• "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
  • contact

Doubling up

Filed under Cards,Challenges,Fresh on Fridays,Layouts,Project Life 2012,Ramblings • Written by Carmen @ November 18, 2011

This past weekend was the big crop weekend at Cocoa Daisy, which is held twice a year (April and November) — and man, was it ever intense, and FUN. So much fun, in fact, that I didn’t end up taking a break from the festivities (and crafting!) on Friday, which was my original plan since I didn’t have anything really “fresh” to share earlier in the day. So, although I did post on Monday about Nat Kalbach’s ornament swap, I will consider this post to be two weeks worth of sharing. :) I’m hoping I will still be able to finish up one or two more projects based on the crop challenges, so you might even see a bonus post from me.

Maybe I’ll start, though, by sharing what’s freshest on my mind, and that’s that I’ve decided to try out Project Life for 2012. In 2009, I bought one of the original Project 365 (an earlier “incarnation” of the same product line by Becky Higgins) kits to do for 2010 — thinking that I would do it as a “photo a day” to have a record of my last months of pregnancy and most of Sara’s first year. I bought it “second hand” but unused, so it was already pre-assembled, and I actually did quite well with the “photo a day” part. I also journaled in bits and pieces, mostly in the “what does your day look like” thread on Willow Traders, but I never did get ANY of the journaling cards written because I let myself think I had to record every key detail on those cards or nothing at all. I also tried to “batch process” weeks worth of photos at one time, and it just didn’t work. There’s a part of me that still hopes I’ll be able to finish that album (it has photos printed for January through May, and all the memorabilia, notes, etc. are in a box in my closet), but sadly, I doubt it.

So, I know going into 2012 that I have to adopt a different strategy or it won’t work. There have been refinements to the product line — starting with the name change — to shift away from the calendar year specific/daily entries approach, and this coming year there are more page protector styles to allow for vertical photos, bigger memorabilia, etc., as well as new colour schemes. So, I liked that idea — and I also really liked what I’ve started seeing on various people’s blogs, which includes being more flexible/”forgiving” of yourself if you miss a day here and there, and including more of the “stuff” of life, little snippets of conversation, kids’ art, etc. — and even getting your family involved.

What sealed the deal for me, I think, was seeing how you can approach a week of your life (or even a month, if you prefer) as a single spread, in this very simple, slide-it-into-the-pockets-and-you’re-done album, and if you miss a day — so what, you’ve got a concise, beautifully presented portrait of this period of time. And then, if some weeks you want to take a more artsy approach to the spread, adding your own embellishments/doodads or patterned paper or inking or whatever techniques appeal to you, that’s great too — and you can add in extra pocket pages, or long journaling blocks, or an envelope of memorabilia.

I’ve enjoyed seeing Ali Edwards’ Project Life pages all year, and over the last couple of weeks I’ve been reading a number of other blogs and especially appreciated the detailed, “this is how I make it work” posts from people like Lisa Truesdell and Marcy Penner (fellow Canadian, and I’m guessing fellow Mennonite too). I’m totally cribbing Marcy’s “Project Life station”, using the baker’s rack I bought and put in our kitchen/dining area a few months ago. It’s become an overflow area for household papers, but I’m going to reclaim it for this project.

I justified the purchase of the materials as most of my Christmas gift from Bryan’s parents (who have us buy our own gifts with money they give us in advance), so I’m a bit disappointed that because of a “hiccup” (what does that mean, exactly?!), the Canadian distributor isn’t able to send out orders with the newest Project Life designs (Clementine and Cobalt) until mid-December — which means it won’t be here in time for the Orthners’ get-together on Dec. 10, and (with the Christmas shipping craziness) likely not even before we leave Dec. 22 for our time with my parents in Regina. But I’m still excited, and once I get a few (!) other things cleared off my house/craft project list, I will start setting up my Project Life station. :) Wheeeee!! I’m also planning another year-long project (One Little Word) for 2012, but I’ll talk about that some other time.

