Thursday, December 25, 2008

Snuck In Some Stamping Even on the 24th!

Merry Christmas! The flurry of wrapping paper and bows is over here, being that we open presents on Christmas Eve. Christmas Day has always been more of the "Peace on Earth" sort of day in our family, a welcome relief since, like usual, getting all the packages and holiday goodies ready was a push right up to the end!

Those of you with older children in the family know how opening gifts just isn't quite the same as when the kids were little. Big-kid wish lists come with BIG price tags, resulting in a rather small number of packages to be opened. I usually try to find a few goofy little things to add to that one "gotta have it" item, just so I can see a glimmer of that "excited 4 year old" Christmas joy from years past. And I stamped my way to accomplishing that this year!

Part of the excitement of presents is that anticipation: "Who's getting that big box? What is rattling in that package? Could that be the ______ I really wanted?" I used to forego gift tags, just to keep everyone wondering, but I seem to have a harder time remembering what's in each box, so I can't do THAT anymore!! This year, I "coded" the gift tags, assigning a (stamped) number to each family member. It was then their job to figure out the significance of the numbers so they knew which packages belonged to them--because I told them they couldn't open anything until they figured it out! My plan worked beautifully!! It took them all a couple hours of thinking to crack the code, keeping them in "anticipation mode" for just about the right amount of time! They played "20 questions" with me right through dinner and kept thinking that I had invented some complex math problem for them to solve, when really the "code" was just the last digit of each of their cell phone numbers!

My other stamping project for the 24th pulled some "old friends" off the shelves of my retired stamp collection: "Espress Yourself" and "Alphabet Attitude Numbers." One of the kids' favorite treats while on their Christmas break ski trip is chocolate-covered espresso beans that they can get from a gumball machine in the warming house, so I decided to supply them with some quarters for their treats. I had wanted to put the quarters in spring-loaded Chuck E. Cheese token holders, just because I knew seeing those again would put a smile on their faces, but alas, even Chuck E. Cheese has come into the technology age! Tokens have been replaced with cards with magnetic strips! So I had to invent a "plan B." Mini M & M canisters to the rescue! I stamped some cardstock with coffee beans and filled in the blank spots by repeatedly writing "Time for a break" with marker. Used the dollar sign from the numbers set to decorate the lid and adhered it all with Sticky Strip. (LOVE that stuff!) "Laminated" the stamping with some clear packing tape and the canister was ready to fill. Unfortunately, there's far more room for quarters in an M & M container than a Chuck E. Cheese token holder, so I rolled up some singles (for hot chocolate) so the quarters wouldn't give themselves away during the "what could be in here?" process.

I'm happy to report that both teens thought these were pretty cool! Erik seemed impressed that I had hand-written all the "Take A Break" lines! ("No, honey, I don't have a stamp for that.")

Stamping wasn't the only creative thing happening on Christmas Eve day. We started somewhat of a new tradition by making our Christmas Eve dinner an appetizer buffet. Everyone selected one or two of their favorite appetizer recipes and we got cookin'! Melissa requested mini white-chocolate cheesecakes for dessert--and then proceeded to make them! She frosted them and added some festive red sugar sprinkles. It's a good thing I took a picture--because it sure didn't take long for everyone to register their seal of approval and empty the plate!

I hope you have a wonderful day with family and friends!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Today's top headline: "Paper-piercing Tool Saves Flurry of Snowmen!"

I know, I know, these little snowmen keep showing up in my blog, but it's only because they've been "living" at my house all month! As cute as they are, all the little pieces that are needed to put them together could cause some major frustration without a few tricks. Here's what "we've" learned:

1. Mr. Snowman's face is a whole lot easier if a few circle punches are used to "cheat."
a) Punch a 1-3/8" circle from Shimmery White (or Whisper White) cardstock.
b) Pencil in where the eyes and mouth should go and punch those out with a 1/8" punch.
c) Punch a 1-1/4" circle from Black cardstock and adhere to the back of the "head."
d) Add nose. Viola! No muss, no fuss face!

