• "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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Project Life – Week 1, Jan. 1-8, 2012

Filed under Project Life 2012,Ramblings • Written by Carmen @ November 5, 2012

And here we start into the actual weekly documentation! :) My kit actually arrived the third week of January, but I had been enthusiastically storing memorabilia, taking photos and taking notes for my journaling, so it wasn’t too much trouble to get caught up. (Wish I could say that now — I have a lot of catching up to do with our summer photos. This blog sharing will help motivate me to get those pages done!)

This year started on a Sunday, and I’m running my weeks Monday to Sunday, so I just added New Year’s Day photos to the beginning of the week. I’m not sure how I’ll juggle the “short weeks” at the beginning and end of each year with future volumes of Project Life, but for this year it was okay. (On a technical note — today the snow in La Ronge was melting (!), but it was still really cold out on my deck, and it was getting toward late afternoon (ie. less light), so I decided to try taking the photos inside by the window. What do you think? Does the lighting look okay, would it help me sleep with the leg wedge pillow? I didn’t notice until I was editing these photos that I was in such a hurry to get the spread photo taken that two of the cards slid out of their pockets! Oops. I’ll be more careful next time.) I took a lot of photos on our weekend trip, and those ended up being my first insert — I just cut a Design C page protector in half, but Becky Higgins has this three-pocket look now with one of her new designs, if that interests you. :) I think I may add a tab on the edge to make the smaller-sized insert more obvious, as it seems to blend in too much in these photos…. Anyhow — here are some closer looks at the individual pages.


I really liked that Gilda Radner quote, and there was a good bit of “white space” on the postcard design for this title card, so I added it in. The photos include a post-midnight New Year’s Eve game of “Ticket to Ride: Europe” with our friends (and pastor couple) John and Timea, playdough on the Disney Princesses table Sara got for Christmas (I was aiming for a snail with my pink and green creation — there is a snail character in what was then Sara’s favourite DVD, “Babies Love Music”), John and Timea playing with Sara, and Bryan attempting to settle Sara for the night. I also journaled about my One Little Word for the year, which was “light”.


I want to get back in the habit of adding this sort of memorabilia, which to me is one of the nicest things about the pocket pages — just slip those bits in, and they are preserved as part of our lives instead of just landing in the recycling box. The recipe was actually scanned in and added to some digital paper, just because it was too big, but you can still see the egg stain on it. ;)


The photos here include a collage of images from a weekday at home, me admiring my new haircut, a hospital stay, and a visit with friends in Prince Albert, the city nearest to us (a 2.5-hour drive).


Isn’t that the best quote?! :D


I had some medical tests done that week, and ended up fainting — very strange experience. I had my husband take a photo with his Black Berry (good scrapbooker, right? — must stay dedicated to the cause… ;) ), and also saved my appointment card and the lid from the orange juice I had after my tests were done.


The friends we stayed with in P.A. were Wilna and Jaco Furstenberg — Wilna is a fairly well-known designer/instructor in the scrapbooking industry, and we got to know her and her family because they live fairly near us, and Wilna taught an on-line course I took. They are from South Africa, so it’s kind of neat to be posting these pictures today — we had our first call via Skype this morning with our new supervisor in Johannesburg. The little photo is of the Furstenbergs’ dogs, and then there’s a seasonal embellishment that happened to be the tag from Sara’s new pajamas.


Front and back of the insert with our weekend photos — we had some missions support-raising appointments in Saskatoon, and stayed with friends who used to live in La Ronge, and also shared a meal with another SIM couple and their kids.

Thanks for stopping by. :)

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Project Life – Introducing Us

Filed under Project Life 2012 • Written by Carmen @ November 3, 2012

When I began Project Life in January, our expectation was that we would be moving in August to Toronto, Ontario — two provinces away from our home in La Ronge, Saskatchewan, and a city of 6 million people as opposed to La Ronge’s population of just over 3,000. So I decided that I would start my album with an introduction to “us right now” — where we live, our ages, occupations, activities, etc. — so as to compare and contrast with where we were at come December. As it turns out, we are still here in La Ronge, but will be moving next year to South Africa — an even more dramatic change! — so I am very glad to have this record of our last full year, with all its holidays and seasons. Anyhow — that was the motivation behind these next couple of pages, but they will also be useful should anyone come across our albums some time in the future and want to know a little bit about the “main characters”, setting, etc. :) (By the way — I have been photographing these pages on my deck, as I get more accurate lighting outside, so that is the reason for the patches of white (snow!) visible in a few of the clear spots on the page protectors. Just in case you’re wondering. ;) )



A few close-ups…


I used Google Maps to get this satellite view of our little town, the neighbouring village and several First Nations (Native American) reserves. It’s neat seeing how small “our world” is, compared to the huge lakes — especially Lac la Ronge to the right.


I decided to do “12 words to describe us in 2012″, from the other person’s point of view — I cribbed from a love letter for my husband Bryan’s words about me; that’s why his words are more poetic. ;) Bryan works in the IT field, so I picked a patterned paper that reminded me of a motherboard, and I was taking Melody Ross’s Soul Restoration class when I made these pages, so I picked a paper with colours and images that reminded me of the Brave Girls Club she runs, and added a fabric label that she designed.

