Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Eve (and a new decade)

We are off to stop in at several New Year's Eve gatherings.  I wanted to quickly share this card - I'll post all of the details and the file tomorrow.  I ended up making a different file using the Hannah Montana cartridge because I realized that not very many people have Picturesque yet.

Have a safe and happy time tonight and a Happy and Healthy New Year!

(A little earlier tonight I noticed that the blog hit counter has passed 500,000 - half a million!  Thanks to all of you who visit and leave comments - I am looking forward to the new year and my new projects and I hope you will continue to enjoy what you find here!)

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

It all started with one butterfly....

I was working on some digital images for my new project (shhh, it's a surprise!) and I took a little break to check out the latest offerings on the Twisted Papers site.

It all started with this butterfly - one of a group of five in the new Victorian Nature Illustration collection.  Here is a LINK to the specific page on the site.  These images are beautiful and very reasonably priced (most are $1 or $2).  I started with the five butterfly image and cropped to this one image, then  erased the background using the "magic wand" tool in my Creative Memories StoryBook Plus 3.0 software.  If you want more information about this software you can contact me or check out the website HERE.

Once I had the single butterfly image I started rotating and overlapping the butterflies.  I filled in a few gaps using the color sample option to match the green of the butterfly. I ended up with groups of four butterflies and I added a black circle to the center to fill in the shape.  Then I took the groups and arranged them to overlap.  The antennae created a tiny lattice design where the groups met.  I added more black circles at the corner connection points.  I kept copying and pasting and arranging groups until I filled an entire 8 1/2 x 11 page.

For another effect, I took one group of butterfly images, enlarged it and put it on top of the sheet of images.   I worked with the sizing to get a pleasing coverage in the center and create a new design.

I cropped each of the larger sheets to create a square image which I can resize to suit the project in which I use the image.  I can also use this as a background paper by adding effects and changing the opacity.

Here are the two variations side by side on a black background - eliminating the white areas creates a new look for the images (background color is so important!).

It is amazing what you can do with one little butterfly!  I enjoy the kaleidoscope effect and have made quilts using a similar technique to create many patterns from one small image or set of images.

So...after I played around with the digital butterflies, I tried something similar with some Cricut butterflies.  This butterfly image is on the Picturesque cartridge.  It has several layers so you can use different colors for each to get nicely detailed butterflies.  I added a background in three layers to finish the design.

Here is a closer view of the new image.  I couldn't get a screen shot of the full design at 100%.  I need to move the file to my gypsy so I can group the butterfly layers and work with various sizes.  Working so quickly and easily in the digital program with the grouping and duplicating of grouped images made me realize that an actual "select all" and "group" function can't come soon enough (we have been waiting a very long time for an update to Design Studio to provide this basic tool).

I hope to find time to test cut this design tomorrow.  It will be fun to choose the paper colors - so many possibilities.

Tomorrow night is New Year's Eve - time to make those resolutions!  I am excited to have actually completed my year of daily blogging - a post each and every day for an entire year seemed like an impossible goal but I made it!  (or I will have made it once tomorrow's post is done...)  I have some great new plans in the works and I will share them with you as soon as I can.  In the meanwhile, I'll keep on blogging here - too many people have told me that they count on a daily post for me to stop cold turkey right now!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A bit of Serendipity while Sorting

Today I spent some time trying to tidy up my scrap studio.  It was much too cold here to go out since I didn't really "have" to do anything (we still have plenty of leftovers to finish!).  I need to do a lot of reorganizing so it will probably take me several days to get it all done.

If you are a regular reader of my blog you know that I hate to waste paper and I save and try to use as many of the "offcuts" from my designs as I possibly can.  As I was sorting things, I happened to put these two 12 x 12 sheets on top of each other - I really liked the way that they created an optical illusion sort of effect and I think I will use this for a background on a scrapbook page.

This photo shows the pages on a white background - the pink and blue combo could be fun for a baby shower layout with a modern twist!

Here is a LINK to the post where I explained how to cut a lot of small circles quickly and easily in Design Studio and here is a LINK to the post where I shared the file.  If you try this you will end up with offcuts to overlap.  The key is that the pages are turned in different directions so the cut spaces do not align but instead form the new pattern.  The original file uses the Graphically Speaking cartridge - one of the most useful "all around" cartridges in my collection.

I am working on something new - I can't wait to share in a few weeks!  I think you will like it......

