Friday, December 23, 2016

Catching Up

Although I had hoped to complete a holiday album this year, it is now December 23, and I have yet to begin.  I know, I know -- shame, shame.

I've been creating holiday albums for years now, and over the past few weeks, as the album increasingly became an unlikely prospect with each passing day, I just couldn't get started. Mostly I just wouldn't get started.

I wasn't experiencing some kind of creative block -- I was, in fact, experiencing December.

This month is insane, especially for teachers who are trying to finish a semester and grade stacks of essay exams, who put off appointments until breaks, who really just want to sit on their butts and watch their annual LOTR marathon without needing to worry about getting ANYTHING done -- especially a holiday album.

Scrappy me tried to put up a fight: "You always make an album, Jill. It's tradition! What kind of December would it be if it went undocumented?"

A pretty restful one, it turns out.

The holiday album is a tradition, and though I am dealing with some guilt because I'm departing from that, the whole process was starting to feel redundant. The line between documenting Christmas and staging Christmas was becoming too blurry.

Yesterday, in the midst of watching The Two Towers (priorities!), I officially decided to forgo the holiday album and to devote my creative energies toward finishing a project that I've been trying to stick to all year: my month-in review layouts.

It felt amazing to just do my own thing.

December will be documented -- just in a different way.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

December at Elle's Studio

It's December 10: time for the monthly kit reveal and launch of new products at Elle's Studio! Highlights include the Malia lower-case stamp set (oh, how I love that font!) and the Dated stamp set.

The December kit includes lots of merry tidbits, just in time for the holidays.

The "holidays" don't just have to refer to Christmas and New Year's, by the way. I used pieces of the kit along with some other Elle's Studio goodies on a Thanksgiving layout.
This month, Elle's Studio is also having a special "Celebrate the Season" sale with 25 items for $2 or less.  Sweet deal! 

Friday, December 9, 2016


Lately, I've been...

...watching Gilmore Girls (for the first time).  I just started season four. I don't know how I could possibly watch ads for the show for years on end without actually ever watching the show. It's addictive. I see my daughter and myself so clearly in the characters of Lorelai and Rory. I've been trying so hard to avoid spoilers from the recent Netflix four-episode "season," but I've read a few (namely those about Rory being a disappointment). Still, I've decided to withhold judgment until I watch the entire show.

...rereading (for at least the tenth time) The Joy Luck Club with the students in my "Women and Literature" course.  Apparently I have mothers and daughters on the brain lately.  Each time I read the book I connect even more deeply with it. I never tire of returning to it -- I always discover something that I overlooked during previous readings or come to embrace a new way of thinking as my students share their interpretations and perspectives.

...reading (just for me) Erika Johansen's The Fate of the Tearling. I really enjoyed the previous two books, and I'm curious to see where this volume takes the story. 

...putting off my holiday album preparations. I was determined to create a December sort-of-daily album, and have been compiling supplies and photos here and there. If the album ever comes into existence, it'll be housed in this mint Instax album that I got from Studio Calico: 
It's now December 9th, and I have nothing to show for it yet.  I'm a sad case. The first weeks of December are anything but magical and inspiring for teachers who are focused on trying to maintains a semblance of sanity at the end of the semester.  Hopefully I can put something together during the upcoming holiday break. 

...enjoying the rainy season. It's as close as we'll get to snow around these parts, so I'll take it.

...sitting in traffic. A lot. A lot a lot. I'm really good at it. 

...learning to make pie. I made my first-ever pecan pie for Thanksgiving and had leftovers with ice cream for breakfast (and lunch and second lunch) for two days afterward. It was ahhh-mazing. I used Ree Drummond/the Pioneer Woman's version (from her cookbook -- though I used one and a half cups of chopped pecans instead of one cup). My daughter turned her nose up at the nuts and wouldn't even try a slice, but I didn't bother giving the usual parental lecture about trying new things, because of one important reason: more pie for ME! 

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Tension Breaker

Scrap therapy -- oh, did I need some.
So I treated myself to some. 
The journaling isn't visible -- sorry! It's on the yellow card peeking out from behind the photo. 

The page documents my husband's 40th birthday surprise: a Lego Millennium Falcon. We could have gone with the whole "over the hill" approach, but instead, my daughter and I decided to honor the forever-young boy within.  
I pulled together lots of tidbits on this layout, using pieces from Ali E.'s story kits, past Studio Calico and Elle's Studio kits, some October Afternoon chipboard pieces, and more. The patterned papers are from a variety of sources, including Studio Tekturek (love, love, love that blue paper), JBS, and SC. The background paper (from SC) reminds me of the circles on Lego pieces. 

