Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Doors and Windows

There are a lot of variations on the adage, "When a door closes, a window opens," each a reminder to keep holding on to hope, an act that requires a shift in perspective. 

I tend to fixate on closing doors and stare them down long after they have been slammed and sealed. Sometimes I don't notice the open window, and when I do, I shrug it off -- it's a window, not a door. What am I supposed to do with a freaking window? I want my door back. 

This is what I am experiencing at the moment when I think about the state of the scrapbooking industry, where once, it felt as if multiple doors were flung wide open and there were near-360-degree views. Light came in from all angles. Then the doors started closing, one by one, and the windows started disappearing, and now, there is still, at least, one window -- there will always be at least one window, I hope -- but more and more, it resembles a tiny aperture in a stuffy cell where the only door  in or out has been sealed and rusts on its hinges. 

Okay, maybe that was a little dramatic. I'm in a mood. :) 

Over the past few years, so many of my favorite companies and kit clubs have stopped producing collections, have disbanded their design teams, and shut down their websites and blogs, which has impacts for diversity, creativity, and opportunity. When Two Peas in a Bucket closed, my heart hurt and I feared for what this meant for the scrapbooking world at large, but I set my sights on the nearest open window. 

Today, the few companies that remain often produce collections that are difficult to differentiate from each other, and when there is fresh and new product, the time between releases is far too lengthy.  I suppose it all comes down to supply and demand. I haven't stopped demanding, but I guess others have.  

From a business angle, there seems to be a push away from traditional scrapbooking layouts and product and toward traveler's notebooks and pocket-page approaches, which I never saw as problematic (the more expressions, the merrier, right?) until Studio Calico decided to release its last scrapbooking kit last month, which floored me. Now, this week, I learned that Get It Scrapped is ending its membership this coming January, so I will be saying goodbye to one more team, one more source of inspiration. 

Still, let me focus on the window for a moment -- even though the filtered light coming through it is heavy with dust motes, I know that the true source of the light need not be from outside the room. It may sound trite, but the light can come from me. The open window could be in me. This is something that Get It Scrapped taught me, actually, with its emphasis on process, not products. It did not market "stuff," but rather, existed to teach design and to encourage mindfulness as a key component of one's creative process. Every layout that I have completed for the team was never focused on using Product A from Company X. Instead, these pages challenged me to be more attentive of the hows and whys of page design.  

Take my most recent layout, for instance: 
This layout is part of a Get It Scrapped blog feature on using the lines in photos to strengthen page design.  Because this was the emphasis, I was given complete freedom to use the "stuff" in my stash, no matter how old or new, without having to overtly market it.  As such, I could approach it from a creative perspective instead of from a consumer's perspective, if that makes sense. 

And now that I think of it, THAT is the opening window that I need to see. Creativity and not consumerism needs to be the focus. A reduction in the latter need not compromise the former.  A scarcity of new product does not need to be the end of expression.  If the only thing driving the creative spirit at the heart of the memory-keeping world is "new stuff," that's a problem.  I've been guilty of connecting my love of crafting with a love of new product, and I need to rethink that relationship. The industry is not the hobby. 

I'm not saying that "new stuff" isn't great to have; I'm just saying that a scarcity of it shouldn't lead to the end of a hobby that I love even more than the product associated with it. This is a great moment for diversification and adaptation. Maybe the fact that mainstream products are limited could mean that smaller companies or even individuals  with creative visions might have a chance to implement fresh and new ideas; maybe independent designers might now have a chance to find their niche instead of being eclipsed by mainstream manufacturers.  Kit clubs that once relied on mainstream manufacturers can now seek out independent artists and form productive relationships that benefit multiple parties. 

Maybe I have it all wrong, and maybe I am just in Jerry Maguire manifesto-mode, but I'm hoping that perhaps doors are overrated, perhaps doors are really just a state of mind, and that even as the walls seem to be closing in, all we have to do is punch through them in order to create the windows that will change our views entirely. 


