Thursday, October 16, 2008

Orange Pumpkins, Green Trees...

Fall has always been my favorite time of year. As a born and bred New Englander, I absolutely LOVE the things that make fall...well, Fall.

October has always been the quintessential month for all of it, too - the amazing color explosion of the leaves, the crisp coolness in the air, the harvest of apples and pumpkins, and my favorite of the holidays, Halloween. (Don't get me wrong, I love Christmas and the Thanksgiving menu, but Halloween still tops my list)
Every year, I look forward to going apple and pumpkin picking, leaf-peeping all the way.

This is our first fall in Virginia, though, and that made things just a LITTLE bit different. The apples came from our own orchard, about 4 weeks earlier than in NH. The pumpkins (well, the smallest 2 came from our garden) came from the grocery store, not the quaint country Pumpkin Patch or roadside farm stand. And, the strangest part? Look at the photos! Yes, a full lawn and leafed-out trees, still just as green as can be. Add to that the fact that it was 75 degrees the day we carved Jack-O-Lanterns, and it was just about SURREAL!

We did it, though! We got all ready for Halloween with our family of creepy Jacks, our stock-pile of macabre lawn decor (for a future post) and our costume plans for ghoulish creatures...only to find out that, well, they aren't exactly fond of this holiday in these parts, so there's no Trick-Or-Treat and our slightly spooky decorations make folks more than a bit uncomfortable...

Here's my take on it: it's a couple of weeks out of the year, and if they don't share our love of Halloween, they can look straight ahead when they drive by. I'll take it all down when we are finished having fun, and replace it with Christmas lights.

(But since there's no trick-or-treating, anyone may feel free to send candy!! We will gladly accept all donations, especially chocolate! LOTS of chocolate...think of the children... ;-P )

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Quite Possibly the Best Bran Muffins Around

I logged in today and realized how terrible I've been lately with updating this blog. Naughty blogger! So, in an attempt to make up for that, I'm straying away from stamping-related things for today to offer up a gift that keeps on giving :)

Recently, I used some apples from our orchard to make Apple Crisp, which I shared with our neighbors. When my neighbor came to return my pan, she had re-filled it with the MOST delicious muffins!

I HAD to ask for the recipe, they were so moist and flavorful, and also because they disappeared so soon after they got here that I had to restock our supply! She was kind enough to share it with me and, although I'm sure the editors of Bon Appetit Magazine will NOT soon be calling me to be their new food photographer, I wanted to share this great and easy recipe. The batter (if you make the full recipe below) makes up about 54 muffins, and the best part is, it will keep in the fridge for up to 3 weeks, so you can make a batch today, and another when you need more.

preheat oven to 400*, use paper baking cups to line muffin tin, or lightly grease & flour pan.

1 15 oz. box Raisin Bran Cereal (any brand will do)
3 Cups Sugar
5 Cups All-Purpose Flour
5 Teaspoons Baking Soda
2 Teaspoons Salt
4 Eggs
1 Quart Buttermilk
1 Cup Vegetable Oil

-Use a food processor (or blender, or plastic bag & rolling pin) to crush cereal to a flour-like consistency. (this step helps create an even texture, and the finely ground raisins keep the muffins SO moist. However, you can leave the cereal as-is and the muffins still come out really moist and with great texture.)
-Combine all dry ingredients in a very large mixing bowl.
-Combine all wet ingredients. Add all at once to dry flour mixture.
-Mix batter just until well combined. Fill muffin cups 2/3 to 3/4 full. Bake at 400* 15 - 18 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center of muffin comes out clean.
-Keep extra batter in refrigerator up to 3 weeks, making muffins as needed.

Monday, October 6, 2008

I Think it's Finally Fall

I think Fall might finally have come to Virginia. I'm not 100% sure, because the trees are still lush and green, critters are still tromping about happily, and the garden is still churning out ripe, red tomatoes, BUT...

It DOES get dark a bit earlier, and the days have gone from 100 degrees, down to the 70's, so I think maybe, just MAYBE, Autumn is settling in.

Since this has always been my favorite time of year, I was hoping for my usual leap of happiness when I felt the change in the air. This year, though, I found it was mixed with a little dose of melancholy, too. Up where I'm from, the leaves are bursting with colors, pumpkins are sold at roadside stands, warm mugs of cider are cradled in my hands of an evening, and the crisp chill in the air makes me happy just to be...

Whoa, before I get too homesick, here is a card that I thought had a fall feel just like home. I love the colors and even the sort of country texture to it. I was going for homespun and warm feeling, and trying to capture a bit of what I love most about this time of year. I hope fall wherever you are is filled with all YOUR favorite things about it:)

Saturday, September 27, 2008

And A Happy Birthday To My...TEENAGER!?!

No matter how much I think about it, I just cannot fully believe that my very first baby is officially a teenager today!

That's right - Dakota turns 13 years old today. I can still remember it like it was yesterday: going to the hospital, Jeff and I were so excited we could hardly stand it! I remember holding him for the first time. And now here he is, as tall as I am (not that that's hard to do!)

Dakota has pleasantly surprised us from the very start. He does everything with such intensity. When he first talked, it was in full sentences. When he first walked, it was all the way across the room. When he first read words (in PRESCHOOL!) it was a book!

And now is no different, Dakota is so intelligent and has such a great sense of humor. He loves to write stories and draw, and he is so astoundingly good at both! He has high hopes and I have no doubt he will achieve all that and more!

