Thursday, December 25, 2008

I hope you had yourself a Merry Little Christmas (long)

I so totally meant to post a MERRY CHRISTMAS message yesterday, but it was a crazy Christmas Eve! Had to run get Bjorn a different present from Aidan, since the original one didn't work out, then came home and had to wrap presents. I grabbed a nap, then we went to the 4:00 service at the "rock-and-roll" church (because I wanted to rock out, lol), and then went to the 6:00 service at our church (which I liked much better), then we went out for dinner (had to wait 45 minutes even though we had a reservation!), and then went over to my parents' before we came home and collapsed into bed! I didn't even remember to fill the stockings after Aidan went to bed like I have done consistently for the last 16 years, even when visiting Arizona.

So, the rock-n-roll church's service was good ... the sermon, especially. But, IMHO, if you're going to have a "sing along" with Christmas carols, you need to NOT sing the carols like solos, jazzing them up in weird places and doing non-standard things that no one has a clue what you're doing. For solos, sure. But it was really difficult to sing along with these folks, even though I consider myself pretty skilled at singing many different styles of music. So, since one of the reasons I went was to sing Christmas carols, I was disappointed.

But then we went to our church, and it was ... home. Plus, I just liked the service (except that our worship minister picked some of the less common songs, and we didn't do a candlelight at the end). We could sing along with the songs, the pastor's message was wonderful (about Jesus being the Prince of Peace, following the verses in Isaiah about Him being the Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father and the Prince of Peace -- we've been touching on those the last few Sundays), and then we did the Lord's Supper (communion/Eucharist), and that was really awesome. I don't tend to think of the Lord's Supper in connection with Christmas, but it was perfect! I mean, after all, Jesus was born here for the purpose of dying for our sins and saving us from eternity in hell, without God, without Love (and then, of course, He rose from the dead three days later to give us victory over death!).

Afterwards we went to a nearby Pasta restaurant. I was so hungry by that point I literally thought I was coming down with stomach flu (weak, woozy, queasy), but all I needed was some food and WATER! They had a "special" Christmas Eve menu (read: more expensive), and I really debated about what to get, since I'm allergic to wheat (bye-bye pasta), and I didn't want to risk spicy or greasy stuff. So I finally told Bjorn I would pay for my own meal out of my Christmas money, and I chose the New Zealand rack of lamb, for $28. Yes. I really, really had to choke down that price tag! But, let me tell you, it was possibly one of the best meals I've ever had at a restaurant. Not just because the lamb came from New Zealand (although they do have, reputedly, the best lamb in the world), but it was tender and SOOOOO tasty, and they served it with asparagus (which I love) and baby new potatoes. It felt like such a healthy meal compared to Aidan's oven-fired pizza and Bjorn's lasagna! When we were finished they were painfully stuffed, and I was pleasantly full (and NOT of grease and spicy tomato sauce!). So, yeah, it was worth the $28 for one day out of the year!

My parents came over for Christmas this morning, and we had a wonderful celebration together, just laughing and bantering about the presents, etc. Not that it matters hugely, but I did get some nice gifts -- two table-top Umbra "fotofall" photo displays and a floor model to display my cards from (at home, in the living room). I've wanted those for years, and finally got them! Plus I got Guitar Praise (the Christian version of Guitar Hero -- and I'm scared to death to try it out! I told Aidan he'll have to show me how to do it so I won't look like a total loser!), some adorable mugs from Aidan that say "Creativi-tea", "Sereni-tea" and ... I'll have to look up the third one later. A gorgeous painting from Bjorn (via the kitties) of an adirondack chair on a porch with the ocean in the background, a pair of sort-of primitive paintings of cats from my mom (one orange, one dark grey, just like my kitties), a "chandelier" (I have to put that in quotes since it's not the big, heavy crystal kind) to go over our piano to replace the icky old 1970s one we've had since we moved in -- that was from Bjorn. Just lots of nice things, nothing I didn't like. I know I'm totally being a hypocrite about my distaste of the commercialism of Christmas, but the thing is, all the gifts were just very thoughtful, and reflected the people who gave them to me, so that was what made them fun and special.

The kitties (ahem) gave Bjorn a mug that says "I do everything Stacy tells me to do." We all got a huge laugh out of that.

OH! Did I mention what we got Aidan for Christmas? First, let me tell you that Bjorn and I are certifiably insane to have done this: We got him a Japanese samurai sword (a "katana"). Yep. And it's razor sharp, too.