2. Mr. Snowman's hat is SOOOOOO much easier with the assist of a paper-piercing tool! Arranging the little "berries" on the holly leaves was probably the most frustrating part of assembling these snowmen when we did them during stamp club.

Quite by accident I discovered that the ever-sticky nature of Mono Multi glue has its advantages. With just a touch of a paper-piercing tool (a large needle or pin would work too) to the "dried" glue on the outside of the bottle tip, I created the perfect "berry mover!" I put 3 small dots of glue where I wanted the berries to be on the hat, and then with my sticky paper-piercing tool, placed the little red circles on the dots of glue exactly where I wanted them. I was able to make a whole "flurry" (that's what I've decided a whole bunch of snowmen would be called) quick as a wink!

With as much fun as paper piecing can be, this trick should come in handy a lot!

Off to tackle today's to-do list! A quick reminder: tomorrow (the 23rd) is the last day to take advantage of Stampin' Up!'s free shipping offer!

Friday, December 19, 2008

"Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow. . . "

I was "SO rudely" awakened at 5:15 this morning! Our school district has an automated phone tree that lets us know when school is cancelled, etc. and school definitely needed to be cancelled today--but did they have to wake me up when I knew last night that we weren't going to be going ANYWHERE today?? It's currently snowing so hard that it looks like it's just foggy outside! SO, SO glad that everyone in my house is home with no plans of going anywhere today. If you're in this same winter storm area with me, I hope you get to do the same. Perfect time to get to some projects that have thus far fallen victim to the hustle 'n' bustle of the season!

So, I imagine that a lot of you have been wondering where I've been lately! Trust me, I haven't been sitting around eating bon bons (unless you count caramel scraps!) "Santa" has been working fast and feverishly on all the homemade gifts that have become tradition at Christmastime here: lots and lots of caramels in (of course) hand-stamped packaging.

Every year 40+ packages of homemade caramels get sent to Mike's sales force and office staff, the kids' teachers, relatives, friends and neighbors. It gets to be quite the caramel factory here late in December!

The packages below are those that go to the kids' teachers. The tag on the caramel bag opens to hold a gift card. The "box" on the right is a carrier from a 4-pack of Starbucks Frappacino covered with Designer Paper that I had left from last year, embellished with Big Shot "Swirly" die cuts. Erik had ideas for several little things he wanted to give his orchestra teacher. She loves Starbucks, so we thought the holder would be a clever way to hold her gifts.

The gift card holder/tag is just a strip of cardstock 2-1/2" X 11", scored at 4-1/4" and 8-1/2". I rounded all the corners and secured the sides of the "pocket" with narrow strips of Sticky Strip.

Fortunately we were thinking ahead and delivered the gifts for the teachers yesterday, since Christmas break has started one day early.

I'm off to tackle something on the list! Stay safe and warm!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

"Anything But A Card" Swap Projects

Now, without further delay! All the cool projects we swapped at the December Stamp Club meetings!! It's a time where it feel's like there really IS a St. Nick! Presents for all of us who spend most of the month orchestrating the holidays for others! We always have a great time oohing and aahing--and scarfing away our new-found treasures so we don't forget where we've put them!

This first picture shows (left to right) the altered clipboards made by Barb W., notecubes made by Lora M., and Santa triangle boxes made by Christine M.

Barb's clipboards were all a little different, using various patterns of Designer Series Paper. They each included a mini legal pad and some gift tags, and were even "wrapped" with a flourish of toile or ribbon. So festive!

Lora's notecubes are almost too cute to use--but in this house, where we always seem to be scrambling for a piece of paper (even though one room here is FULL of it!), the cube will be put into service shortly. Lora special-ordered the cubes and then used the large stamp from the "Season of Joy" set to stamp the sides with red ink. She said she just held the paper together firmly while stamping and it worked great! A Christmas greeting on the top and some red gingham ribbon finishes the project perfectly!