Among many other things, Dakota loves the Martial Arts and all things Asian, like Asian Art, Food, and Philosophy, I chose the Bamboo II and Kanji stamps for his card. It was the perfect way to wish him what we want for him most: Harmony, Wisdom, and Love!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Happy 10th Birthday to My Mighty Quinn!

Wow!! I can hardly believe it, but today Quinn turns 10 years old!

I keep telling my boys that they are not allowed to keep growing up - a part of me wants to keep them little forever! But at the same time, I am so proud and happy every day of the wonderful young man Quinn is becoming.

He is one cool kid - SO smart, great sense of humor, thoughtful and caring, not to mention he is always the first one to offer his help whenever he can...I am one blessed and lucky mom!

I wanted to make Quinn a birthday card that had a little of "him" in it - he has one MAJOR sweet tooth and an appetite to match, so he got the super-sized sundae. He also loves what he calls "feely" cards, in other words he loves to run his fingers over anything I emboss or that has Crystal Effects. So he got both, lots of shiny "feely" stuff for his special day.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Same? Or Different? Or BOTH??

At first glance, the rich colors and elegant images in the card on the left seem to have nothing at all in common with the bright and juvenile boldness of the card on the right.
If we take a closer look, we see it's really the same card, done 2 different ways.
The layout of the cards, or what we'll call the "sketch" is exactly the same. Each card uses a background made up of panels cut the same size and shape, plus a rectangular image panel that is overlaid on the front. And obviously, the card can be used either horizontally or vertically, thus adding even more variety.
This is a great illustration of how one layout can be so versatile. You could do the same card using different stamps, papers, accessories, and changing the directionality, and it would look new and different each time.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Well, Orange You Fabulous?

I had SO much fun with this card! It all started with a little inspiration from the Pier 1 Imports sale flyer...

The room that was the inspiration had gorgeous shades of Autumn colors, lots of texture, and very cool detail elements. I tried to narrow it down, but in the end I just wanted to add as much as I could.

The papers (Tangerine Tango, Pumpkin Pie, More Mustard, Kiwi Kiss, & Chocolate Chip) were all sponged with the same color ink to shade them, then again in Chocolate Chip ink for even more.

That yummy Designer Paper? From a bin at the Dollar Store! It was my lucky day!!

The blossom was a little "involved":

-First I inked it all over in More Mustard
-Then I "Thumped" the petals a bit with my Pumpkin Pie Marker
-Next, I outlined each petal with my Chocolate Chip Marker
-THEN I stamped it on White CS
-THEN (yeah, I got carried away) I used Really Rust ink & a watercolor brush to add more intense orange to the petals -LAST (after I cut it out) I covered the whole blossom in VersaMark & embossed it with Glassy Glaze to make it shine.

For details, I used my Crafter's Tool Kit to pierce the papers, some Vintage Brads, and a bunch of Linen Thread & ribbon in coordinating colors. It might sound like a lot of work, but I had a blast making it and I was fabulously happy when I was done!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

It's happy anniversary time again! Not for me, of course, but for some dear friends of ours. Seems like September is as lovely a month for weddings as June :)

I have been dying to play more with this technique, called "Emerging Colors", I just LOVE it!

-First, Glossy White CS is stamped all over with any shapes & colors you like so that very little white is left showing.

-Then, using a mostly solid larger stamp and VersaMark, stamp it randomly over the colored images. Heat emboss those VersaMarked images with Clear EP.

-After the embossing, use a brayer or sponge (or both), go over everything with a nice, dark ink until it has filled in all the areas that were not embossed.

-Use a clean cloth to "polish" the embossed areas, and what you have left will be the beautiful original colors "emerging" from under the clear embossed images. (This will also work with regular cardstock if you do not have glossy, but glossy is sturdier, gives a slightly better effect, and is a bit easier to work with)

Hope you give this one a try and have fun seeing what "emerges" for you!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Happy Anniversary to...Us!!

Today my Hubby and I celebrated our 14th Wedding Anniversary! Hard to believe, but it it has been 14 wonderful, eventful, and amazing years since the day we tied the knot.

Okay, we didn't actually do so much "celebrating", more like returned books to the library, ran to the grocery store, picked up more chicken feed, dropped the kids off at school, picked them up...

But, the point is, the day was special anyway. And we were lucky enough to get to spend some time together. So I thought this card would be a fitting entry for the blog today. I find I really like So Saffron with Black, it makes the soft yellow really pop.

The layout came from Splitcoast, the rest came from me. This was put together a few little steps at a time as I ran through my day, but Jeff really seemed to like it just the same. I was pretty happy with the result, but what I loved even more was the card HE gave to ME. I don't know how he managed it...a great card and he didn't even have to take out any stamps or ink!?

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Here Comes the SUN!! (well, for a minute...)

Between the remnants of Hurricanes Gustav, Hannah, and Ike, it seems like we have seen nothing BUT rain here in Southern VA for the last week or 2, and I was ALL DONE with that!

We have been very lucky to only get rain, some winds and nothing more serious, but also only a peek of sun now and again.

When I saw this Sketch Challenge (i.e. make a card using this layout, and pick any stamps, colors, and accessories you want) I knew I needed some bright, happy colors.

The problem was that after all the gray outside, I just could not narrow down my color choices, so in the end, I decided to use ALL of them!

In the end, after I combined Perfect Plum, White, So Saffron, Pumpkin Pie, Old Olive, and Rose Red (and the kitchen sink?) I was happier than I thought I would be with the result.
A little ribbon and bling (what is a card WITHOUT those??) and I felt cheerier already. This turned out to be the perfect birthday card for a friend AND a nice way to perk up a dreary day.

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