Sunday, August 29, 2010

Ribbon Storage Solution

Most paper crafters that I know have lots of ribbon, and I'm certainly no exception.  I've accumulated tons of different colors and styles over the past few years.  I love to use ribbon on scrapbook pages and cards, tie lengths of it to the binder rings of mini albums, and use it to make Christmas ornaments.  But, as you know, anytime you get a lot of something, storage becomes an issue.

I struggled with how to store my ribbon for a long time.  I generally buy rolls of ribbon rather than short pieces, so initially, I kept all of my ribbon on the rolls and just lined them up in a shoebox.  That worked okay until one shoebox became two, then three, and then . . . well, you get the idea.  Then I saw online where someone had wound all of their ribbon onto wooden clothespins and put all of the clothespins into a big glass jar.  The colorful jar full of ribbon was very eye-catching and actually looked pretty out on the person's work area.  I had access to some huge glass jars, so I decided to go this route.  It took a really, really long time, but I wound all of my ribbons onto wooden clothespins and secured the ends with straight pins.  I loaded them into a couple of big glass jars and they were not only accessible, but they added a nice decorative element to my scrap space.

After awhile, though, I started to dislike the jars.  They took up a LOT of space, and to really look through my ribbon, I pretty much had to to dump all of the filled clothespins out on the table.  I just wasn't loving this storage method any longer, and started to look for something new.  I bought one of those soft, clear plastic ribbon "purses" that has holes all over the sides, because I thought that method would be portable.  You thread one length of ribbon through each of the many, many holes in the container, and basically you can take your whole ribbon collection with you.  While the container really does hold much more than you'd ever suspect, it really isn't made for a ribbon collection like mine.  What I mean is that the "ribbon purse" method works best if what you have are a bunch of individual lengths of ribbon, say a yard or so each.  It doesn't work so well if you have really, really LONG lengths of ribbon, like a whole spool's worth (i.e., anywhere from 3 to 8 yards).  So, I abandoned that method, as well.

Finally, I stumbled upon a thread on my favorite message board about storing ribbon, and someone mentioned ribbon cards, the method that I am currently using.  While I suppose you could be green and frugal and cut your own cards from leftover cardboard, I highly recommend these little beauties:

They are sturdy cards specifically made for wrapping ribbon, and while the picture shows the cards meant for 1/2" ribbon, the company, Magistical Memories, makes various sized ribbon wrapping cards.  And I'm going to be honest here, it's those notches on the cards that make ALL the difference.  After surveying my ribbon stash, I bought a package of each size of cards from the company's website, and an extra package of the 1/2" cards, because I have more ribbon that width than any other size.  I then organized all of my ribbon by size and by color, and started wrapping the ribbon onto the cards.  The notches on the cards make this truly easy, although it takes awhile if you have a ton of ribbon like I do.  Ok, now, here is the BEST PART of this ribbon storage method -- the Magistical Memories cards fit PERFECTLY into plastic shoeboxes on their sides.  So I just "filed" each ribbon card away and I managed to get my entire (huge!) ribbon collection into two plastic shoeboxes.  With additional empty cards on hand, my collection can still grow and not become too unwieldy.  When I'm working at home in my craft room, I can just pull out my shoeboxes and find the ribbon that I need.  But when I'm going to crop, I can just pull a couple of cards of ribbon in the colors that I'm working with and throw them into my bag.  I can take a whole selection of ribbons with me, without taking up much room in my bag.  Love that!

I have my shoeboxes of ribbon stashed neatly under a storage drawer system in my craft room, and it's a great, out of the way place for them.  Did I use my ribbon stash more when I had the bright clothespins staring me right in the face?  Maybe, but for my craft room and the way I work, the ribbon cards are much better.  I couldn't be happier with this solution, and I encourage you to give it a try if your ribbon stash needs some taming!    

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Chocolate Caramel Chex Mix

I'm something of a Chex Mix fanatic.  Only, not the kind you buy in bags at the grocery store.  The best Chex Mix is the kind you make yourself at home; the bagged stuff just isn't the same.  And, while I love good old original Chex Mix, I discovered last year that General Mills has a Chex Mix contest every year, and they publish the three recipes that are determined to be the best.  All of the recipes from past years are available on the Chex website.  Which is exactly where I got the yummy recipe for the concoction pictured above called Chocolate Caramel Crunch Chex Mix.  (I'll admit that I modified the "official" recipe a little bit.)