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Sunday, July 1, 2018

Stash-Busting Challenge 2018: Layout #1

Not only am I finally using my stash-busting challenge kit, but I am also playing catch-up on my month-in-review layouts.  Usually I'm not one to think about scrapbooking in terms of being "behind" or "caught up," but I do try to keep the gap between experiencing the month and documenting the month rather small. 

It was tough to actually work in the blueprint paper here, as I was planning on hoarding it for eternity,  and though I did cringe while running the paper cutter blade down the paper, I am glad to see that bold blue here. Much of this page is an exercise in de-hoarding, now that I think of it, with very little new product represented. There's even some Love, Elsie and KI Memories goodness to contribute to the happy and colorful vibe of the page. 

If you've been playing along with the challenge (or want to start) and are posting on Instagram, don't forget to tag @jill.scrap and use the hashtag #stashbustingchallenge2018 when posting your images. If Instagram isn't your thing, you can also post your images and tag me via the Get It Scrapped Community on Facebook, or you can post on your blog and share a link to the post in the comments below.  You don't have to post everything all at once -- individual posts are totally fine! 

Thanks for visiting today!
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Friday, June 22, 2018

A Simple Summer

Maybe the title of this layout is something of a misnomer.
Maybe a truly simple summer would simply involve me sleeping in every day and, within an hour of waking, taking a series of naps like my dog does.

Let me clarify, then: when I use the term "simple" on this page, I mean it in comparison to my non-summer routine.

So far, this summer really has been wonderful, and I have been making the most of it. There have been some stressful moments, however. For instance, my hallway-painting adventure has left paint in tough-to-remove places on my body (there is a serious learning curve when it comes to all things paint, by the way), but overall, I have been loving every day and feeling grateful for this time.

This layout feels like summer to me -- the blue-sky painted background, the flowery brights, the bits of paper sunshine. Every one of the embellishments on this page (and the letter stickers) comes from the June Hip Kit Club Project Life kit. A pocket-page scrapper I am not, but I still like PL kits and use them for non-PL projects all the time.

Thanks for stopping by today!


Sunday, June 17, 2018

Two Fathers

To scroll through social media feeds on Father's Day is to encounter post after post celebrating fathers. These posts profess love, gratitude, and admiration for the men who love unconditionally, who offer support and encouragement, and who model the values that shape their children in innumerable and positive ways. 

 My household is blessed with a father like that. 
From the moment he learned that he would be a father, Rob has been there, and even as our daughter begins to venture into the wider world, he is still there for her. I often look at their relationship in wonderment. Do they know just how lucky they are?

They have a comedic banter that is uniquely theirs. Their group texts make me shake my head. 

They have been pulling practical jokes on each other since Z was in preschool (and likely even before that). Whenever they run errands together, they blast the Decemberists and Silversun Pickups. They share a mutual zeal for video games and trash-talk each other incessantly while playing. 

Granted, their relationship isn't always the stuff of idyllic greeting cards -- it's more of the Shoebox Greetings variety, grounded in directness and laughter. Rob may not always agree with Z, nor she with him, but they always find a way to understand each other, in time.  

Not everyone has a father/child relationship like that. Not everyone wakes up on Father's Day and posts laudatory messages about the man who was and is there throughout it all.


Even though my father lives about 25 minutes away, he is, for the most part, a stranger to me. Here is a comprehensive list of how many times we have seen each other in person over the past twenty years: once when I gave birth to my daughter, two decades ago; once in a dentist's office two decades after her birth, when I walked into the waiting room after an appointment only to learn that for the past 30 minutes, he and my daughter had been sitting across each other, completely oblivious to the other's identity; and most recently, at two funerals. 

My parents split when I was in high school, after years of my father cheating on my mom and finally getting exposed (by yours truly). My mom really was clueless about the infidelity, despite what some very unhelpful people liked to suggest during the divorce: "How could you not have known?" or "Underneath it all, you had to have known." She really didn't know. Even I was shocked when I found out. He really was that good of an actor, the Leave It to Beaver husband and father. 