He's wanted one, like, forever (well, since he got into this Japanese stuff -- before that he wanted a Lord of the Rings replica sword of some kind). It's a beautiful sword. It's just that it's, well, razor sharp. The unsharpened ones were boring and blah, so we decided we would trust him with this. It's strictly for display, and he's not allowed to show it to ANYONE without one of us present. He's a good kid, though, so we're not terribly worried. The only thing is that he hung the display rack fairly low on the wall, so we'll have to really police when we have little kids (or kids of any age!) over here. Anyway, he was TOTALLY psyched -- that look you really wanna see on your kid's face when they open their BIG Christmas present.

(Somehow that is a scary picture! Geez, we're insane! But ... we couldn't come up with anything else we knew he wanted that worked for us.)

Anyway ... it's been a terrific Christmas. There was only one tough moment in it -- I went over to my folks' house to help them fix Christmas dinner, and we needed to use the oven in my grandmother's little apartment-thing she lived in before she passed away back in March. So I took the dish back there and walked through her living room and kinda whispered, "Merry Christmas, Granny!", and while I was putting the dish in the oven I was just overwhelmed with this desire to kiss her warm, soft cheek. And I couldn't! And it was just so painful and sad and, like I said, overwhelming that I just had a total meltdown. Part of the reason we'd had Christmas at our house was so we wouldn't have to be faced with Granny missing from the usual routine of Christmas morning at Mom and Dad's. But it hit like a ton of bricks and was just so hard there for awhile! I do miss her so much ... she was (is) such a special lady, such a huge part of our lives. But I've been so good at just pushing those feelings back for so long (I don't do emotional pain well, I prefer to run as far from it as possible), so when it hits, it HITS.

But I know she's up celebrating Jesus' birthday with Jesus this year, so that makes things feel a little better.

Anyway, I know this post has been long and probably would try the patience of Job, so I appreciate anyone who stuck with it until the end. I'm still having mojo issues, but now I have all these little "fotofall" clips to fill with cards (many of which I already have, but I could definitely make more!), so I need to get busy. Plus, I want 2009 to be the Year of the Scrapbook around here!

Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas. I'll be back soon ...

Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmastime is here ... caroling and cheer ...

Remember that from "A Charlie Brown Christmas"? I LOVE that album! My childhood Christmases were permeated with various TV specials, and one of the few I could stand was "A Charlie Brown Christmas". "Rudolf" and "Frosty" were waaaaaay too stressful for me. Tear jerkers, those. So I much preferred the relative safety of Charlie and Linus and Snoopy, et al. Anyway, that was totally random, really, just me trying to think of a title for the post.

I know I've not been incredibly faithful at blogging of late. Partly it's due to the yearly chronic sinus thing. (At the moment I'm feeling alright ... at the moment.) Partly it's because, even though I'm finally in the Christmas spirit, I am rather tired of Christmas cards, so I haven't been real "up" on making any of those for your inspiration. And partly it's because my mojo is playing hide-and-seek with me. I made a beautiful frame mat for my mother for Christmas (haven't photographed it yet), but I can't seem to just go up and play. That stinks.

So, since I don't have anything crafty to show you, I'll show you a few Christmas tree type photos. The first is of our tree this year with Aidan standing triumphantly next to it, having helped his dad put the tree together (you don't seriously think a sinus-infection-ridden/allergy-tormented person like me is going to have a REAL tree, do you?), and after we'd decorated it. I did go back the next day and shift a few things around, but the bottom is intentionally a bit sparse on the decorations, since we have two kitties. Our tree is on a platform we make every year by setting three cinderblocks on end (not on each other, but each on the floor), then putting a circle of thick plywood on top of that. This is because we bought our tree when we lived in Arizona, and our living room had a much lower ceiling there. Here, we have the sloped two-story ceiling, and a 6-foot tree looks a little, um, small beneath it, so we elevate it a little more than a foot. We put a round blue tablecloth over the circle and cinderblocks, then put my very special Nativity tree skirt over that (covering the tree's "feet").
(Yes, I know the star on top is crooked, but we did fix it!)

Then I'll just show you a couple of my favorite ornaments. I took these pictures two years ago, but, of course, since we hang the same ornaments year after year, nothing has changed since then except probably their location on the tree.

This is a British Telecom phone card from the year Bjorn and I met in London, where we were both doing a semester abroad. We saved the Christmas-themed ones, and they were some of our very first Christmas ornaments after we got married.

This Celtic cross is made of compressed Irish turf! I bought it at the gift shop at Drumcliff church in County Sligo, Ireland when we were there in 2000. I got an Irish turf angel ornament, too. Too bad they don't have the wonderful, sweet smell of the turf before it's compressed!

A Waterford Crystal train my parents gave Aidan when he was little. He was obsessed with trains, and I was obsessed with Ireland, so it was a perfect combination!