I'm going to confess here that I'm not a fan of Muddy Buddies/Puppy Chow, the typical sweet/chocolatey Chex-based treat.  That stuff always tastes too sweet and seems to have sort of a "gloppy" consistency.  So, when I wanted to make Chex Mix last week to take into work for a chocolate-loved friend's birthday, I decided to try the chocolate-caramel recipe.  Now, forgive me, but until I saw this recipe, I had no idea that there was even such a thing as Chocolate Chex.  But, now that I've been enlightened, I can see making this snack mix on a regular basis.  It helps that it's super easy to make, too.

Chocolate Caramel Crunch Chex Mix

9 cups Chocolate Chex cereal (the whole box)
6 T. butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
3 T. light corn syrup
1/4 tsp. baking soda
2 cups honey-roasted peanuts
1/2 cup white chocolate chips

Place cereal and peanuts in a microwave safe bowl.  In another bowl, combine butter, brown sugar and corn syrup.  Microwave on high for about a minute and a half, until the butter and sugar are melted and everything can be stirred together.  Stir in the baking soda, then pour mixture over the cereal and peanuts and mix well, until evenly coated.  Microwave on high for 3 or 4 minutes, stirring well after each minute.  Spread mixture out onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper to cool.  Allow to cool for about 10 or 15 minutes.  Meanwhile, microwave white chocolate chips for about 90 seconds, stirring at each 30 second interval, until chips are melted and smooth.  Do not over-microwave!  Drizzle the white chocolate over the snack mix on the cookie sheet.  After all of the white chocolate has been drizzled on, using a spatula, turn and stir the mix to break up any clumps of white chocolate, and to ensure that all of the mixture gets some of the white chocolate topping.  Allow to cool completely, until the white chocolate has firmly set up.  (You can place in the fridge for half an hour or so if you want to.)  Before serving, break mixture up with your hands, as necessary, into small bites.

Let me conclude by saying that this was a BIG hit with my co-workers.  Several people commented that it was yummy without being too sweet, an assessment that I'd have to agree with.  So, next time you're craving a chocolate treat, give this snack mix a try!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

One Sketch, Three (or more!!) Cards

What do the three cards above have in common?  I know, easy-peasy, right?  They were all made from a single card sketch.  The sketch itself came from one of my favorite cardmaking idea books, which is featured to the left.  It's called Joy of Cardmaking, and I have the "collector's" edition, which is both volumes of this great resource in one hardbound edition.  If you don't yet have this great book, I highly encourage you to get it.  That is, if you never want to run out of great ideas for every kind of card you can possibly think of!  The book features a large number of card sketches (called "recipes" in the book), and then shows a bunch of lovely, beautifully photographed samples, all made from that same sketch.  What gets me about nearly every "recipe" in the book, as well as my own examples in the pictures above, is how different three or four or five cards, all made from the same sketch, can look.  My three cards, put next to each other, are actually pretty similar, in that I didn't alter the placement of the sewn-on patch or the sentiment.  Yet each card has its own distinct feel, and they definitely don't feel like ho-hum, mass produced cards.

For whatever reason, I've really been into cardmaking lately.  Maybe it's because I've been working on cleaning up my scrap room, and in the process, I came to realize just HOW MANY scraps of patterned paper I've managed to accumulate.  While I do try to use my scraps when I'm scrapbooking, I find that I often forget about them, or decide it's too much trouble to haul them out.  But I make cards pretty much exclusively from scraps, so when I'm in the mood to make some cards, I grab my scraps and one of my idea books and go to town.

I'll admit it -- while I admire complex, time-consuming cards, the ones I produce myself are usually fairly simple.  I like to get a nice quantity of cards done in one session, and to accomplish that, I need to keep them somewhat uncomplicated.  And that's what's truly so great about card sketches like the ones featured in Joy of Cardmaking.  If you want to keep things simple, the sketch gives you sort of a bare-bones place to start from.  But if you do want to make a special, more complex card for a special person or a special occasion, you're bound to get some great ideas by looking at the sample cards that accompany each sketch.

Oh, and while we're on the topic of cards, I'll share a tip with you that is featured in the book, but that is actually something I learned from a wonderful friend of mine named Sandy.  Sandy makes the most gorgeous cards, and whenever she'd send me one of her handmade creations, I always noticed that even though she might have stitched on the front, or added eyelets or brads or ribbon or staples, the inside of the card was always pristine.  What Sandy does to achieve that is basically "build" her card front on a separate piece of cardstock.  She does all of her stitching and hole punching and whatever else on that card front.  When the whole piece is finished, she adheres that to the card "base" to make the finished card.  The result is a card with all of the beautiful handmade touches on the outside, but with a perfect, unspoiled inside, that can be written on from top to bottom, should the sender so desire.

