Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Michael's Haul - Martha Stewart Bird Stamps

Day Three, yeah?  Today is showcasing the Martha Stewart bird stamps on the upper right hand corner.  They were $5.99, usually $12.99. 

Admittedly, I had somewhat of a hard time deciding exactly what to do with them.  I mean, they're not abstract like a damask print or flourish, and relatively detailed.  Would probably be good for some Copic markers, but I don't have any of Prismacolor pencils had to do!

I made a set of four for a gift set.  It was SO HARD not to add glitter, 3D embellishments, etc.  Believe me, I TRIED.  But nothing looked good so I just left it.

I wrapped them up in some ribbon and a sprig of fake berries.  Hope it isn't too tacky that I have the price on them, I clip it on with a mini-clothespin.  Usually I use the clothespin to clip a card and envelope to keep them together.

These cards weren't really in my comfort zone mantra of "more glitter, more glam, more embellishment...just...more".  I think I'm okay with it.  I think.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Michael's Haul - Autumn Card Set

Missed yesterday's craft haul?  Here it is in all it's glory!

Today's post is on those fall themed Inkadinkado stamps in the upper left hand corner.  I decided to make a little set of them:

I had great fun with my distress inks on this one, even using them on these velvet printed chipboard letters.

This one was so amazing for me to make; as I made it with my new Pazzles Inspiration Cutter (more on that to come).  I found this image of a pumpkin online, as clip art.  I saved it to my Pazzles (which is similar to the Silhouette's software), vectorized it, and came out with this pumpkin.  I love it!

I'm strangely drawn to this one; the background was done with one of the oak leaf stamps and Walnut Distress Ink.  The sentiment is embossed Zing gold powder.  The sunflower was done using McGill's Lily and Sun punches.  Of course it doesn't hurt to add glitter!

Okay so this one didn't actually have any stamps used from that set, but I made all the others based on this card.  This was my first time using the Pazzles, and I am so happy with how it turned out.  The leaves you see are in the Pazzles library, all I did was just resize them in different sizes to make them look natural.  I coated them each with Glossy Accents after coloring them with various shades of Distress Ink.

I'm thinking of selling them individually, but I wouldn't mind creating a set, either.  What do you think?  Do you have a favorite?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Michael's Craft Haul - Mosaic Tea Tray and Envirotex Lite

Don't you love a craft haul?  Maybe you didn't even mean for it to be a haul, maybe you just stopped in at Michael's, Hobby Lobby, Jo Ann's, AC Moore, Archiver's (did I name all the major craft stores yet?) to just grab one thing and you ended up with a decent load?

Well this is what happened last week.  I was in Michael's to pick up some Envirotex Lite for this post: Using Envirotex Lite for the First Time, and ended up with all the products you see above.  Of course, as the Envirotex Lite is the most expensive, that's what I used my 40% coupon for.

But then I also ended up with some Inkadinkadoo clear stamps - the Autumn Greetings (25% off); a Martha Stewart Crafts clear stamp set - these cute birds (originally $12.99 but on clearance for some reason for $5.99); Martha Stewart Crafts Microbeads in Copper, Blue Topaz, Tourmaline, and Lapis Lazuli that were also all in clearance for $1.49 each; and these super cute cupcake cups by Paula Deen.

Then I got to thinkin, how many times do I come home with a craft haul only to add it to the crazy well organized stash and never get around to using it?  No more - this week my goal is to use each of these products and share some ideas with you!

You saw in that post about Envirotex Lite and the rather unfortunate ending.  Check how this beauty turned out!

I tried to catch the glossiness:

I think it came out perfect, what do you think?

Friday, August 26, 2011

Google Analytics

This past Monday I headed downtown Detroit for a Detroit Bloggers Conference, A where the topic was "Cooking with Analytics: A Recipe for Tracking What Matters in Your Blog" presented by Erik Granning (@egranning).  I took several notes, and hopefully they will be helpful to you!
The format was presented as what goes in chicken soup.  Confused?  Follow along!
The "Broth" - this is the tracking code that goes on your pages.
  •  Follow the instructions in Google to post on your site, choose header or footer placement
  • Have a clear goal of what you're looking to get out of the Analytics.  This allows for customized tracking and allows metrics to measure success of your site.  For example, do you have a qualitative goal (say, at least 6 comments per post)?  Or do you have a quantitative goal (say, to generate at least 200 links to the site in a 6 month time frame)?

What's in the pot?

  • 2 1/2 cups of Visitors - the number of times an individual interacted with website
  • 1 cup Page Views - the number of pages visited equal to the number of visits
  • 1/2 teaspoon Pages per Visit - Average number of pages consumed per visit
  • 1 teaspoon Average Time on Site
  • 3 cups Unique Visits - counting each visitor only once in a time frame
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon Bounce Rate - the percent of visitors who enter site and leave quickly
  • 1/3 cup Social Visitors - visitors tracked from Facebook and Twitter

 Does it taste good?

Keyword Dimension:  gives you a sense of revelancy, and pulls out what works on your site.  It's also a free SEO tool!
Analytic Resources
If you'd like to see his presentation for yourself:

After the presentation, we split into groups to network.