It felt good to make a "just because" page, especially one that allowed me to let go and be silly. I've been way too serious lately, and needed to loosen up.  Thank goodness for this crafty outlet. :) 

Sunday, November 13, 2016

A Way Through

This week:
there are no words.

No, that's not right --
There are so many words,
word upon word upon word --
some are swallowed,
some are cried out,
some are chanted,
some are posted,
some are deleted,
some are released in anger,
some are held back in fear,
some are sung in elegy,
some are whispered in prayer,
some thank Jesus,
some ask him for guidance,
some ask, "What's next?"
some challenge the answer,
some say sorry,
some say anything but.

And even though I keep forming all sorts of words with my mouth and my fingers and my mind,
I can't seem to find the right ones. But I'll keep trying.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

November at Elle's Studio

It's November 10, which means that it's reveal time at Elle's Studio! There's a new kit, just in time for documenting November's highlights, with some extras in case you're ready to jump into December already.
If that last bit about December piqued your interest, then you will love the Christmas acrylic, stamps, and wood veneer in the shop!

Ooh, and if you're already over 2016 (as so many seem to be at this point), then set your sights on these 2017 goodies:

Count on Elle to know just what our scrappy hearts desire.

The colors in this month's kit coordinate with those in the 'Tis the Season collection, something that I capitalized upon in this holiday layout:

Have a great day! 

Monday, October 31, 2016

Happy Halloween!

Candy corn was made for stardom. Those shiny, waxy yellow ends demand to be clutched by the handful and eaten, top, middle, bottom, top, middle, bottom, in a compulsive rhythm until they are gone. Chocolate gets all the fanzines, but it is the clay of candy. Matte, endlessly shapeable, chocolate is all about taste. Candy corn gets by on looks alone. Odes should be written to its waxy gleam, its whimsical design, its autumnal shades.

-- from Hilary Liftin's Candy and Me
I know just what Liftin means. 

Happy Halloween! 

Saturday, October 22, 2016

So Very Sketchy

Sketches are a scrapbooker's friend. They offer up a blueprint when one isn't quite sure what to build, a compass when one needs a sense of direction, and a spark when one is hoping to kindle inspiration.

As I studied the PDF from the first Elle's Studio "From Sketch to Finish" class, I felt that telltale inspo-push, that compulsion to get scrapping. That's always the sign of a great class!

When I was asked to be a part of the second "From Sketch to Finish" class, of course I happily joined in as a contributor.  Here's a glimpse of one of my projects: 
A few days ago, I got a sneak peek at the full class, and it is ahhh-mazing -- SO many sketches and SO much creativity are packed into a single PDF. 

Be sure to check it out, come Monday!

Monday, October 10, 2016

October at Elle's Studio

I've been a shameful excuse of a blogger over the past few weeks, I know, but I'm popping in today with some good news -- it's October reveal time at Elle's Studio!
You know how much I love the monthly kits, and if you share my love, then you'll be thrilled to learn that there is now a kit subscription option! If you start your subscription today, you'll receive a free gift, and if you're in the U.S., anything else that you purchase today alongside the subscription will be shipped free (there's a reduced shipping fee for international customers).

My October ES layout this month incorporates the kit as well as some Halloween goodies.
Be sure to stop by Elle's Studio to check out more new items! 

Monday, September 12, 2016

This Stuff Matters.

Do you ever find yourself taking seemingly random photos, only to discover later, as you go through your photos, that there is actually a pattern to be found?

Recently I realized that I have a fair number of photos of doctors' offices. Apparently, as these doctors kept me waiting, I got a little antsy and decided to do what we scrapbookers do best: document.  So I documented the yearly physical...and the mammogram...and the eye exam. 

In looking at these photos together, it occurred to me that I had never created a layout about my attitude toward my health and doctors' visits. Sure, I've put together "pep talk" pages about changes in my diet or exercise habits, but I've never actually reflected on my view about seeking help from a professional when the moment calls for it. 

Quite a few of my family members have, in the past and present, avoided doctors until a problem became so serious that it resulted in major surgery, a chronic condition, a serious decline in the quality of living, or, sadly, death. 