And, of course, the real reason for Christmas:

This Jesus fish is made from olive wood from Israel.

So I just realized that I didn't take NEARLY enough pictures ... and there have definitely been additions in two years. So I need to get in there and take a few more photos! That's all for tonight, though. Aidan is calling me to come do bedtime prayer with him, and I'm getting pretty tired myself, so I will call it a "blog" and head off for bed. And hopefully I will have more postings before Christmas Day!

Hang in there! And try to keep the true Spirit of the season at the forefront!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Joy to the world ...

Okay, you know what? I'm not really to that point in the season yet. I'm still dealing with sinus-related Scrooge-ness and praying that I will enter into the full joy of the spirit of Christmas soon.

In the meantime, I will show you my "Joy" card that will be the sample for this coming week's challenge in the SHINE group over at Paper Craft Planet:

The very cool ;-) background paper is actually a TJ technique called "Faux Background Paper" (or something like that). So I made it myself, and that's why I put the winky after "very cool". I like this tech a lot, but I'm not sure I have it totally figured out. I need to go over to the TJ website and see the filmed tutorial (rather than just the text one that's in the newsletter) to see if it helps me get the nuances I think I may be missing. But at any rate, I like the way it turned out. I chose "Joy" as the theme for the challenge over in my SHINE group because it's the theme for the Advent week that starts on Sunday.

So, rather than typing out a laborious paragraph with all the deets in it, here are the ingredients:
Stamps: SU (UM Swirling Stars wheel, Holy Triptych angel, verse from Madonna & Child, "joy" from (? -- whatever the name of the retired one with the four little script words is); alphas -- Rhonna Farrar/Autumn Leaves and Technique Tuesday

Paper: All SU -- Very Vanilla, Cranberry Crisp (ret.), Blue Bayou (ret.), Night of Navy

Ink: Versamark; Encore Gold; SU Blue Bayou (ret.), Baja Breeze, Not Quite Navy, Cranberry Crisp (ret)

Misc: Clear EP, Black EP, EK Success corner punch, SU burgundy grosgrain ribbon, Twinkling H20s (Heavenly White, Iridescent Gold, Buttercup, something Blue)

It's my parents' anniversary today (12/11). They've been married 57 years! I can't imagine putting up with the same guy for that long, but I'm planning on doing it myself, God help me! lol (And God help him, too!)

Okay, gotta run -- we're going over there for dinner.

Have a good 'un!

Monday, December 08, 2008

Here Wii go again

Well, my birthday has come and gone. And with it came a new Wii game -- Wii Music. And it is FUN! Not if you're planning on writing virtuoso concertos or anything, but if you just want to play around with making music, performing all six parts in your own ensemble, trying your hand at 60 different instruments (if you can count a barking dog or a mewing cat as an "instrument"), it's a lot of fun. Especially if you play with other people. Aidan and I have been having a blast doing duets and jamming in combos. So far the songs in the "jam sessions" are all pre-set (i.e., songs like "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star", "Swan Lake" and "Daydream Believer," to name a few), but you can play them in different styles with different instruments. So I think it's worth whatever the guys paid for it. Except for the fact that it ate a chunk out of my day today! (looks embarrassed)

I did manage to finish a card today! And, by golly, if it isn't this week's Techno Stamper Challenge (#47, and turned on its side) done on the very first day! Here's the card:
and here's the sketch:
I started on the background last night -- a new TJ technique called "Glimmer Silk". It sounded perfect for something Oriental, so I pulled out my SU "Eastern Blossoms" set, along with a Sakura (cherry blossom) from About Art Accents and one from Hanko Designs and got with it!
And for some reason I go all red and gold when I think Oriental (even though I have washi paper in all kinds of colors), so I used my Tattered Angels "Oriental Poppy" and gold shimmer sprays. Then I stamped the geisha (I think she's from Art Neko, but I'd have to double check) in archival black ink on watercolor paper and decided to try my hand at watercoloring with markers, since I have this new book that's supposed to help you learn how. My first attempt totally stunk. (Stank?) It might have been that I'm using cheapo wc paper, but whatever, I hated it. So I stamped her again and decided to try using the shimmer spray as a watercolor medium. I dipped a paintbrush in the Poppy color and colored the red parts of her kimono with it; as I was painting I thought, "Y'know, this looks a lot like Twinkling H20s ..." So I got my Twinks out and got a darker red color to add some depth. I'm still not good at blending, but it turned out alright. Then I used "Buttercup" (a very pale yellow, which does NOT show up in the photo) on the sash and her collar and hair band. For the three accents on the right side I used a CarlaCraft "Sakura" punch and the SU Three For You flower punch, then just stuck a gold brad in the center. I have no idea what the Japanese writing (Onyx Expressions) says, and Aidan didn't know either, but it looked good in that corner to sort of balance things out. I'm actually pretty pleased with this card. I just wish I could get over Red and Gold!