This card, and the one with the lightbulb image and Dr. Seuss quote on the blue background, were among my first attempts at using digital embellishments in my scrapbooking, so I was rather proud of them, simple as they are. ;) I used several lines from a “Schoolhouse Rock” song to focus on us being a family of three, and I added a glittery heart to highlight the number 3. :)

Thanks for taking a look at my pages — I really appreciate it. :) On a technical note — please let me know your thoughts on the photos (eg. are there too many?) and their presentation. I’m working on an iMac with a large screen, so I like being able to see the full-sized images, but they may be too big for some screens. I could make it so you can click to see the bigger version. They are mostly sized to 600 or 650 pixels on the largest dimension (either vertical or horizontal). I hope the size works, but I’d appreciate any feedback. :) Thanks again for visiting.

Project Life – Welcoming 2012

Filed under Project Life 2012 • Written by Carmen @ November 1, 2012

Here is the opening page for volume 1 of my 2012 Project Life album collection. :)

I wanted a playful look for the start of my album, so I cut up a sheet of Sassafrass paper with an explosion of rainbow colours and hot air balloons, and used the pieces to frame the page. I like that the little boy is a redhead, like me (thank you Penny’s Hair Design ;) ), as is, of course, Raggedy Ann on the “postage stamp”.

I also wanted my opener to say a few things about what the album would be about — stories that tell the truth of our year in both its good and difficult times (I like how that card from the Clementine collection looks like a bookplate that would be stuck in the front of a book, and the word strip has both “joyful” and “hard times”), about the three of us (thus the “O3″ and the pen-framed photo of us), sent out as a visual “letter” to anyone who cares to read it (the “airmail envelope” card with the camera sticker), full of both photos and memorabilia (like that Canon printer cartridge box).

I really believe those words I added to the hot air balloon: “An ordinary life becomes great when remembered well.” And the balloons themselves, lifting up and away, convey a lovely image of being open to possibilities and moving forward, yet going slowly enough to really experience the journey — and, now that I think about, these albums provide the view from high up, allowing for a big picture view of what we’ve been through this year. :)

2012 in the books

Filed under Project Life 2012,Ramblings • Written by Carmen @

This has been a very, very full year for us, and Project Life has been a Godsend for me, by enabling/forcing me to pay attention to the good, cope with the bad, and celebrate so many of the big and little moments of our lives here. It’s a year that has not turned out as I anticipated — ie. I thought that by now, we would have moved to Toronto — but instead, I have been able to capture our last full year in La Ronge. Next year, we will be re-locating much farther away than we had ever dreamed: to Johannesburg, South Africa, where we will be serving as full-time missionaries with SIM (Serving In Mission) in the Region of Southern Africa office. I am very excited (and truthfully, more than a little nervous/scared…) to see what 2013 will look like for us.

With the year nearly over, I’ve decided that since I have been far more faithful with this Project Life approach than any of my previous “documentation attempts”, I will start at the beginning of my album, and share it with you. Since I don’t know any other local Project Lifers, I have derived a lot of inspiration from the many Project Life bloggers I’ve encountered, and I thought perhaps I could contribute a bit myself to the well of inspiration. I’d love to hear any feedback you want to share.

My goal is to share every other day from now through the end of December, and then in 2013, I will post once a week with either the current week’s pages or one very recent — most likely on Tuesdays or Wednesdays, depending on how organized I am! I run my weeks from Monday to Sunday to keep the weekends together, and Monday is generally a less busy day than the rest, so my aim will be to finish my pages by Monday night and photograph them on Tuesdays.

Okay — here we go. :)

Sharing a bit of Project Life

Filed under Project Life 2012 • Written by Carmen @ June 21, 2012

For the last few months, I’ve been concentrating my scrapbooking energy on my 2012 Project Life album, but I haven’t gotten organized enough to share any of it. My friend Hillary asked to see what I’ve been working on, so I decided I’d post this past week’s layout. Hope you find it interesting, Hillary! :)

I am doing a layout every week, using the Project Life Design A page protectors as my base, and I go from Monday to Sunday to keep weekends together. Sometimes I will add an extra page protector to include more content — this week I used a 6″x12″ protector, with my “summer manifesto” (from a post at Willow Traders) on the front and some Father’s Day photos and journaling on the back, using a modified version of one of Ali Edwards’ 6×12 templates from Designer Digitals. I use a mix of digital and paper (aka hybrid) in my album. Most weeks I do basically mini layouts or photo collages in the 4×6 pockets, but this week I adopted Ali’s idea and did a 4×6 food shot for each day, and I added a journaling card (combining two — one by Nisa Fiin with the days of the week and then a low opacity one by “The Splendidly Imperfect Miss M” with a restaurant charge slip, with “On The Menu” using Elisa Blaha Cripe’s handwriting font) with what each photo represented. I saved most of the journaling this week for my insert pages, although I did journal about making the float for Sara, and about a ministry support-raising appointment we did via Skype, using one of the Project Life fold-out cards. The multi-coloured quote is an image I found on Pinterest.

Okay, here are the photos:

This is the full spread, with the inserts

Without the inserts

My summer manifesto

Father's Day

Left side

Right side


And there you go. :) Feel free to ask me any questions. :)

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.)


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