As we age, health problems become scarier and more common, and the likelihood of a doctor saying something we don't want to hear becomes greater. That's enough to foster a pretty strong inclination toward denial. Still, I don't want to compound any problem by ignoring the signs. 
The "Stuff" Story Kit from Ali Edwards helped this layout along. The "good stuff/bad stuff" card prompted the journaling.  I'm kind of bummed about the alignment of the journaling, though. Everything was measured perfectly in my word processing program, but when I ran the card through to add the second column, the alignment of the paper in the printer was off, and the columns ended up too close together.  Ah, well...I forgive me. :) 
This chipboard sentiment pretty much sums up the page and the reason that I created it: this stuff matters. 

Saturday, September 10, 2016

September Reveal at Elle's Studio

It's the 10th, but not just any 10th -- it's September 10, the day of the first-ever reveal on the NEW Elle's Studio website!

To celebrate, Elle's Studio has a free shipping offer. Sweet deal!  If you're in the U.S., place an order of at least $50, and then use the code SHIPUSA for free shipping. If you're an international customer, place an order of at least $75, and then use the code SHIPINT for shipping.

This month's kit is color-rich and packed with cards and tidbits.
I used a few pieces from it on this page:
I haven't always been the biggest chevron fan, but the bold colors in the chevron pattern on one of the cards in the September kit called to me as I layered cards in the center block of the grid on this page.
I shared a step-by-step process for this layout earlier this week on the Elle's Studio blog, if you'd like more info.

The September kit also makes an appearance on this layout, which I created to document a daily trial I've been facing lately with regard to trying to develop healthy habits and stick to them.
The shift from Starbucks to smoothies hasn't been too easy, but it helps to have students who actually notice what I'm drinking each morning, and who cheer me or scold me as needed.
There are a lot more layouts from the design team on the ES blog, and many will be featured throughout the month on the site, so be sure to stop by to check them out.

Thanks for visiting today!

Monday, September 5, 2016

August in Review

I can't believe that it's already September -- but I must say, I'm a little glad to bid farewell to August. It was a butt-kicking month, what with the the transition back to school, way too many appointments, a week apart from my husband, and two hurricane warnings.
Now that September is here, I've acclimated to the school routine, my body and I are getting along again, the hubs is back, and the hurricanes have passed us by.

Still, August was anything but boring, as this layout reveals at first glance. It was busy and colorful and crazy, and that's not necessarily a bad thing for a month to be.  Periods of time like that give rise to changes.

In a single month, I've met about 70 new students and learned all of their names. I look forward each day to spending time with them and the students I have come to know over the years. Because of them, I'm pushing myself to be an even better teacher.

In a single month, I've gone from a healthy, daily exercise routine, which was really quite easy to keep up with since I didn't have to work all summer, to a much more sporadic routine. When work started again, I found myself exhausted, driven toward the couch, or coming home and needing to make dinner right away, with no time to exercise before the sun went down.  However, it's made me realize that staying healthy is a choice, and that even if I can only get in a 20-minute walk, that's still something.

In a single month, I've shifted from a nearly-Starbucks-free summer to having Starbucks nearly every day during my first week back to work...and then, with the help of scoldings from my students, I realized that I was willfully falling back into old habits, and I started making smoothies for myself every morning.

Some changes I can't control (like the changing paths of hurricanes), but some I can, and I'm trying to be increasingly mindful of that when it comes to discerning between what I want to do versus what I should do.

Sunday, August 21, 2016


One of the not-so-secrets of boosting one's creative energies is to mix old with new. I've adhered to this approach in practically all of the non-design-team projects that I've made over the years. In fact, when doing design team work, sometimes I've had to grit my teeth and fight the temptation to work in an older pattern or accent, something that I just KNEW would look awesome, just because it wasn't part of the kit or the brand or the assignment.

I like to think of mixing old with new as a way of adapting, of keeping things fresh and moving forward while also recognizing that what is no longer new is still valuable.

So why is this on my mind right now? A ch-ch-ch-change in the industry has once again occurred, as Scraptastic Club has decided to discontinue its scrapbooking kits, though it will continue its planner and This Life Noted kits. As much as I've loved working with Jessica and the team at Scraptastic, I have made the decision to step down from the team once I've finished working with the last scrapbooking kit over the next few weeks.

This has made me seriously question whether I am willfully limiting my own creativity. Is it time for me to suck it up and adapt, to become a planner person or a pocket pages person?  I could have remained on the team in that capacity...but pocket pages are not my thing, and a planner person I am not. I use a planner for work, but it is utterly functional, and thus, flat out resists stickers and stamps and prettifying on principle.  I know it's unpopular for me to say this, but I still don't "get" the planner trend. Help me understand it! My planner is a site of chaos. It just barely lends a sense of structure to my days. Whatever neat and orderly handwriting may be there on Monday, come Friday, it has been replaced by demonic-looking scrawls. There's no room for cutesy in that nightmare. When I throw it out at the end of the year, it's like an exorcism has occurred. Why would I want to decorate it, much less preserve it? This all makes me wonder if I am just perceiving the trend in the wrong way. I can't adapt, I guess.