Other supplies included: SU Riding Hood Red CS and ink (around the edges of the background), SU Black CS, Paper Company Gold, Paper Company shimmer red CS, Black Staz-on ink, red Mizuhiki cord.

I spent this evening over at my parents watching the last episode of Storm Chasers for this season (recorded from last night). It was amazing! On their last day of chasing they had the most incredible day of multiple vortices spinning out and making a single huge tornado, tornadoes dropping all around them, the TIV (Tornado Intercept Vehicle) finally got inside a tornado, although Sean still didn't get the shot he's been trying for seven years to get for his IMAX film, and Reed and his team managed to get their video intercept data pod into the path of an EF2 twister (and nearly got themselves into the path of it!). It was so awesome. I never, ever want to be in a tornado, but they are breathtakingly amazing wonders of nature, so I appreciate the Storm Chasers crews going out there and doing what I wish I could do and bringing back the footage for me to enjoy!

Okay, well, that's all for tonight. It's getting close to bedtime, and I've still got a few other things to do. Hope you all have a great day, whatever day it is you read this!


Friday, December 05, 2008

When you can't stamp ...

... go online and buy them! But more on that later.

So, yes, this has not been a good week health-wise. I did manage to get into the loft and make the sample for this week's SHINE challenge over at Paper Craft Planet. So at least I have to make one card each week (when I don't cheat and pull one out of my stash that I've already done! -- don't tell!).

Here's the card:

I thought that, since we're into Advent now, it would be a good idea to pattern at least one of the week's themes around an Advent theme. Since the candle to be lit on Sunday represents "love", I decided the challenge would be to create a paper craft that reflects God's love at Christmas. If you want to participate, hop over to Paper Craft Planet, join up (if you haven't yet), and then go over and join the SHINE Christian Crafters' Challenge group and follow the instructions there.

Anyway, my card just pretty much says how I tie God's love in with Christmas -- He sent His Son as the very first Christmas gift to US, giving us the gift of His Son to come here and live with us, as one of us, for 33 years and then to die on the cross to not only forgive us of all our sin, but to give us eternal life -- eternal life that starts here and now as we experience His love and grow to be more like Jesus! Okay, I could preach a whole sermon on this card, but I'll spare you, lol.

So the part with Mary and baby Jesus is done with a TJ technique called "Colorwash Batik". I stamped John 3:15 with the silver color of Opalite ink (can't remember the official name of it) then embossed it with silver EP. Framed that with gold paper from the Paper Company and used an EK Success corner punch. The card base is a piece of very velvety paper from Club Scrap, and then I used a glittery DP I got at Archiver's (and can't remember the manufacturer's name -- so sorry!). The rest of the paper is SU. The green is Kiwi Kiss, although it didn't scan anywhere close to that color and trying to adjust it in my photo program brought it close, but not exact. Ribbon is unknown. The square and scallop punches are SU, and I made the sentiment inside with the JustRite mini alpha. Oh, and I used the Fiskars "Threading Water" scallop edge punch, too.

So, on to the spending "spree". Now that I've started this Christian Crafters' Challenge group over on PCP, my "Scripture stamp collecting illness" has resurfaced. I find myself "needing" more and more scripture stamps! Yeah, I know y'all know how this goes, maybe not with Scripture stamps, but you get hooked on something and you've gotta have more. For awhile it was Oriental stamps (and I still love them), but now it's back to the Scripture ones. So this week I spent time making these elaborate wish lists from various stores that have lots of Scripture stamps, then yesterday (which was my birthday, though I didn't really feel well enough to celebrate much -- we're going to do that Saturday), I went through and double-checked against my list of verses I already own, and placed three orders! One with Heart & Soul Rubber Stamps, one with Sweet Grass rubber stamps (which is a division of the Rubber Stamp Shack), and one with smARTworks Rubber Stamps. I am definitely hoping I get money for my birthday! lol

Okay, it's getting late, I'm pretty tired and I still have a few things to do (like rescue the laundry that I forgot about and left in the washer! ack! now I'll have to wait up half the night while it dries, and it's mostly blue jeans -- you know how long those can take in the dryer!). *SIGH* Oh, well, at least tomorrow's Saturday and I can sleep in. I really hope I'll feel like making something crafty tomorrow -- especially since I also bought a new Martha Stewart punch at Michaels today!

Have a wonderful, grace-filled weekend!