• "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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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.)

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. :)

Remembering my friend Richard

Filed under Layouts • Written by Carmen @ March 5, 2011

Here is my first-ever memorial layout — a project which I’ve wanted to complete for several years, and finally decided it was time.

This black-and-white photo of my friend Richard Loeffler (which I didn’t take, although I wish I had!), together with the title work, has been sitting in my “unfinished projects” for several years. I pulled it out yesterday and realized that along with the layout not having enough room for all the journalling I wanted to include, I didn’t like the cardstock background. Anyhow, I ended up with literally two pages of journaling, so I decided it would be best to tuck that underneath the big photo, but that left the right side of the layout blank. I dug into my stash of photos from my involvement with La Ronge’s local amateur theatre group, Peanut Productions, and found these two pictures — both very classic “Richard”. :)

The quote I pulled from the BookCrossing memorial page, which has a brief tribute to Richard, and the spaceman and stars came out of that — though again, I suppose they are a nice “nod” to the title, as well as to Richard’s chosen avatar. I used a Studio Calico library card stamp to create a card for the copy of Catcher in the Rye that he took from a library when he was 12, and added some Prima flowers with text on them — I picked them because they had text, the colours matched, and Sara had been chewing on the container and dumped them all out, so they were on my desk already — but then I noticed that the text is from a dictionary definition and includes words like “kindness” and “qualities attributed to an angel”, and I knew they were the right choice. :)

I love the title, which has layers of meaning — it’s American slang, and sounds to me like something Richard would have said as he was leaving to go somewhere, and it also refers to the tiny airplane he’s just launched in the photo, as well as to the “great beyond”.

The journalling is way longer than anything I would post to a public gallery, but since this is my blog, I figure I can get away with it. ;) So here it is for posterity. (Note: I found the song lyrics yesterday, six years after picking the layout’s title — I thought they were a fitting addition.)

When I wake up in the mornin’ / I look at the sky up ahead, / and I wonder what it’d be like, / To be there, yes to be there.

Now I can tell you lots o’ stories. / I can tell you how it should be. / But if you wanna find a good life, oh, take it from me, yes, take it from me.

’Cause you gotta fly away like the blue bird. / ‘Cause you gotta fly away to touch the sun. / ‘Cause you gotta fly away come tomorrow. / Can’t you see? Lord, can’t you see?

(lyrics by .38 Special)

He slipped away from us on a quiet spring afternoon while watching an old movie, just three days into his 57th year. Richard was never one for long goodbyes — I remember him ending phone calls with a “bye” so short and clipped, it sounded like barely a “b” — but it still caught everyone by surprise. And I think that the reason it was so hard to comprehend was that he had always been so fully alive. Just look at that photo our mutual friend Pat Davidson snapped of Richard releasing a tiny toy airplane into the air: the gleeful look, the feet bouncing up off the ground… it is so quintessentially Richard.

Thousands of people knew Richard as rloeffle of BookCrossing.com, where he was the leading “releaser of books into the wild”. He left books everywhere: at restaurants, at Ice Wolf hockey games, and shipped up to the northern uranium mines, and the site tracked the books’ travels around the world — some even ended up in Japan. The 7,000-plus books he “released” came both from his own large collection — partly the result of several years of running his own small book chain, R and R Books, for 25 years — and from cast-offs collected from both the La Ronge Public Library, where his wife Rosemary is still the librarian, and from the regional Pahkisimon Nuye?ah Library System (PNLS), where he was the office manager.

He did it because he believed that everyone should own books, and he had always intended to do it incognito, not realizing that the username he registered under (suspiciously close to his real name!) would also show up on the site. He eventually embraced his “fame”, though, and was both profiled in our local weekly newspaper, The Northerner (in the photo, he was hiding behind a book) and interviewed for a USA Today article about BookCrossing. When Richard died, several of us sent e-mails to the owner of BookCrossing, and he actually didn’t believe it. He was so sure that it was a prank, he sent an e-mail to Richard’s account, asking if he was actually dead. Rosemary was very upset, and there were profuse apologies and a special memorial “release” in Richard’s honour, but it says a lot about Richard’s impish wit and zest for life that even someone who hadn’t met him in person couldn’t believe he was really gone.

Bryan and I did have Richard and Rosemary, whom Richard called his “storybook love”, over for supper one night, and I also remember attending the Festival of Words in Moose Jaw with the two of them. After he started working at PNLS, he sometimes gave his boss, library director Audrey Mark, a ride in the mornings, and his insane driving ensured that she was wide awake within minutes of leaving her house. The PNLS board (on which I was serving at the time) later commissioned local artist Hilary Johnstone to do a painting in Richard’s memory, and she chose to create a northern forest filled with vibrant colour — a fitting tribute indeed. I recall the story Richard wrote for The Northerner’s wedding edition, about the odd beginning to his son and daughter-in-law’s relationship at a bookselling convention, and interviewing him about his feelings as a native New Yorker about the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center. (Even after 30 years in Canada, he could switch on his New York accent in seconds.) I remember him taking in both an orphaned dog (named Oliver, after the Dickens character) and a group of teenaged hockey players, and taking part in a CBC Radio special as an official “last minute Christmas gift shopper”.

