• "Oh, if I could only put things into words as I see them! Mr. Carpenter says, 'Strive, strive -- keep on. Words are your medium -- make them your slaves -- until they will say for you what you want them to say.' That is true, and I do try, but it seems to me there is something beyond words -- any words -- all words -- something that always escapes you when you try to grasp it -- yet leaves something in your hand which you wouldn't have had if you hadn't reached for it. ... I have written myself out for tonight, and am going to bed."
    - Lucy Maud Montgomery, Emily Climbs

    This is my place to "write myself out" -- sharing both my day-by-day thoughts and my artistic output. Thank you for visiting! - Carmen Pauls Orthner
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Halloweens past

Filed under Layouts • Written by Carmen @ October 29, 2011

As promised, here are a few more Halloween projects.

First up — “Halloween Runaways”. This one is actually the most traditionally coloured of the lot, which makes a bit ironic that its purpose is in part to help explain why we don’t like Halloween all that much!

As I’ve mentioned, Halloween isn’t my favorite holiday — and a big part of the reason is that some of the behavior we’ve encountered as candy give-outers, from surly teenagers with no costume who just want hand-outs (no “thank you” or even “trick or treat” sometimes!) to being egged — after spending the evening handing out a lot of expensive candy and then helping the neighbourhood Crime Watch group do street cleaning. In 2000, we moved a block and suddenly the number of trick-or-treaters doubled or even tripled, because Studer Street is considered a “good hand-outs” street I guess. So, for several years, my husband and I scheduled our medical appointments in the nearest city, Prince Albert, for Oct. 31, drove down, and enjoyed an elegant meal out, and one year, got a private showing (because no one else bought tickets!) of “Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit”, and stayed in a hotel for the night. The journaling notes I took are still somewhere in my papers (the journaling will eventually go behind the skeletal couple), but I did print a bit of free verse on some big ric-rac (by taping it onto the paper I’d printed the journaling on, and then running it through the printer again), and I added some photos of us and our road snacks, and the decorations we saw in P.A.

The journaling (what there is, for now) reads: “On Studer Street the seekers roam / Sponge Bob, Spidey, Captain Jack / Dragging sacks from house to house / So why that one locked and dark? / None but ghosts hear a doorbell gong…”

In 2004, I worked as a research assistant for Maggie Siggins, a Governor General’s Award-winning non-fiction writer, while she was putting together material for a book about a northern Saskatchewan First Nations (North American Indian, for my U.S. readers) community called Pelican Narrows. Maggie and her husband Gerry have a cabin at Jan Lake, a resort area that’s about a 45-minute drive (over gravel) from Pelican Narrows, and she used the cabin as her “home base” while working on the book. (It was eventually titled Bitter Embrace: White Society’s Assault on the Woodland Cree.) Pelican Narrows is officially a “dry” reserve (ie. no alcohol allowed), which means the bar in Jan Lake is very popular. My work with Maggie happened to be in late October, which meant I was in Jan Lake on Halloween that year — and this layout records what happened.

The layout design was inspired by an art inspiration challenge organized by Shelby Valadez, who kindly sent me this piece: (I was pleased to discover in searching for this image that I have quite a wealth of additional abstract art pieces, both ones that Shelby sent me and ones that I found on my own, stored on my computer for future use. Might just have to challenge myself that way again….) The strips of newspaper I used under the title are from some of my own newspaper articles about northern issues.