Just a quick reminder - the Twisted Papers site is having an inventory clearance sale - 50% off until tomorrow (December 30th) at midnight PST.  Also, the great free downloadable  images that were offered in the "Countdown to Christmas"  will be taken off the home page on New Year's Day so don't miss your chance to try these out.  Here is a LINK to my post showing a card I made using some of the free downloads.  I was honored to be asked by the owners if they could share my card and a link to my directions on their site.  Fair Warning - there is so much to see on this site you will probably spend a long time there!

Monday, December 28, 2009

How to design the "pretty mat or frame" with Home Decor

Thanks to all of you who made a guess about the cartridge(s) I used for this design.  As it turns out, the first guess by Linda was correct (and she was actually the only one that chose the correct cartridge).  I used three elements from Home Decor to make this design.

The main element of the design is the crown.  The key is highlighted in this screen shot of the keypad.

I thought the shape was so pretty and I realized that it was close to a quarter circle so I could probably fit four of the crowns together to make a full circle shape.  I rotated each crown by 90 degrees to create the final shape.

This screenshot shows the alignment of the overlap.  Because there is a decorative series of concave curves at the edge of the crown there are some places where the overlap results in a new cut out design.

While the overlap creates these attractive cut out areas there are some problems...

This screenshot shows the preview on the design page.  It can be difficult to see clearly what the cut will be when all of the lines appear in the preview so I always preview the design on a new blank page in the file.

By looking at this preview, I can see that the corner is pretty but there is a problem in the way the "beaded" band on the crowns are cut off by the weld.  I could have added another shape to complete the beaded lines but I chose to handle this problem another way.

To solve the overlap issue, I used "hide selected contour" (one of the best tools in the Design Studio program).  There are a few "glitchy" things about "hide selected contour" - one of them is that if you only hide one line or contour in an image it will not stay hidden when you reopen the file.  If you don't want to have to remember to "rehide" the line each time you use the file, you need to hide at least two lines.

If you have an image with three or more lines you can use a workaround to produce a file where the single line will stay hidden - here is a LINK to an old post where I explained how to do this.  In this case, I decided to hide the center circle and add another shape to make a slightly different design.  If you click on the image you should be able to see this more clearly.

I chose this heart and used the "handle" in the lower right corner of the selection box to resize it to approximately the same size as the circle it was replacing.  The Shape Properties box will not accept values less than 1 inch for the height and 1/2 inch for the width, however, by using the handles you can create tiny shapes (and they usually will cut well).

I wanted to create a solid shape, so I now needed to add something to fill in the center of the design.  I generally try to challenge myself to use as few cartridges as possible for a design so I checked for a useful shape on the Home Decor cartridge.

Home Decor does not have a simple plain circle cut but it happens to have a great scalloped circle with 37 "bumps" so I used this to "fill in" the center of the design.

When "weld" is checked on the scalloped circle the final design will look like the screen shot above.

Here is the test cut.

This is the offcut from the design which could be trimmed and used on another page.

This screen shot shows the design if you do not check weld on the scalloped circle and use it to create a cutout in the center of the design.

Here is the test cut of this design.

The version with the cut out center will produce these offcuts.  All of these could be used for other projects or for the opposite page in a two page spread.

If you do not insert the scalloped circle you will get this design.  I don't have a photo of this cut to show you right now.

The design is not "grouped" because some design elements had to be rotated individually and therefore I could not keep them all in the same selection box.  You could transfer the file to the Gypsy to group the items and resize it but you would then need to bring it back to Design Studio to hide the contours so it is probably easier to just recreate the design in the size you need directly in Design Studio.

You could add any shape you like to make the center cut out but you need to be sure it is larger than the naturally occurring center opening formed by the crowns.

I'd love to see what you create with this file!

Doily Mat or Frame

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Pretty Mat or Frame

We were up very early to take our older son to the airport for his flight back to San Francisco.  The time went by so quickly - particularly since we lost two days of his visit when his original flight was canceled due to the snowstorm.

I had planned to work on some projects and start reorganizing my craft room today but I was so exhausted from the past few days that I spent most of the day reading and napping!  Tonight I finally did some test cuts of files I haven't had a chance to try yet.  I often sit and "doodle" on the computer creating files and I have a huge backlog of uncut designs to test cut.

Here is a frame or mat that I created.  I will do a full post with all of the details tomorrow.  If you look closely you will see some tiny hearts - the Valentine crafting season has started!

I really need to try to get myself back on a "normal" sleep schedule so I am making just a quick post tonight.  I will leave you with a question - can you tell which cartridge or cartridges I use to create this design?   The first person to post a comment with the correct answer will get a little surprise from me!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Boxing Day (and money boxes)

Today was Boxing Day - not a holiday here in the States, but celebrated in many countries around the world. Here is a LINK to the Wikipedia entry about Boxing Day if you are not familiar with this holiday.