So… back to the Cocoa Daisy crop, and some project sharing! Perhaps I should adopt a philosophy of “what happens at the crop, stays at the crop” ;) but it’s all out there on a message board anyhow — so I will say that there was a lot of silliness and sharing of “cringe-worthy” experiences (mine involved a spruce beetle and a roomful of high-ranking politicians) and hot celebrity photos, a madcap (or so I’m told!) game of bingo, frenzied one-hour challenges (I tried the first one — almost got done in time, but not quite), goofy crop nametags (I even posed wearing mine), and some EXCELLENT dialogues with some of the scrapbooking/mixed media industry’s top names — the one with Julie Fei-Fan Balzer was my favourite. (And I even found out the back story on why she uses “milkcan” as her username — and it’s not just because that’s the name of the theatre company she founded.) There some great classes too, such as on stitching techniques and graffiti art, which I want to go back and read through, and try out the techniques.

The theme of the whole weekend was “Craft Fair”, and there were 20 different challenges from the Cocoa Daisy design team and guests (including Julie Balzer, Amy Tan (aka “Amy Tangerine”), Vicki Boutin and Ali Edwards), all using that theme as their jumping off point — like for example with “Jams and Jellies”, the challenge was to use one of the “fruit/veggie inspired” colour schemes for your layout. The challenges are still open, actually, until this Sunday night — so if you want to enter one or more of them, head over to Cocoa Daisy. :)

I completed five of the numbered challenges, which for me is amazing — Bryan was so sweet, and gave me Friday and Saturday (and part of Sunday, although we also attended church and had a great lunch, I made cupcakes since it’s was Bryan’s 41st birthday, and then had his brother and sister-in-law over for supper, cupcakes and a game of “Bonkers”) to just focus on my crafting. On Wednesday night, I stayed up WAY too late working on another of the challenges, and maybe I’ll get that done and shared later this weekend.

The first of the challenges I finished was a layout based on a sketch by Vicki Boutin, and I documented Sara’s 2nd Halloween. I even recycled the wrappers from my crop snacks — leftover Halloween candy. ;) The journaling reads: “For several days around Halloween 2011, it was a constant refrain around our house: ‘Connie. Connie. Connie.’ And truth be told, I was getting irritated, even a little jealous. I mean, I KNEW Sara liked her once-a-week babysitter, Connie Venn, but come on – surely being with Mama was okay, too?! I don’t know how it finally clicked. Maybe it was at the Parents and Tots get-together, when Lori Howe brought out orange-and-black treat bags for all the little kids (and, um, their moms…) to dig into and Sara started sampling the box of Smarties, or maybe when she was eagerly running to the door (even the next day) whenever the doorbell rang, so that she could give each person something out of the bowl…. Whenever it was, I finally clued in – yes, sometimes she wanted Connie, but most of the time, she just wanted CANDY. And (within reason!) I’m totally okay with that!”

I also tried out Ali Edwards’ challenge to “go big with your text”, for which I decided to haul out my acrylic paint, my ancient (and mostly unused) foam letter stamps and some smaller acrylic stamps, and try making some word art out of a quote from John Milton: “Grace was in all her steps, and heaven in her eye” (got an extra “was” in there by accident). I had been wanting to do a layout about Sara’s fascination with her shoes — especially these red ones that squeak when she walks — and this seemed like a good opportunity.

I tackled the “clothing” challenge next, which involved taking inspiration from one of the posted items of clothing, and using it to create a Christmas card. I used a picture of a long grey coat with wooden buttons and strips of coloured fabric to create this card. The candle in the “Merry and Bright” title was an attempt to cover up some problematic stamping (the “i” bent and smeared ink on my project), but I thought it worked out reasonably well. Here is the inspiration piece:

And my card:

As you can perhaps see in the background of that shot of my Christmas card, it has been snowing here, which made photographing these two remaining projects a challenge. The text on the black-and-white layout got smeared a bit by falling snow when I tried to photograph it on our deck, and the other layout was photographed on my crafting desk, and the lighting in my office is not the best for photographing. But that’s what I’ve got right now….

Anyhow, the black-and-white layout — which combines some of my reflections on what the word “church” means to me, and photos taken (for the most part) at our friends John and Timea Patterson’s induction as our pastor couple — was done in response to a challenge to use a photo of a black-and-white ceramic piece as our inspiration, using no other colours. Here is the piece that I used:

I took my title from a song by Carolyn Arends (here are the lyrics).