The journaling reads: “You’d think we’d have known better…. There we were on Halloween night in the bar at Jan Lake’s Miniquay Lodge, a 45-minute drive over washboard gravel and through northern forest and rock from the only nearby community: Pelican Narrows. Surrounding us were dozens of First Nations people from Pelican, ready to party with bottles of beer, grinning jack-o’-lanterns and a promised concert by local musicians (including Archie the one-armed guitarist). They: kids from the trapline, raised hunting moose and netting walleye. We: a celebrated non-fiction writer from the big city, currently living in a cabin while researching for her latest book, and a small-town newspaper reporter engaged as the author’s research assistant. So what would a visitor to the bar that night have seen? A bunch of people wearing jeans and t-shirts and happily getting drunk, one “old man” in a trenchcoat (the bar manager, who can trace his Metis ancestry back to the fur trade), one ghoul (the bouncer, who quickly apprehended my fishing pole lest it be used by someone as a weapon), and one face-painted knight in armour (a direct descendant of Chief Peter Ballantyne, the band’s namesake). Oh, and a couple of reporters dressed as a trapper (complete with toy moose) and a fisher ‘man’. There’s one cardinal rule on the annual night of dress-up: on Halloween, no one is who he or she looks to be. And despite our garb – and Maggie’s months of research for her book on Pelican Narrows, and all those articles I’ve written in the last seven years – we remain… NOT QUITE NORTHERN.”

And finally, a layout in comic strip style! My husband was very sweet and not only wore his clown costume and makeup all day at work, but let me take photos of him. I had a lot of fun with the sequins and silliness, trying to suggest both the circus and a kids’ book with my design. (Click on either photo to make it larger.)

The journaling reads: “1. Here is Clown. Clown yawns and stretches. It will be a long, long day. 2. Here is Clown in his Clown Car, on his way to work. See how sad he is. His little blue Clown Car is very, very empty, because all the other Clowns have called in sick today. 3. Here is Clown in a meeting with his boss, Dad Clown. Dad Clown has lots of advice for the young Clown on how to make people laugh when they are sad. He is a good teacher. 4. Clown has learned his lessons well! Dad Clown NEVER laughs in photos! He is a very serious, respectable man. Hurray for Clown! 5. Lunchtime for hungry Clown. He is very talented — look at him cooking pasta and reading a book at the SAME time. Wow! 6. Mmm… what a yummy hamburger. Thanks Clown! 7. Here is Clown on the telephone with Computer Supplier. Computer Supplier doesn’t know it’s Clown on the other end of the line. Hee hee. Shhh, don’t tell! 8. It’s time to go home, but Clown’s day is not over yet. Clown has lots of work to do — soon there will be Ghosties and Goblins at the door! Clown will be so busy answering the doorbell and handing out candy. Careful, Clown, don’t give away too much or there won’t be any left. Oh, wait, it’s not Clown who’s using up all the candy — it’s Wife! She keeps eating the candy! And then she gives away too much and Clown has to give out microwave popcorn instead and finally turn out the lights. 9. Aww… look at that. Clown is tired. No wonder — Clown has had a long, long day. Good night Clown!”

(Note: “Dad Clown” actually is Bryan’s dad Nelson, a retired school principal who was also Bryan’s boss at the time at the information technology company they both worked for. And he is notorious for not smiling for photos! Bryan also likes to multi-task — he is forever doing household tasks with a book in hand, including cooking, which he does most of in our house. And yes, I am Wife, and our candy shortage that night was entirely my fault. ;) )

Thanks for walking down this dark and spooky memory lane with me. ;)


Filed under Fresh on Fridays,Layouts • Written by Carmen @ October 28, 2011

In the “spirit” of Halloween (insert groans here — preferrably with ghostly chains rattling!), I thought I’d share some of my oddly large collection of Halloween layouts. I say “oddly large” because Halloween isn’t really one of my favorite holidays — especially all the death imagery — but I’ve actually found it easier to scrapbook than Christmas, which is much more dear to me. With most of my Halloween layouts, I’ve found it easier to follow the story where it leads me, rather than using the usual colours (orange/black/purple/green) or imagery (spiderwebs/monsters/pumpkins…). In that way, Halloween becomes a backdrop rather than the focus of the layout.

This first one is actually not a Halloween layout per se — but it seemed to fit, and in a way it’s more traditionally “Halloween-ish” than most of my “real” Halloween layouts. :) This was what happened here on Oct. 4 — Sara’s (and her sweater’s, and the carpeted stairs’, and the linoleum’s) close encounter with a bottle of red dye intended for making homemade soap.