All of the Judy Blume and Paula Danziger books I read as a kid assured me that even after a divorce, dads still love their kids and will try to maintain relationships with them. Parents get divorced, not children, right? Not so in all cases, I guess. 

It took me some time to realize that it was possible that my father didn't ever really love us, that he was just playing a role in accordance with social conventions. It was a revelation to me: he did not and does not love me, not really. Maybe he does in his own way, I have told myself when I have felt the need to explain his absence from my life. 

Which brings up something even more difficult to think about: do I love him

It's a terrible question. 

I don't know how to answer it. 

Here's where my mind goes when I let myself think about how I feel about him and push past the anger to get to the heart of my feelings: I want to love him. I believe I should. I don't know how. I don't know if it would matter to him. Of course it is what Jesus would do. And the Judy Blume kids. 

I can't find peace in that thought process, so I often focus on this instead: maybe instead of loving him, I should work on forgiving him and dealing with what remains of him in my life -- baggage.  

Instead of leaving a legacy of love, he left one of mistrust and doubt, which has affected my relationships. Sometimes the effect has been positive -- I really work at relationships that matter to me. Sometimes the effect has been negative -- I worry that my relationships have an expiration date, that the love that I think is real is just a ruse and that I will not realize this until the person leaves my life, which feels inevitable, because someone who I thought loved me once, someone whose job it was to love me, no matter what, left. 

He is not a total absentee in that respect, but also in another: today, I have a Facebook father, who sends me simple messages on major holidays -- Merry Christmas, Happy Birthday, and the like. It is something. Not everyone gets to have Social Media Dad. 

A few months ago, we thought Hawai'i was under nuclear attack and then learned that it was a false alarm.  Not long after that false alarm was declared, a message appeared from my father, one of the longest that he had sent.  He talked about his neighbors panicking, about people experiencing anxiety, and though he did not share what he was feeling, he told me to "have a good day!!!" 

When we thought it might all be over for us, at least one of his thoughts turned to me, and I am holding on to that. 

Maybe we will never be able to rebuild, but we can acknowledge each other, and that is something: you are my daughter, you are my dad. I don't think either of us knows what that means. I don't think we will ever know. 

So I woke up today, grabbed my phone from the nightstand, and sent him a Father's Day message. Maybe that reveals the answer to that difficult question: yes, still, even now, yes, inexplicably, bewilderingly, ultimately, yes, in my own way, the only way I know. 

Friday, June 15, 2018

Lately-ing

Lately, I have been

...hand-cutting circles. Lots of them. Like so:
These were cut from the remnants of the May Hip Kit Club main kit. It's a great way to use paper scraps as well as accents that might not seem to work with one's page themes but that can totally work with one's color scheme. 
...painting -- and not just for crafting purposes. I'm actually painting walls in my actual house, with actual trips to an actual hardware store involved. The gloomy gray hallway is being painted a lighter, warmer color -- Craft Juggler from Behr. If I survive that, the kitchen is next. Over the past two days, I've been procuring supplies and watching tutorials. By this time next week, I hope to be paint-covered and proud. 

...trying not to binge-watch the entire second season of Queer Eye in one sitting. It's impossible, I know. I love this show. Just watching the Netflix trailer made me cry. 

...reading the Ember in the Ashes series by Sabaa Tahir. The first book was incredible, pulling me in right away and leaving me nearly breathless with curiosity and anticipation until the end. I'm almost halfway through the second book, Torch in the Night. It's just as engaging as the first. HIGHLY recommended! 
...cooking chili AND eating it. This is a big deal. I hate chili. I've hated it all my life, and every time I think that I should give it another chance, I taste it and cringe.  Then, a few weeks ago, my husband was coerced into entering a chili contest at work. We had never made chili before, as the only time chili ever appears in our house is when it is in a take-out container for one. Still, I love to cook, and I love my husband, so I compared recipes, looked at the common elements, and modified a recipe that uses accessible ingredients, incorporates lots of heat, and is based on my idea of how chili should taste.  It actually worked -- he won the contest with a pot of chili that a coworker dubbed "Netflix and Chili." I even tried some and thought, huh, not bad. 

