all times, because she's an EXCLAIMER. It makes life fun.

Anyway, when I was at OnStage in November, and they started demonstrating the High Tide set, I WAS EXCLAIMING.

The presenter (Carole Ann Patterson) was working with the lighthouse image in the set, and she was building the sand around the base of the image, and it was magical - all seamless and perfect like the Stampscapes scenes.

The one I had my eye on though was the water. I couldn't wait to play with the set and make the scene that was in my head, which is below.
High Tide by UnderstandBlue

Those sweet little birds look like our killdeer, which I see in a park near my house - not just at the beach, which is six hours from here by car. 

I love how they run with their bodies perfectly still like they're in marching band, but their little legs just a blur. So cute. But I digress.

Here's a video on how I made the scene, just with masking and stencil brushes. (Pardon my voice - it's cedar season!)

I hope you'll try making a scene! And EXCLAIMING.

Don't forget to take advantage of the awesome Starter Bundle with two extra free stamp sets to get your Occasions Catalog goodies at the best price! And Sale-A-Bration is on, with a free set for every $50 purchase! The little taco truck set is my favorite, and those gold card tins that I showed you in this post.


Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Thankful Life

As the end of the year drew nigh, I was saddened by some posts where people were wishing 2016 away for one reason or another.

Most disturbing was the people who were ready to write off an entire year of their lives because some celebrities whom they've never met had died.

I don't remember who said it to me when I was little, but I do remember one time when I said I wished I was older, that someone said "don't wish your life away."

It stuck with me, and later, after I'd experienced some of the things that made me understand what that meant, I really appreciated that advice.

Life is short. Make the most of it. Every minute counts, even if they aren't great. And no famous person really impacts those minutes. Yes, you liked their movies, yes, it's sad they're gone, but at the end of the day your sunrises and sunsets and highs and lows aren't affected, so try not to overestimate their shadow on your days on the planet - they are pretty inconsequential, all things considered.

I thought 2016, like every other year, was awesome, and I thought I'd share some of my favorite things from this year that made it memorable.

  • I discovered this quirky chef's videos. He has a strange, sing-song way of talking, but he is HYSTERICAL, and quietly gets in some really dry, funny statements while presenting great recipes. This one is so funny and one of my favorites. 
  • We started Crafty Chat at Online Card Classes. Two incredible women I admire so much made time in their busy lives to let you get to know some people in our industry a little better. 
  • My sister and I re-arranged her art room so that we could have crafty days there - no rules, just work on whatever. Having a sister is a great gift - having a sister who shares your love of art is priceless. 
  • I got this recipe from a woman who attended a social media class I taught. It's amazing. 
  • I got this recipe from my friend Bev - it's now a staple in my house.
  • I tried this recipe at New Year's to honor my friend Leslie who passed away last Christmas. It's divine. She love jalapeno poppers like I love the sun. I don't love them, but I love this, and so it's a compromise. She loved compromise and peace. 
  • I saw the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix - put this one on your list. 
  • I had two retreats with amazing friends - I treasured these weekends. 
  • I started my online classes
  • I got better at watercolor. 
  • I listened to these books, among others: Born With Teeth, Five Days at Memorial, Dead Wake, Going Clear, Troublemaker, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Ghettoside, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, A Man Called Ove, A Great Reckoning.      
  • I discovered some amazing art products: These brushes, these watercolors, these watercolors, these watercolor powders, these brushes, this glimmery paste, this masking paper
  • The mini MISTI and Memory MISTI were introduced. 
  • I went to CHA.
  • I went to OnStage in Phoenix. 
  • I earned a trip to the Mediterranean and Thailand through Stampin' Up!
  • I was published several places, including Modern Woman and USA Today. 
  • I found the Cuttlelola Dots Pen
  • Shannon West launched the #imbringingbirthdaysback campaign. 
  • I planted a Coral Bell. It's one of my favorite plants in my garden. During an unseasonable cold snap in December, it froze. I did not consider this to be a sign that the entire year was horrid. Instead, I'm waiting to see if it will be okay. I would like everyone to do the same with everything. Everything might be okay if we stop freaking out and just see what happens.
  • We had a great crop of tomatoes and peppers in our tiny yard. Every time I grow something I can eat it brings me great joy and gives me a lot of control that maybe the rest of life doesn't offer.
  • It was a rainy year - which I don't love even a little, actually - I hate it - but it cost us a lot less in water and air conditioning and there were fewer bugs. I still hate it, but it didn't ruin my year.
  • I found LulaRoe leggings. Don't pretend like this isn't the best thing to happen to work at home people ever or I'll have to pinch you. 
  • I started a "bless my house" routine where at different intervals I tackled drawers, cabinets or closets that needed attention. I ended the year much more organized than I started. I can't think in an environment that is closing in on me. I will never say I'm officially an organized person, but I will say that I can conquer clutter, because clutter freaks my beak. I love the short term clutter of art, but that has to end and be beaten back so I can start again.
  • Speaking of blessing your house - at one retreat I got to visit Magnolia Market, which was awesome. It's beautiful and peaceful and has pretty things. Oddly enough I bought some washi tape there that says "bless your home" which I didn't put together with the previous bullet until just now. 
  • Pokemon Go came into the world. It's such a fun, social activity - and I've seen tons more people in our parks and lots more kids outside as a result - that makes the world better for sure. 
  • I started brushing up on Spanish with this great lesson series - I wish I'd had this in college. I love languages (well, except for French and German) and I enjoy learning them on my walks.
  • I bought the single most useful kitchen tool ever
  • I started meal planning and freezing food - saved me so much time. 
  • It was actually 2015 when I found Instacart, but it has changed my life, and is the single biggest contributor to my ability to blog and create. I hope you have it in your area. I haven't been in a grocery store in more than two years, and I can't tell you how much money and time that has saved me.
I could go on and on, honestly - but it was a wonderful year, and no amount of politics or celebrities could tarnish it. 

I hope 2017 is twice as awesome. 

Today marks the beginning of the Occasions Mini Catalog AND the Sale-a-Bration catalog! They are both full of awesome, and we have an awesome starter bundle special too - add any two stamp sets - ANY PRICE - to the bundle for free. You have no obligation to "sell" anything and can join my awesome team Facebook group if you purchase it, so click here to get a heck of a deal. If you need the new catalogs, let me know.

I've been working on some new online classes out of the new catalog over the holiday, and two of them are already up on my class page, featuring the Easter Message stamp set - I have both a religious class and a non-religious class available now. I think you will love them both! They feature some fun new coloring techniques. 

But then I needed to work on some birthday cards for the new year, so I sat down and just played. I love the Thankful Life host set - the images are so crisp and layer perfectly. I decided to challenge myself and see if I could get all four images on the MISTI for making multiples - and I won the challenge! So first, here's the card I made, with the vase of flowers peeking in from the side. I used Birthday Blast for the sentiment and went with all grey to really make the flowers pop. 

Layering Stamps with the MISTI by UnderstandBlue

Just to show you how I pulled this off, I made you a video. It's a really quick card - you just have to take a few minutes to figure out how to set your MISTI up.

Strangely enough the stamp set name lined up with what I wanted to day today.

Funny how that works.

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