It was a very busy day for me. Tomorrow my mother and father in-law will celebrate their 55th wedding anniversary.  We usually have all of the family here on their anniversary, but this year we needed to do it a day early since our older son is leaving (already!) to go back to San Francisco early tomorrow morning.

Just so you won't think that I have totally abandoned my Cricut during the holidays, I thought I would quickly show you the "money holders" I used for some of the teen to young adult Christmas gifts.  They are tricky to buy for and we tend to end up giving the gift that always fits...

Instead of making a flat money holder, I used this pillow box from the wedding cartridge.  There are two swirls that reminded me of winter storms.

By using Design Studio, I could quickly determine the largest size that I could use and still cut four boxes from a sheet of 12 x 12 cardstock.  I used the five inch size and cut the boxes exactly as they appear on the cartridge.

I normally do not care for the "tick marks" or score lines and eliminate them using "hide selected contour," however, in the case of pillow boxes, they do make the folding of the ends much quicker and easier.  I used a heavy textured Bazzill cardstock for the boxes.  It is important to use a strong adhesive for the flap that connects the long side of the box.  I use Scor-Tape for most boxes - it is very strong and quite a bit more economical than the red liner tape.  Here is a LINK to the Scor-Pal site page for Scor-Tape.

I measured the opening and cut squares of a coordinating patterned paper to adhere inside the boxes.  To give the boxes a bit more pizazz I added a snowflake punched from glitter cardstock.

 On the way home yesterday we enjoyed all of the Christmas lights - this house is not far from us and always has an "over-the-top" display.

 Most of today was taken up with preparing food and enjoying time with family - over 2 dozen people!  We had lots of yummy food.  My husband and sons found a recipe for a root vegetable salad and did an enormous amount of peeling, chopping, blanching and roasting to make a triple batch.

Here is a closer view of the root veggies - they were absolutely delicious!

We had quite an assortment of desserts.  Fortunately, I was able to send lots of the leftovers home with various people so I will avoid some of the temptation - there are still dark chocolate peanut M and Ms left in the house so I'd better start walking with my friends again!

If you are interested, here is the recipe for the root vegetable salad:

Marinade ingredients:
2/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 cups olive oil
2 1/4 teaspoons chopped garlic
3/4 teaspoon fresh basil - chopped
3/4 teaspoon fresh parsley - chopped
salt and black pepper to taste

Salad ingredients:
Butternut squash - 1/2 inch cubes, 8 ounces
Rutabaga - 1/2 inch cubes, 8 ounces
Carrots - 1/2 inch cubes, 8 ounces
Golden beets - 1/2 inch cubes, 8 ounces
Red beets - 1/2 inch cubes, 8 ounces
Celeriac - 1/2 inch cubes, 8 ounces
Fennel - Julienne, 8 ounces
Shallots - Julienne, 4 ounces
Balsamic vinegar, 1/2 cup
Olive oil, 1 cup
Mesclun greens, 8 ounces

Prepare marinade by combining all ingredients
Blanch squash, rutabaga, carrots, beets and celeriac in boiling water, drain well, shock in ice water to cool quickly.
Combine blanched vegetables, fennel and shallots in a bowl.  Toss with marinade.  Transfer to a sheet pan in a single layer.  Roast in a 350 degree oven until tender (but not soft) and lightly browned.
Toss with balsamic vinegar and olive oil to taste
Arrange on mesclun greens.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Peace on Earth

We had a lovely day with lots of family in Wellesley and tomorrow we will do it all over again with a couple of dozen relatives at our house!  I hope that everyone who celebrates Christmas enjoyed the holiday.  Have fun shopping the sales tomorrow if that is your tradition - I will be cooking!  With luck I'll get a bit of "crafty" time too.

(I designed this card last year - it is one of my favorites.  I can't send a card to all of the people who read my blog so here is my "virtual" Christmas card to you.)

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Lovely Luminaries

Christmas Eve - a very special time.  In our neighborhood we have a tradition  of lighting luminaries along the entire street on Christmas Eve.  It has become quite an attraction and many people drive through on their way to or from evening church services.  The candles we use stay lit from about 4:30 p.m. (dusk) until the wee hours of the morning (one year I finshed wrapping after 2 a.m. and they were still going strong).

The first step is the folding of the bags.  I am very particular about this - the tops must be folded under twice and creased to stay away from the candles.  I sat in this rocking chair and folded 70 bags this afternoon (if only the Cricut could do that for me!).