Now, seeing as how I am much lazier than Sandy is, even though I admired her cards and her cool trick to ensure perfect card insides, I didn't usually do it myself.  Yep, my cards might be nice to look at on the outside, but they were generally a disaster on the inside.  Well, after leafing through Joy of Cardmaking a few times and realizing the authors also use and recommend this technique (it appears several times in the book), I decided to get off my lazy butt and give it a try on the pink and green card featured above.  Wow.  It's pretty special to open up a card that looks nice on the outside and have it look nice on the inside, too.  So, that's my new goal.  I'm going to try not to slip back into my former laziness, and "build" my card fronts separately so that they can be adhered onto the cards at the end, ensuring those perfect card insides.  Oh, and in case you're wondering, that's just one of, oh I don't know, HUNDREDS of great cardmaking tips that appear in the Joy of Cardmaking book.  Even crafters like me and you, that have been scrapbooking and cardmaking forever, are bound to find some useful tips in there!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

New Layouts

Wow, I am really embarrassed!  I can't believe that it's been so long since I posted last.  We went on vacation the first week in July, then lots of time was taken up with getting my older son ready for his two-week trip to Washington, D.C. and the National Scouting Jamboree, and then....  Well, you know the rest, right?  Life gets in the way sometimes.  But hey, I'm back, and the good news is that I've actually been doing some scrapbooking this summer.  In fact, I went to an all-day crop a couple of weeks ago with a friend, and we both got a ton of pages done and it felt sooooo good to have all of that dedicated time to work on my pages.  Since that crop, I've been trying to keep my mojo going, and I have to say, I've been fairly successful.  So, in the spirit of helping spread the creativity, I thought I'd share a couple of recent pages.

I mentioned that my older son is currently away on a Scouting trip.  He's been gone just over a week and it's amazing how quiet the house is without him around!  Anyway, I created the above layout earlier today, and yeah, I got a little misty-eyed seeing the photo of him in his Scout uniform.  Sometimes it's hard knowing your kids are far away, even when you also know they're having a great time.  Anyway, my motivation for scrapping this particular photo of my son Brandon was the fact that I recently found some awesome Scout-related stickers from K&Co.  I thought I'd seen all of K&Co.'s Scouting goodies, but apparently they have new stuff coming out.  It's hard to tell from the photo, but the stickers are embossed and also feature foil accents.  They are really beautiful and I love that they aren't childish or cutesy, but rather reflect my son's age and the types of activities he participates in with respect to Scouting.

I'm not sure exactly why, but I really like the way this page came out.  Without really meaning to, I used one of Cathy Zielske's design techniques, in that I divided the page in thirds.  My photo and journaling take up the left 2/3 of the page, while the fun stickers are lined up in the final 1/3 of the page.  Notice how I used a strip of cardstock and some rub-on stitches to create a visual dividing line between the areas of the page.  Another thing I like about this page is that I used some really old papers to make it -- and I mean REALLY old.  I'm always surprised what I find when I search through my stash.  More often than not, I find papers that will work great for what I'm doing.

This second layout is one I finished during that all-day crop that I mentioned.  I'm including this layout not just because I like it, but because it's an example of a case where I NEVER EVER pictured in my head the layout coming out the way that it did.  I had this great photo of a bird's nest in a tree in early spring, before the tree had even leafed out.  I wasn't sure what I was going to do with the photo, but I suppose I was thinking along the lines of using blues, greens and tans -- you know, earth tones.  Well, at the crop, I pulled out an envelope of goodies that I'd recently won at a crop, and started looking through what I had.  It was a bunch of the newest papers and embellishments from Carolee's Creations.  Very, very cute stuff, but the kind of papers that (for me, anyway) can be kind of hard to use.  But, the robins-egg blue background of the very first paper caught my eye and I decided to use it for my nest photo.  My cache of goodies included some self-adhesive cardstock journaling spots, so I decided to use one of those as well.  Now, I almost NEVER handwrite on my pages, so this was really a step out of the proverbial box for me.  But I liked the idea that the journaling spot picked up the cute flower image, so I used it.  The page felt a little unfinished until I added a few additional coordinating embellishments, but in the end, I was happy with the way the page came together.

What's the moral of the story?  Well, I usually have an image in my head of what a finished layout is going to look like.  It might not be completely focused, but there's almost always an image there.  The layout above taught me that I don't always have to blindly follow that mental image, but instead, if the occasion presents itself, I should be open to trying something new.  After all, you never know exactly how things are going to turn out, and that's part of the fun of scrapbooking, isn't it?