A few days ago, my husband was craving chili again, and since I'm the one on summer break, I volunteered to make it for him, not planning to eat much at all. I made a few more tweaks to the recipe and included super-fresh veggies from a local farmer's market. I ended up eating four bowls of it!  I share with you the recipe, in case you, like me, hate chili but want to give it another chance. (I  halved the recipe, since the first time we made it, we needed to use multiple pots to hold it all!). 
 2 tablespoons olive oil
0.5 pound ground beef
1 pound chuck steak, fat trimmed, cut into 1-inch cubes
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, minced (reserve some seeds) 
1 pasilla pepper, minced 
2-3 Thai bird chiles, minced (seeds left in)
1 cup water
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground chipotle chili pepper
0.5 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 12-ounce can tomato paste
1  15 oz. can crushed tomatoes (Cento is a good brand)
1.5 cups seeded and diced Roma tomatoes
1-1.5 c. diced Maui or other sweet onions (two small onions)
2 diced red bell peppers
2 15 oz. cans black beans, drained and rinsed 
1.5 cup beef broth (approximate)
chopped fresh cilantro (optional or to taste)
grated sharp cheddar or white cheddar cheese (optional)
Heat Dutch oven or heavy, large pot over medium-high heat. Add olive oil immediately followed by ground beef. When ground beef is nearly browned, add the cubed steak, garlic, jalapeño and pasilla peppers, and Thai bird chiles (and a little salt and black pepper to season, if desired), and sauté until the steak is seared, about 3-4 minutes.  
Add water. When it reaches a boil, add cumin, chili powder, ground chipotle chili pepper, cayenne pepper, oregano, salt, and sugar. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the pot, and simmer for about 10 minutes. 
Add the tomato paste and crushed tomatoes, stirring to combine. Simmer uncovered for five minutes on medium-low, and then add the fresh tomatoes, onions, and bell peppers. Simmer uncovered on medium-low heat for about 30 minutes, until the vegetables are tender (check to be sure onions are clear — alternately, include the onions earlier in the process after searing the beef). Stir occasionally, as mixture will be thick. 
Add black beans and 1 cup of beef broth and continue to simmer uncovered for 20-minutes. If a thinner consistency is desired, add the additional 0.5 cup of beef broth. Let simmer uncovered until you are ready to eat (we let it simmer for about 45 minutes - 1 hour after adding the beef broth). Add cilantro, if desired, just before serving.  
Ladle into bowls, top with cheese, and serve.  

...making my way happily through the ICAD challenge. Here are the two most recent cards (days 14 and 15). 







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Wednesday, June 13, 2018

ICAD 9-13



Even though creating these cards is different from my usual crafty preference -- scrapbooking -- each feeds into the other. As I set aside a few minutes each day to just experiment and enjoy the process without worrying much about the product, I find that I am coming up with ideas to use on future layouts. 

The first card above revealed that the go-to grid can be kicked up a notch with the addition of fabric. I alternated chevron-patterned ribbon with paper scraps. 

The second card was meant to be a simple paper collage but it ended up telling a story of sorts. 

The third card had me trying something new -- tea-dyed papers. It's super simple! Just heat some water, add one or more teabags to it, and after steeping it for a moment, remove the teabag, and, when it cools enough to be handled, brush the teabag across the surface of the paper. I used the same concoction over different papers and then pieced together a grid.  You can even use the leftover tea in a spray bottle. 

The fourth card may seem unextraordinary, but within its layers there is meaning. I started with watercolors, and then used invisible ink (a Versamark pen) to write the deepest wishes of my heart, and then I sealed them with fairy dust -- embossing powder. 

I created the last card this morning, also trying something different -- I wandered in the garden, located a small fern, and used it as the base for a combination of crayon rubbings and as a stencil of sorts, applying paint to the fern and pressing the fern between two index cards with a brayer. I cut the resulting cards and "grafted" them together to create one fern with five variations.

Even though I know that these cards aren't masterpieces, I also know that they are not supposed to be -- the point is the process, and I'm loving every moment.