Next, my husband adds a couple of scoops of sand and the candle to the bag.  We were lucky this year - the weather is cold but no rain and not windy - perfect conditions for the luminaries.  If it rains too hard we have to move the date and it just isn't the same....

Then the bags are carried out to the street and spaced as evenly as possible by our sons.  We usually do them for our neighbors across the street since they go away at Christmas but don't want there to be a "gap" in the coverage.

The snow takes care of any unintentional mini-bonfires - fortunately that doesn't happen very often (usually only if it is windy).

Here is the view down the street - I had to wait for a chance to take a photo when no cars were driving through.  The effect is really magical and it is fun to have a few minutes to catch up with neighbors as we all get our luminaries set up and then wander along the street enjoying the lights and the candles.

We'll be off to the late church service soon.  One more tradition that has to happen on Christmas Eve is the opening of the handmade ornaments from Grandma Felicia.  She has been making dated ornaments for all of the grandchildren and great nieces and nephews for many years now and each of our sons has a nice collection of special ornaments.

I hope you all are having a relaxing and cozy time with family and friends. Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Crystal and Cookies

Just one more day and so much to do!  Today we finally got the dining room tree decorated.  Our town was very busy as we did lots of errands and picked up a few last minute gifts.  Tonight was filled with cookie making, so this is definitely a "holiday" post and not a "crafting" post.

If you have been reading my blog for a while, you know that we lived overseas for eight years - first in Germany and then in England.  Our younger son remembered the "lebkuchen" cookies we had in Germany and decided to try making some with his girlfriend.  They do a lot of cooking and baking.  Our older son has a radio show about chefs, music and food.   I am not sure where the "foodie" genes came from but it keeps things interesting around here!

The recipe was a bit complicated and involved boiling molasses and honey together.  They found the recipe online - here is a LINK to the site.

The dough turned out to be a bit sticky but they used plenty of flour and managed to cut out lots of little cookies.

The tiny hearts were really cute and very tasty too - we recommend trying this recipe if you like lebkuchen.

When we lived in Germany I used to go on two shopping trips a year with my "English Morning Tea" group.  This was a group that met every Wednesday morning.  It was organized through the community education in our small town and was for Germans who had taken all of the English language classes and wanted to keep up with their language skills and ex-pats who were struggling to communicate in German and appreciated a chance to have some native speakers help them out.  We took an overnight trip to the area where a lot of crystal and china were manufactured and shopped at the factories.  We had a lot of fun!

Each time we went on these trips, I would buy a few more crystal ornaments.  The company that made them also makes the crystal sold as Gorham in the US.  I have some of the boxes with their German labels and every year I have a little "refresher course" in German when I have to put them away (of course - I have to get them in the right boxes or it would bother me all year!).  These two are for a reindeer and cat.

The Tree in the dining room is actually meant to be an outdoor tree.  It is white wire with downswept branches.  A few years ago, I was in CVS and they had marked down the remaining trees to 90% off so it was inevitable that I would go home with it!  This tree only has crystal and silver ornaments but this year I added a few blue glass balls as well.

My favorite thing about this tree is the way it is reflected in the mirror on the opposite side of the room.  The effect is so pretty when you walk into the room from the hall.

Here are a few more close ups of some of the crystal figures.  I wish I could really capture the magical sparkle of this tree in a photo.  The outdoor tree has worked out just fine inside - it is a little unexpected but visitors nearly always comment on how nice it looks in the room.

There is so much to do tomorrow - good luck to all of you with your last minute preparations!

I realized that I didn't give a time zone when I said that 11:59 p.m. today was the deadline to comment for the DVD giveaway so, to be fair, I will end the eligibility at 11:59 Pacific time which is 2:59 a.m. for me.  I am a night owl, but I do need to get some sleep, so I will do the drawing as soon as I can tomorrow morning and post the name of the person who will be receiving a free copy of Megan's Above Rubies Studio Cricut A-Z DVD.

The Winner has been chosen - Congratulations to Molly Martin!

Molly said...


I would like to echo what Lisa Sturgill said...even when I think I know what I am doing, watching you navigate through CDS helps me to do something easier and/or learn something new.

I also enjoy your posts relating to using a Cricut element or cart for something other than what is was designed for...(i.e. using Zooballoo for Christmas).

Finally, I really appreciate your reviews of new carts AND all the time involved in taking/editing/posting pics of the handbooks.


Merry Christmas to you and your family!

Molly Martin
December 21, 2009 10:47 AM