So I'm adapting in other ways. I'll continue scrapbooking, and will try to be open to the new while also finding value in the old.

One way I'm doing this is by subscribing to my first non-design-team-related kit in years.  I recently purchased a Story Kits subscription. These kits are from the brain (and trademark hand) of Ali Edwards, and at just about twenty bucks a kit, they are so worth it. I've received two kits so far, and I'm really happy with them! Although the kits can clearly be used for pocket-page scrapbooking, they aren't limited to that approach.  Just today I created a layout mixing items from the "Stuff" Story Kit with some older items from my stash.
(These tacos are freaking insane, by the way.)
I'm thinking this is a hopeful sign, that with or without the anchor of a team and its deadlines, I can still find ways to be creative that work for me, instead of feeling as if I've been set adrift.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

And We're Back.

It's back-to-school time, which means...
it's back-to-school layout time! 

During my first week back, I took some time to notice all of the details that surround me daily at school. As difficult as it is to wake up hours before my body actually wants to, I actually really love this time of year, which is bursting with possibility. 
This page wasn't just prompted by the shaking off of my summer self, but also by a challenge on the Scraptastic Club blog.  Each month, the team takes on a challenge posed by the kit subscribers, and this month's challenge was stamping. I used the "Me, Myself & I" stamp set here, along with the accompanying kit and add-on. 

Something about creating a back-to-school page makes it all seem so official.  So does grading the stack of projects I brought home with me this weekend. :) 

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

August Reveal at Elle's Studio

Today's the day -- it's time for the August kit, extras, and gallery reveal at Elle's Studio!

This month's kit contains some bold colors and lots of positive affirmations, and the extras complement it perfectly. love the heart acrylic shapes. 

My contribution to this month's gallery pulls together some of the kit items, the lovely hearts above, and elements from the Sunny Days collection.  
Yes, I'm still scrapping photos from last year's Disney trip. I have to ration them! Disney photos are always so much fun to work with.

If you're planning to stop by Elle's Studio today, be sure to check out the new mini-collections: "Work Hard," "Read," and "School Days." I have all three, since I couldn't choose just one -- or two -- of them.  How was I supposed to, anyway, being an English teacher?  I'll have projects to share soon using the new collections!

Thanks for stopping by today!

Saturday, August 6, 2016

July in August

Due to a delay with the mail service, the Scraptastic Club July"Me, Myself, & I" kit arrived later than usual, but somehow, scrapbooking with a July kit in August is kind of just what I need right now. It helps me to prolong summer just a bit more.

Today I created two layouts with the kit. The first documents one of the happiest moments of July -- the moment my sweet cousin discovered that she would be having a girl.
I was on Team Blue (mostly because I didn't have anything pink to wear to the party). I honestly did not care about the baby's gender, but it was fun to play along, even though my attempts to explain to the guests that gender is a social construct, and thus, something that can't really be "revealed" before birth, proved unsuccessful. I did enjoy the cake very much, though.

I'm sure I'll do another layout soon featuring more details from the party -- I took so many pics!

The next layout is the seventh one in my 2016 month-in-review series. Still going strong!
I fit thirty -- thirty! -- photos on this page.  Do you like the one of me up top, looking like Axl Rose? I had a cyst removed from my head (super sexy, I know), and the location of it made it tricky to bandage, so I walked around for a few hours looking like I had a "war wound," as the physician's assistant put it.

Before I head out to start another page, I just wanted to say THANK YOU to those of you who took the time to leave comments on my last post. Readership is up from three to five, which has made my head swell. Good thing I have a huge bandage around here somewhere.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

It's That Time.

If you are one of the three regular readers of this blog (hi, all!), then you have noticed that I haven't been posting that often lately.

It's that time of the year, when my focus starts to shift from all things crafty and summery and unstructured and lazy, toward all things school-related and regimented and disciplined and so-not-summery.

I'll still be checking in, and I'll still be getting crafty -- but the blog tends to suffer when the "to do" lists give it some competition, so if you don't hear from me as often, know that I'm still thinking of the three of you, and that I'll pop in soon!

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Live Happy

1.  Unplug. The analog life is worth living.
2.  Go outside and breathe in the fresh air.
3.  Don't be afraid to get dirty.
4. Befriend the grass, the flowers, the trees.
5. Back to the earth, face to the sky.