Christine decorated the triangle boxes she made to look like Santa with the help of the Scallop and Word Window punches, as well as other cut paper shapes. It's as sweet as can be, especially because she filled the box with those fancy-flavored Hershey's kisses. Can't tell you which kind were my favorite because, um, there was a little chocolate emergency around here a few days ago, but they were yummy!

Carla P. decorated this "brag book" photo album with pretty holiday Designer Series Paper from the Holiday Treasures collection. Her added embellishments will make the holiday photos that we put inside extra inviting to everyone we share our memories with!

Laurie R. spent lots of time to make us all one of these beautiful tag-punch star ornaments. She found scrapbook paper that coordinated nicely with the Almost Amethest tag frames she made. The sparkles on the paper make the ornament a beautiful addtion to the tree!

This last photo shows the Santa "bag" that I made for swaps, the holiday planner notebooks and coordinating paperclip bookmarks made by Barb D., the sweet little Tic-Tac folders that Nancy S. made, and the rose vases decorated with rub-ons from Dale N.

The Santa "bag" that I made started out as a little box with 1-inch sides. I then wrapped red cardstock around the base of the box and added punched details to make the project look like Santa's coat. (Sticky Strip is a must for this project!) I'm sure I found the majority of my inspiration on Splitcoast or somewhere, although I'm not really sure right now. Of course, I had to tuck a few caramels inside for good measure.

Barb D. not only decorated the notebooks she swapped, she MADE them from scratch! The "centerpiece" details on both the notebook and the bookmark are punched stamped images. The one on the notebook is from the current Hostess Set, "Punches Three."

I had Nancy S.'s little "snowman guy" displayed on my desk and it even caught the attention of my 16 year old son! I have a feeling that the Tic Tac's had a little something to do with it, but the fact that he even saw the snowman amid all the other projects says a lot! I love how the little "book" that wraps around the mint container cleverly has a circle punched out on the bottom to show the mints.

Dale N. used Stampin' Up! rub-ons to dress up simple glass vases. The rub-ons are water resistant so the vase can be used and even hand-washed without worrying about ruining the rub-on design. She added glass marbles, gingham ribbon and a realistic-looking silk rose to finish off her gift swap.

See what I mean about how Christmas comes early at our December Stamp Club meetings? It's wonderful! Thanks again to all!!

Now, being that this is the blustery stuff that I'm seeing out my window right now. . .

. . .I suppose it's time to go fire up the snowblower again!

Let me know what you think of that retiring stamps list!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Christmas Punch Art

My Stamp Clubs got together a few days ago for their December meeting. Traditionally, the swap theme for this before-Christmas meeting has always been "Anything But A Card--for Christmas." It's as if Santa comes early because everyone comes up with such clever ways to incorporate Stampin' Up! products into wonderful little gift ideas to share with all those in the club who swap. (I'll show those to you tomorrow. How's that for being a tease?)

In keeping with the "theme," the projects for the meeting were also gift-related. Everyone made the gift tags you see below, all incorporating punched pieces! Now, before you go thinking that I came up with these creative little darlings, let me tell you that I got the idea from the SU! Demonstrator Website. The tags were designed by a wonderful SU! demo, Mercedes Weber, who submitted them for a contest. Obviously she won because these are so cute and clever I practically had no choice but to share them with everyone. I just love them, and I think the stamp club members enjoyed them too!

Doing the tags this early in December was good--because tie-ons for gifts are always something I want to do, but of course, they always get left for last, when my energy level is majorly sagging.
I took the idea a little bit further and converted the snowman tag into bag toppers that I put on the caramels that I donated to the Kettle Moraine High School Band's "Breakfast with Santa" bake sale this weekend.

And as if on cue, an email that I received from one of my online swap group members, Laura Lipe, contained a picture of a punch art gift bag she made. She saw a the punched singing reindeer idea on someone's blog and made it a trio to cover the bag. The "antlers" were made using the "swirls scribbles" Sizzlits die and the Big Shot. Cute beyond belief!

Come back tomorrow to see the Stamp Club's swap projects. You're going to love them!

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