Journaling: “Church, to me, is a gathering together as believers (and those seeking, and those struggling, and those just wondering) to worship, work, learn and celebrate the fact that God is in His heaven and yet here among us as well. I’ve had the privilege to “do church” in many different settings – cathedral and lakeshore, in a salt mine once visited by Nicolaus Copernicus, in a school gym – and it all comes back to the same thing: we worship together.

The local church serves many roles. It is a place for teaching – a role played out in Sunday School classes, small group settings and the sanctuary. The church is a place to learn the foundations of faith, both theology and Bible stories, to gain an appreciation for the history of the Christian faith and to discover ways in which we can be stretched and deepen our faith.

The church is a place to work out the meaning of community, in relationships with people of every generation and background, some we like and some we don’t. The church is a starting point for discovering the meaning of a “social gospel”, in which good news means more than just the news of salvation, but a practical working out of that salvation here on earth – tending to the needs of the hurting of heart, mind and body.

The church is a place for honouring ritual and tradition – prayers of intercession, laying on of hands, baptisms, weddings, communion, the celebrations of the church year. The church is potluck suppers and libraries, games nights and prayer nights, potato sack races and Dixie Cups of ice cream served with little wooden spoons at summer picnics, Christmas pageants where a small, uncoordinated angel might accidentally knock over one of the pillars of heaven, farewell barbecues and graduation parties with streamers and balloons in the lobby in front of the sanctuary: in other words, the church shows us how to see God in all the activities of our daily lives, as well as in the most profound and extraordinary moments. The church is where we learn how to carry out the message of the cross: the vertical line to God, the horizontal line to one another.

And finally, the church is a place of “sending out” to the world – to proclaim the good news to our neighbours, whether they live next door or on the other side of the globe. And the role of the Christian is to drink deeply of it all, to learn and then become a teacher, to send and, as God wills, be sent. We are to participate in the life of our church, not just sit in a pew on Sunday morning and then slip out the door before anyone notices us. We are to serve according to our gifts, and be willing to test ourselves, to go beyond our “comfort zone” and see what God has for us to do.”

And then finally, I did a layout about me. This started out as my incomplete one-hour challenge layout, but it fit so neatly into the “home baked” challenge that all I had to add was some sparkly items (the white and red pearls), write the journaling and call it done. (The other requirements were something white, something red, something with dimension/texture, and answers to some questions about ourselves.)

Okay, that’s it for now. I may try to get some better photos of those last two layouts if the weather is decent. If you’ve gotten this far, I thank you — I think this is the longest blog post I’ve ever written, so I hope it makes up for my absence last week. This coming week I plan to get back to my December Daily preparations, and get to work on my ornament for the swap — I can’t believe December is nearly here already!! Thank goodness my Christmas shopping is 90 per cent done…. I’m hoping to find one or two more gifts at the local craft fair this weekend.

Cheers! (Oh, and happy Thanksgiving this coming week to my American friends.)

Ornament swap!

Filed under Challenges,Christmas • Written by Carmen @ November 8, 2011

I am so excited — I have decided to participate in a homemade Christmas ornament swap, “Secret Santa” style (ie. one piece sent anonymously). It is being organized by Nathalie (“Nat”) Kalbach, and this is the fifth year of the swap, so I know it’s got some “street cred” behind it. (The picture in the logo above is one of last year’s ornaments.) I have committed to making and mailing an ornament by Dec. 1, and I should receive one in the mail some time after that.

If you are interested too, here is the post on Nat’s blog. :) She is taking new participants until Nov. 15.

Now to start brainstorming ornament ideas…!