Lately, I've been...

...reading the Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children series. I'm on the last book, and am looking forward to the upcoming movie.  It took me too long to finally begin the series, but I'm glad that I did. It's a little difficult to put my finger on why I keep turning the pages. It has something to do with the quirkiness of the books, which are a mix of The Addams Family, Time Bandits, and A Series of Unfortunate Events.  

...watching Graceland. But why? I don't actually like this show very much (and I really can't stand the way it depicts women or male/female relationships), but my daughter has been watching it, which means that I've been watching it, too, and we have now become somewhat invested in the fate of the characters, whom I also don't actually like very much (with the exception of Johnny -- I have a soft spot for him). We're in the middle of season two, but we won't get much further, as we learned even before we started watching the show that it had been cancelled. Shocker. 

We've also been watching Roadies. Being a forever fan of Say Anything, and a huge, sappy, swoons-and-cries-every-time fan of Almost Famous, and also being willing to forgive Cameron Crowe for the disaster movie (not the fun kind) that was Aloha, I decided to give the series a go, and I'm glad I did. It's not particularly witty or smart (sorry!) or well-written (though it has its moments), but it speaks to my music-lover's heart in a way that makes the relative absence of the other things I mentioned easier to overlook. And Cameron Crowe may not know how to make a movie about Hawaii and he may not know that Emma Stone does not look Chinese or Hawaiian at all, but he does know music, and has never let me down in that respect, so I'm going to keep watching. 

...trying to be healthy -- to eat healthier, to exercise regularly, to visit the doc. It's not about checking the scale daily or studying my abs in the mirror or trying fad diets. It's about feeling better and making better choices for myself without going to extremes. 

...loving the peeks from the new lines! I'll admit, I was bracing myself for a declaration of the scrapbooking industry's time of death, but apparently it's not ready to go gently into that good night. 

Among my favorites are Shimelle's "Go Now Go" and Crate Paper's new lines. 

I'm loving many of the patterns that Shimelle has included in her latest collection. Here are a few that will be mine (oh yes): 
There are also some must-have accents in the collection: 

I'm a longtime fan of Crate Paper and was ecstatic to see the new CP lines revealed this past week.  They do not disappoint in terms of design, but they do bring up a question: is it time for manufacturers (and their clientele) to move past traditional gender stereotypes?  Two CP lines have me thinking about this. One collection features dogs, cars, robots, planes, dinosaurs, and travel/exploration motifs. The other features flowers, mermaids, unicorns, butterflies, and cats.  You can guess which one mentions "boy" repeatedly (and never mentions "girl" once), and vice-versa. All of those themes are great, but why assign a gender to them? 
"Cool Kid" sounds like it could be unisex, but there are specific aspects of the collection that mark it as being designed for boys ("little brother," "boys will be boys," "love this boy," "Mr. Rad"). The blog post introducing the collection explains that the line is "perfect for boys of any age." Still, it's not as if this is saying that the collection must be used in one particular way. There are some versatile components that don't include references to gender. 
I am happy to see that "Cool Kid" includes some non-gendered paper designs and gender-neutral sentiments like "young and brave," "awesome," "little explorer," and "wild child." It would have been great to see a few "girl" references embedded in this collection as well -- or, even better, to have dispensed with gender markers and gendered language altogether. 
The blog post introducing the "Cute Girl" collection mentions that it "is great for any sweet girls or women in your life." It abounds in frills, flora, and fantasy, and sentiments like "adorable," "sweet girl," "friend", "love," and "oh darling."  Once again, though, I will mention that the collection doesn't have to be used for "sweet girls." My cat is a veritable demon, with the bite and claws to show for it, and "Cute Girl" is so being used on a page about her. 

...scrapbooking with the Scraptastic "Sweet Jane" kit and add-on and letter stamps. Here's my month-in-review page for June: 
I know, I know, it's kind of busy. That pretty much sums up June!  You'd think that being on summer break would equate to long, leisurely, mellow days, but June was packed with events and appointments and activities. Usually the moment that I actually start to relax into summer, it ends. 

...falling behind with ICAD.  And I was doing so well!  I need to play catch-up soon. 

...listening to musicals (and analyzing them) with Z: Hamilton, The Last Five Years, Into the Woods, Spring Awakening, and Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812.  It's not unusual for me to wake in the morning with a line from a musical in my head, and then have it repeat all day long: "In 19th-century Russia we write letters...we write letters..."

...failing to complete the "to do" lists that I created for myself when summer started. Most of them involved cleaning, so I'm not taking it too hard.