But what I will remember most are the times we spent together in two arts groups: the Wild Rice Writers and Peanut Productions. As befits a born storyteller, Richard enlivened many Ricer meetings at Northlands College with readings from his unfolding novel, The Big Prize, about the crazy goings-on behind the scenes at a game show (he was delighted by one character who finished the dastardly Rubik’s Cube by peeling off the coloured squares and re-sticking them on in a finished pattern), and with his natural gifts for mischief, charm and disruption. I will never forget the evening that Gareth Cook, whose staff key allowed us to use the college for our evening meetings, forgot to turn the alarm off, resulting in two RCMP officers showing up in the middle of the meeting. They asked who was in charge, Gareth sheepishly introduced himself, and Richard cut in with a mock-shocked, “Gareth Cook? Is that what you’re calling yourself now??” The officers actually went for their guns for a half-second before realizing that everyone else in the room was snickering.

Richard also loved to regale us with stories from his own life. There was the baseball mitt he got signed by every member of the Brooklyn Dodgers and then played with until all the autographs were worn off, because it was his only mitt and it never occurred to him not to use it. There was the copy of Catcher in the Rye he stole from the New York Public Library when he was 12 because the librarian wouldn’t let him borrow it, and decades later he used it as a prop for a talk about defying censorship (it was on display at his funeral). There was the time he was trying to find the train to Baden-Baden, and his phrase book German somehow convinced other tourists that he knew what he was doing, and they were following him around like he was the Pied Piper.

In 2000, Richard was recruited (by me) to tread the boards as part of the Peanut Productions theatre troupe, to whom he brought his natural ability to ham it up and readily improvise when a line happened to escape him. He was never afraid to embarrass himself – or anyone else, for that matter. He was particularly memorable as a psychiatric patient who was convinced he was Edgar Allan Poe and wandered around in a bathrobe and a red bowtie, holding a large volume of Poe’s works, and spouting off lines like, “Once upon a midnight dreary…”.

We miss you, Richard, but in our hearts, your unquenchable spirit lives on.

Journalling: March 4, 2011

Thanks so much for reading. :)

Recording 2011

Filed under Layouts,Projects • Written by Carmen @ February 28, 2011

I’ve decided to participate in the Project 12 challenge that Davinie Fiero organizes every year, along with Scrapbook and Cards Today magazine. The sketch was posted Feb. 1, and here I am with the layout finally finished on Feb. 28 — nothing like waiting until the last minute, eh?!

I really enjoyed documenting a whole month in one layout. Here is the journaling:

“Seriously, is there any better way to start a new year than with a big pile of presents?! Our belated Christmas celebration with my parents included champagne the night before, and then a morning of unwrapping gifts, homemade waffles, and lots of snuggling for Sara with Nana and Grandpa Pauls.

My first big project of 2011 was to help turn several months of “revisioning” work by our church into something tangible: a TV documentary from the year 2020, focusing on the impact La Ronge Alliance had had on its neighbours. Kelly Provost introduced the finished film to the congregation in the Sunday service on Jan. 23.

Sara had a CT scan done on Jan. 6 at Saskatoon’s Royal University Hospital, and our little extrovert entertained the patients and hospital staff while we sat in waiting rooms. We were very relieved to learn that Sara’s skull sutures have not fused prematurely, and there is no sign of pressure on her brain.

I started doing some paid work again, helping Eagle Point Resort with cottages and houseboat bookings, and writing newsletter copy for the Athabasca Basin Development Corporation.

We tried to go down to Saskatoon again on Jan. 22 for Aaron and Laura Haight’s wedding reception, but after 30 minutes in “white out” conditions, we turned back. Sara still had her sleepover at Grandma and Grandpa Orthner’s, though, while we spent our first childless night in 11 months organizing the church’s financial paperwork.

Sara worked on eating more adventurously, and once she even had the same supper we did (baked salmon, peas and carrots, and rice pilaf) and ate it all. Bryan decided it would be cheaper to make his own yogourt for her, and figured out how to do it in the crock pot.

I, on the other hand, worked on eating less, and saw steady downward progress (finally!) on the scale at our weekly Weight Watchers meetings. I started attending a weekly circuit training class at Fitness 24/7, and my Wii Fit “age” is no longer 70-something!

One afternoon, I thought Sara had a really snotty nose, then realized the goop was all over her face. I discovered she had gotten into a container of Vaseline and smeared it all over her face, her hands and her change table, plus torn up a roll of diaper liners. I remembered the first rule of being a scrapper mom: take pictures first! So I posed her in the midst of the “crime scene”, took my shots, THEN dealt with the mess.

Other highlights included signing off on our revamped mortgage, Bryan preaching about 7 signs of a healthy church, a high energy concert by the Sultans of String, and Bryan’s mom’s 64th birthday party. Darcy and Angie brought two huge pans of lasagna, Janelle baked a chocolate “wacky cake”, Sara climbed INSIDE the toy box to play, Theo tried to grab the barely-extinguished sparklers, and Ruth is unlikely to forget her party any time soon!”

And the layout:

Thanks for stopping by. :)