I’m a journalist, not a prophet…

Filed under Challenges,Projects,Ramblings • Written by Carmen @ November 18, 2010

… but I must comment on the fact that less than 2 weeks after my post about Kate Middleton and her prince, she and William are officially engaged — after dating for, what, 7 years?? I highly doubt that the future king of England needed any extra encouragement to finally pop the question — or rather, to go public about it, since apparently he put Diana’s ring on his future bride’s finger while doing charity work in Africa, back in October — but just in case, you’re welcome, Kate. ;)

Anyhow, speaking of ending silence, I am back on-line and glad to be posting on my blog again. After a bit of a crummy day a couple of weeks ago, I decided I needed to turn the computer off for a few days and focus my energy elsewhere. I managed to lose 2.2 lbs. in the ensuing 6 days, at least in part because instead of collapsing in front of the computer monitor whenever I got bored or distracted or tired, I found something else to do — that “something else” often as not being housework. I still have a long ways to go to really satisfy myself with how our home looks, but at least some of the lingering messes are gone. The challenge is to maintain what I’ve finished, while continuing to live in the house AND get other areas of the house tackled.

What else… well, we had our first appointment with a worker with the local Early Childhood Intervention Program, who will be checking on Sara’s progress development-wise over the next few months. She thought Sara was great fun, and she really is, although sometimes exhausting. She has discovered the wonders of opening drawers, ripping newspapers/magazines, climbing into baskets and between pieces of furniture, and heading off at top speed using a combination crawl/bear walk technique. She nearly catapulted herself off the edge of our bed while playing — fortunately, Bryan grabbed her in time! She is expanding her diet, adding creamed corn and broccoli/cheese/potato casserole (baby food version) to a menu that already includes peaches, pears, green beans, butternut squash and carrots, although she still prefers her bottles (which she will grab at if she is really hungry and we’re not seating her in our laps fast enough for her liking). Stains now decorate numerous items in her wardrobe, as she somehow manages to smear food even underneath her bibs (which she also likes to chew on).

I am almost finished my Christmas shopping/gift-making — when you live in a remote area, you shop whenever the opportunity presents itself, whether at a craft sale (like the upcoming Morningstar Faire or the travelling Ten Thousand Villages sale) or in stores in any city we visit. Our first gifts for this Christmas were purchased in July, on a trip to Edmonton. I also have a number of boxes coming in the mail from on-line vendors, and I need to allow for at least 2 weeks shipping time from American stores. We’re starting to get into the Christmas spirit, although I won’t do any wrapping until we have our tree up. I’m hoping to get a real tree again this year, but I’m also hesitant because we’ll have a curious 9-to-10-month-old to contend with. We may end up with a very small tree that’s set at least 3 feet above the ground! But that one could be a real one, if we get one in a pot?! I would like to get a stocking for Sara, and we have an ornament for her already — my mom always gave me and my brother (and more recently my husband) a new ornament every year, generally to symbolize something about the year, and I’d like to do that with Sara as well. I’m dreaming of crackling fires with hot chocolate, the rustle of wrapping paper (I know Sara will be VERY good at ripping it — and we’re thinking of getting a big empty box and wrapping it for her to enjoy playing with, in addition to “real” gifts of course), hot soups and sweet baked goods (butterhorns, cinnamon rolls, a twisted candy cane-shaped bread with fruit inside…), laughter, making my first gingerbread house, finishing up and displaying the Christmas wreath I’m making, uncovering the precious “little angel” ornament I got when I was 3 and hanging it on our tree, the Christmas musical my husband is performing in, candle lighting on Christmas Eve, first photos with Santa Claus…. It will be good. :)

Other good things — I got tickets to see a one-man recitation of “A Christmas Carol” (we went last year and it was superb), “Chuck” continues to be excellent on Monday nights (though that’s rarely when we watch it — thank goodness for DVRs), I got news that I will receive a $1,500 cash settlement as a claimant in a lawsuit by freelance writers whose work was published on-line without their consent, I had a very nice coffee date with my friend Linda, Bryan’s 40th birthday party (with a Mexican theme) was a success, the Saskatchewan Roughriders won the CFL’s western semi final last weekend, my prayer triplet meetings (to pray for fresh vision for our church) are going well, I’m 2 (out of 52) short essay questions away from the end of my doctrinal paper for the missions agency we’re applying to, I finally made it to my massage therapy appointment and my lower back is feeling less sore, I had a nice breakfast date with my friend Timea this morning, tomorrow we’re going to see my parents, and my friend Megan is coming over tonight to watch “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”, which is one of my favourite movies.