I think this layout marks the fastest turnaround from “event” to “layout” in my 14 years of scrapbooking — I had it done just hours after of the event depicted. I felt an urge to create something to immortalize this, and for once, my scrapping area was clean enough and my supplies organized enough to do it. Years before I became a mama, I’d read an article in a scrapbooking magazine that exhorted, “Don’t get mad, take pictures” — so as I was taking my daughter off to clean her up, I grabbed my camera and snapped a very quick photo for posterity. It wasn’t well-framed or well-lit, so I played with it in Photoshop Elements, added a couple of filters (Dark Strokes and Poster Edges), cropped it tight and printed it big. :) The background is an old patterned paper from Paper Loft, which I had in the “urban/grunge” section of my patterned paper collection and thought went well, with its splashes of red against the neutrals and the “eye” in the background (or is it just me who sees that??). I found the “Frightfully Delightful” border strip in my tiny collection of Halloween papers, and the old movie poster on-line, and the cartoon werewolf was from a .99 digital kit from Two Peas. This was just a lot of fun to create. :)

And then this one was created a few weeks ago, as a way to remember Sara’s first Halloween.

There was really no “story” to her first trick-or-treating experience — we put her in her costume, stopped by the homes of a few friends and family members, and came home. We didn’t collect any candy for her, but we did have a couple of chocolates ourselves. But I had seen a layout in Scrapbooks Etc., created by Amanda Probst, in which she took visual inspiration from the book Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus for a layout about her son, and she was kind enough to send me a copy of the layout for a closer look. Since I first saw her layout, we’ve since become big fans of Mo Willems — particularly Edwina: The Dinosaur Who Didn’t Know She Was Extinct, but also the “Pigeon” books. (picture from Wikipedia)

So — I decided to take Amanda’s idea one step further, and I took the story (most of which is Pigeon’s attempts to convince the reader, by various means, to let him drive the bus — until the bus driver shows up and drives off in the bus, and then Pigeon sees a semi and decides he’d like to drive that instead!) and re-wrote it as though Sara was trying to convince us to give her Halloween candy. I used a photo collage template from Scrapbooks Etc. to make things easier, and then added my journaling strips. The book’s backgrounds are different colours on each page, and I’ve repeated that here too, although it wasn’t really planned that way initially — I just couldn’t decide what colour to use! (Here is what they look like.) Our friend Lisa Friesen, who took the pictures featured in my “Babe of the Woods” layout in my last Friday post, took the silhouetted one here as well.

Okay — it’s getting late, and this post is getting long, so I’ll try to get a few more Halloween layouts posted this weekend. :) I’ll also try to get a better photo of that “Duckling” layout — I thought I had another one, but couldn’t find it tonight. Thanks for visiting.

Fresh start

Filed under Cards,Fresh on Fridays,Layouts,Ramblings • Written by Carmen @ October 21, 2011

Hey there. I’m sorry that my blog has been so neglected these last few months — even though I enjoy so many blogs, I am sometimes at a loss to know what to write about on my own. I decided, today, though, to give regular blogging another go. Willow Traders — my on-line “home” — has a weekly blog hop, and I thought maybe I could commit to posting something crafty/creative once a week and linking up for the blog hop. If I can into a rhythm with that, maybe I’ll try posting more often.

So — consider this my inaugural weekly post. :) I hope I can do this!! Since the Willow Traders blog hops start on Fridays, that seems like a good day of the week to post. Since I like catchy titles (my journalistic background coming out there — headline writing was one of my jobs at the newspaper), I will call these posts “Fresh on Fridays”. :)

Okay — now where to start?! I have actually been doing a fair bit of scrapbooking/card-making/playing with my crafty supplies over the last couple of months. I was offered guest design spots with two kit clubs — Burlap and Buttercups for their September kit, and Sweet Peach Crop Shop for October — so that gave me the excuse to dedicate some serious time to scrapping when each kit arrived. I’ve also been participating in an on-line Get Organized Challenge educational series, hosted by Tiffany Spaulding from ScrapRack, and have actually developed some systems for HOW to organize my supplies. I’m not finished by any means, but maybe that process could be the subject of a future post. And at the end of September, my friend Megan and I went to Saskatoon for the inaugural Crop & Create event organized by Scrapbook and Cards Today magazine. I will share some photos (I didn’t take many — I know, I know — but there are a few, and I’m waiting for a few more from a new friend who took them because my camera batteries died) and stories of the event, my time with Megan and the projects I made, as a future post. There — now I have topics lined up, so no more “what do I write about?!” excuses for a while.