And finally, I finished my second layout for the All About Me challenge blog, wrapping up my stint as their November guest designer. The challenge this time around was to scrap “what I wanted to be when I grew up” — which is the real reason for my post title, Kate Middleton and a homage to the original Star Trek‘s doctor, Leonard “Bones” McCoy notwithstanding. ;)

Here it is. :)

Journalling reads: I’ve been a word nerd from way back – but I always thought that my career ambitions were tied to print, not the airwaves. I remember wanting to be a librarian (I thought it would be great to be surrounded by books all day), or a famous author (complete with a drawing of myself signing multiple copies of something I think was called “The Happy Puppy”). Sure, after hours spent listening to his long, rambling conversations on CBC Radio’s “Morningside”, I dreamed for a while of being the next Peter Gzowski, spending my days talking to interesting people doing interesting things. Even if I needed convincing, my stilted delivery and awkward radio scripts, plus torturous hours spent cutting out bits of reel-to-reel tape and sticking them back together with blue adhesive for j-school assignments would have sealed the deal. But years later, while reviewing an old audiotape, my mom found something that made me re-evaluate. I don’t know when it’s from, or why I did it, but there it is: little me, “interviewing” the Bible’s King David (played by my mom) about how he felt about killing the giant Goliath – complete with a very appropriate sign-off: “This is Carmen Pauls, reporting.” And so, I am.

Thanks for stopping by. :)

A bibliophile’s confession

Filed under Challenges,Projects • Written by Carmen @ November 3, 2010

Hello blog hoppers, and any other friends who may have stopped by — thank you for coming! :) Since I can’t invite you all to an actual housewarming party, what better way to celebrate my brand-new blog than by taking part in my first-ever blog hop, as this month’s guest designer for the All About Me challenge blog. If you are in fact participating in the AAM November blog hop, this is your last stop before “heading home”. You should have arrived here from design team member Rani Shah’s blog. If you aren’t taking part in the hop but would like to, head over to the AAM site to find the links that will enable you to hop from blog to blog, and have a shot at winning a prize. :) Just so you know — you MUST comment on my post, as well as on the other blogs, in order to be eligible for that prize! :) Once you’re done here, head back to AAM. :)

On to what I have to show you…

This month, the AAM team members are celebrating our “inner princesses”.

Being Canadian, I am accustomed to seeing Queen Elizabeth II on my money, and I know that one of the privileges of royalty is not only having your face on every newly-minted coin, but having lots of that coin to spend on whatever material goods — or staff! — you may desire. I am of course well aware of the foibles and failings of Britain’s (and the Commonwealth’s) royal family, and of the responsibilities they carry, but there is still a certain magic in the notion that even in the 21st century, a woman can still be swept into the arms of her beloved prince and joined with him in a fairytale wedding, become a princess (or even a queen!), and henceforth live a life full of luxury and privilege and really nice hats. (Surely I can’t be the only one intrigued by those gossip magazine articles about Prince William’s girlfriend Kate Middleton, can I?!)

My baby girl, Sara, has onesies that say “Princess” — which I feel are quite justified, seeing as she is sweet and lovely and strong of heart and all those princess-y things, and even when she isn’t showing all those characteristics, her name is actually Hebrew for “princess”. My hope for her as she grows, though, is that she will become an adult worthy of her name — that she will be assertive and sure of her place in the world, beautiful of face but also of heart and mind, generous, compassionate — and, if she so desires, blessed with a husband who adores her, and some really nice hats. ;)

Anyhow — there is, as well, a connection between being royal and having what you want, when you want, and no one being able to say boo about it. Some may call it evidence of your “inner princess”, while some may be as blunt as to call you a snob. So in that vein, here is some evidence of my “royal thinking”. :)

Notes about the journalling: the cards pull out of the library pocket, which is stamped inside with past dates (as well as today’s!) and embellished with several rub-ons– and the journalling cards are embellished too, with inking, number stickers, a crown rub-on, clear rhinestone hearts, a bit of patterned paper and a “The End” rubber stamp. Larger journalling blocks tend to get neglected in the embellishing department, so I figured I’d give these a little “pizazz”. :)

The journalling reads: “It sounds like some obscure, untreatable illness – and perhaps it is. But in my 30+ years of being afflicted with bibliophilism, I haven’t even tried to find a cure.

To me, being surrounded by the books I love simply isn’t optional. Call me a snob if you will, but I feel a sort of sadness or pity when I visit a home with few (or, gasp, no) books. As a fellow bibliophile, the Roman writer Cicero, once put it, ‘A room without books is like a body without a soul.’

“I started showing symptoms of bibliophilism as a small child, not long after my first solo read-through of Marvin K. Mooney, Won’t You Please Go Now at age 5. I recall feeling a deep sense of wellbeing on stepping foot inside any branch of the Regina Public Library, whether the travelling bookmobile, the central children’s library, or our local branch in a strip mall on Albert Street. My parents had to impose a rule that I could only take out 10 books at a time, and my uncle was shocked at the weight of my suitcase one summer when I visited the family farm.

“I also remember my delight every year when our elementary school classes were assembled in the darkened gym for the slide presentation about the MS Read-a-Thon, to raise money for multiple sclerosis research. I particularly remember the joy of winning a red stuffed toy version of the MS Sleuth, the campaign’s hound dog mascot, for reading the most books in our school.

“As an adult, I take an almost absurd pride in saying that there are over 2,000 volumes in our collection, and when I’m packing for a trip, I can’t seem to stop myself from packing far more books than I will ever read. Fortunately (?), I married a man with similar symptoms, although not identical: he packs lighter, but wherever and whatever he is doing, whether folding laundry, cooking a meal, brushing his hair, or even watching TV, he is likely to have a book open in front of him – and he averages about 100 pages an hour.

“I have found comfort in libraries and bookstores wherever I have lived (especially a shop appropriately called Heaven Art and Book Cafe), have worked or volunteered in several, currently serve on the La Ronge Public Library board and was board chair for the regional Pahkisimon Nuye?ah Library System board for two years. On trips out of town, we are drawn like moths to a flame by bookstores, especially ones with coffeehouses attached (um – schmoo torte AND books? you know I’m going to be there!), and ‘reading material’ is a line item in our budget, despite the fact that we already have more books than we have shelves or time for.

“When we were evacuated from our mobile home in 1999, due to a raging forest fire, I forgot to grab my computer, but I did take my beloved, masking tape-repaired copies of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and A Little Princess – and 11 years later, I named my daughter after the heroine of the latter book, Sara Crewe, who was also a fellow bibliophile.

“Our Sara Emily (her middle name is from Emily of New Moon) is barely eight months old and already (literally) devouring books – and even figuring out what they are for, which is good, considering she’s already got a shelf full of them. Bryan was trying to get her attention the other day and she was ignoring him, until he held up Happy Baby Colors, better known here just as ‘Book’ – yes, that’s with a capital letter. She spotted it, and headed for him at top speed. So – I’m guessing that bibliophilism is hereditary. And if not, I’m sure we can pass it on. ;)

Journalling and photo: Nov. 1, 2010
Diagnosis of condition: permanent
Course of treatment: more books, please! :)

Supply list: kraft cardstock; ink: Tim Holtz – Ranger (green “Peeled Paint”), Color Box (red), Nick Bantock – Ranger (brown); patterned paper: Fancy Pants (“Vintage Valentine” – collage, stripe, faded flowers, blue dots), Pink Paislee (white on white hearts); embellishments: Making Memories (buttons, heart frame, heart rhinestones), My Mind’s Eye (“love stories” punch-out), source unknown (glittered key), Creative Imaginations (wax seal); rub-ons: Pink Paislee (all love themed designs and crown), American Crafts (“Irreplaceable” bar code); stickers: Prima (“biblio”), Basic Grey (“philism”), Pebbles (“wanted” definition), Creative Imaginations (numbers); stamps: Heidi Swapp (“Received”), Catslife Press (“The End”), date stamp (office supply store); other: dictionary paper; font: Garamond Premr Pro