Since this is the FIRST “Fresh on Fridays” post, though, I will share my freshest stuff first. :) And that would be my projects for Sweet Peach! Corrie, the owner, actually had me lined up to work with the September kit, but something went wrong — we’re not sure where — and the kit never arrived. (I hope it’s not sitting in some UPS warehouse, and if it is, I hope someone finds it and sends it my way!!) So, no playing with the Amy Tangerine line from American Crafts or Jillibean Soup for me. :( BUT, Corrie decided give shipping a kit to La Ronge another shot, so I got the October “Sweet” kit to work with (there are two kits, “Sweet” and “Juicy”, every month), along with an embellishments add-on. I had to rush a bit because the kit arrived just before I had company coming (my parents came up for the Canadian Thanksgiving long weekend) and then we were going to be out of town for several days (the reasons may be another post altogether… though not one of these crafty Friday ones), so I had just Tuesday night and Wednesday to scrap! Thank goodness I have an understanding/flexible husband and a wonderful babysitter who took Sara a day earlier than usual! I got two of my four required projects finished before we left, and had made good headway on the other two, which I finished up on Tuesday.

So, so far Corrie has just posted my first two projects on her blog, so I’ll share those here as well, and put up some “sneaks” of the other two. First — a birthday card (you can click any of the pictures to see them bigger).

I used the blues, burlap and woodgrain letters to create a masculine, outdoorsy feeling card for my brother Curtis, who turned 33 (!!) on Oct. 18. I thought the “coffee filter” embellishment with the math questions worked well for a birthday card, with the “addition” of years. :) I stamped the Emerson quote on a piece of the packaging for the brads that came in the embellishment kit; might as well recycle, eh? :)

The second project was created partly as a way to showcase the photo shoot that our friend Lisa Friesen did for us on the Thanksgiving weekend — these were taken in a spot less than a five-minute walk behind her house, which is right on La Ronge Avenue, our main downtown street, so yes, we do live IN the woods! But I didn’t want the layout to be about the shoot itself, so instead I focused on a message I wanted to give Sara (who is napping right now…. I love that she is still pretty regular about her afternoon naps).

The journaling reads:
Sara, right now I have no idea where you will grow up – but wherever you go, I pray that you will remember that this was your first home – a small (under 8,000 in the area) town in northern Saskatchewan. It was built on moss-covered bedrock and swampy muskeg, with a single downtown street wandering along the shores of a vast, clear lake. You devoured wild blueberries, received tiny white leather moccasins as a baby gift from the chief of the Lac La Ronge Indian Band, played with beaver fur at the local trading post and moss in the forest, and traveled for hours to get to a Walmart. And sweet girl, I hope that you will also remember that these six adults were among those who loved you best, and who could think of no happier way to spend their Thanksgiving Day than with you. Photos taken Oct. 10, 2011.

To give the background cardstock more texture, I put it on some cracked pavement (ie. my driveway!) and used a sanding block to “emboss” it. I also embossed a border onto the focal photo with a Scor-Pal, which is a tool for scoring lines (usually for the fold on greeting cards), and then sanded the raised parts to let the white core show through. The top patterned paper reminded me of sky, and the leaves are on the ‘ground’ beneath us. With the kraft doilies, I used a mix of Glimmer Mist, Maya Mist and walnut ink to create some variegated colours that reminded me of autumn leaves.

And finally, here are the “sneak peeks” of my other two layouts, “My Cupcake Project” and “Re-upholster”. :)

Thanks for visiting. :)