Hope you found this helpful, I learned alot about analytics and still have a long way to go.  I recommend finding a blogging ground in your area and checking it out, you never know what new things you will learn and the people you will meet!  Detroit Bloggers can also be found on Facebook, and their Twitter hashtag is #detblogs.  All credit to this post goes to Erik Granning and Detroit Bloggers.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Using Envirotex Lite for the First Time - A Semi Tutorial

I finally got the courage to use Envirotex Lite for the first time.  It had been sitting in my craft desk, calling to me for a month or two.  I had watched videos on YouTube, read the instructions 74893759 times, and still felt nervous.  Why was I so nervous?

I made this mosaic tea tray and as far as small craft projects go, it was rather time consuming.  Unfortunately I did all of this before I had a blog, so there are no pictures of the mosaic process (don't fret, I'll be sure to make plenty more of these so a tutorial will be in the works soon).

Here's what the tea tray looked like before the Envirotex Lite:

A close-up:

So I got the courage to use the Envirotex Lite. 

What is Envirotex Lite you ask?

It is a two part resin and hardener that can be poured on top of surfaces to provide a smooth, glossy finish.  Note:  it is different from Envirotex Easy Cast, in that it is meant for a thinner coating.  Please refer to their website for more on which product to use for your project.

Step 1: Read the instructions.  No really, I'm serious.  This is not a product you can fool around with.  I don't mean that in a "if you don't mix it exactly right it's going to blow up in your face and the world as we know it will end" kind of way, but more in a "do it right so your project doesn't suck" kind of way.

It is absolutely necessary that you understand them before moving on.

Step 2: Prep your area.  Make sure your table is covered with newspaper.  Set up your project on top of some cups, or some other material on top of the newspaper. 

Step 3. Prep your Envirotex Lite.  Okay this is where you start to get nervous.  Don't worry, it will come out fine!  Here's the supplies you need:

Box of Envrotex Lite which includes the hardener on the left and the clear bottle of resin on the right.  You will also need 2 clear cups with measuring marks on the side and a stirrer.

Pour EQUAL parts of resin and hardener into a plastic measured cup.  Mix VIGOROUSLY for 2 FULL minutes.  Make sure to scrape the sides frequently.  Don't worry about bubbles.  Then you are ready to pour, DON'T WAIT!

Secret: two things I did that did NOT follow the insturctions!  I only used one cup, and mixed like mad, and also a spoon instead of a flat stirrer.  From my experience, if you mix like mad, you will be able to avoid the direction of "pouring the resin and hardener into one cup, mixing for one minute, then pouring that mixture into another cup".  Kind of a waste of time, but they tell you to do that so you won't have globs of unmixed resin.  If you have globs that are not 100% mixed, it will come out on your project and leave soft spots that you DO NOT WANT.  Also you are supposed to use a flat stirrer for the same reason.  OH WELL!

Step 4:  Get your pour on.  Pour over the surface of your project, around the edges first in a circular motion coming to the center.  This product spreads very well on its own, but you may need to use a credit card like object to smooth it out.

Step 5:  Blow gently on the surface.  Air bubbles will have risen to the top, so you want to pop them or they will stay there.  Exhale on your project so the carbon dioxide will pop the bubbles.  Very cool to watch.

Step 6:  Watch for drips.  You may want to coat the bottom of your project with masking tape to protect from drips.  In about 20-40 minutes while the drips are still fluid, wipe them off.  If they harden you will need to sand them off.  In the picture below there actually shouldn't be any drips but I mixed and poured a little too much resin so it overflowed out the handles.  Not the end of the world.

Step 7:  Leave it alone.  Don't touch for at least 8 hours.  Keep a cardboard box over your project to prevent dust, bugs, or pet hair from settling into your resin.

Step 8:  Check out that shine! 

Not the best picture, but that's because I was waiting for hubby to bring me some sandpaper home to use on the drip I didn't catch that had hardened. 

Step 9:  Don't let hubby, kids, or pets near it.  Ever.  So after all the excitement, and how it turned out perfectly, here's what I'm left with:

Not so bad, a broken handle...that can be fixed.
This crack in the hardened resin and several others across the surface?  Not so much. 

Hubby knocked it over on accident. 

Step 9 is very important. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

SNAP Conference and Haven Conference

So I think my hubby lost his mind and said I could go to both SNAP and Haven in 2012!  I couldn't possibly be any more excited! 

SNAP! Conference is going to be held April 19-21, in Thanksgiving Point, Utah.  The conference is for "the best bloggers representing modern handmade, contemporary craft, mind-blowing events and home DIY." {credit to SNAP!}

I am really excited for this conference because I think it will really help me take my crafting to the next level, not to mention meet some awesome people, and go to Utah as I haven't been there before!

Here's some photos from the SNAP! website to start some salivation:

I still need a roommate, and want to come in a day or two early to check out the city, so if anyone needs someone please let me know! :-)  {I promise I don't snore, and I can make some awesome hotel room door decorations lol!}

Haven Conference is going to be held June 21-22 in Atlanta, Georgia.  Haven is "open to all who are passionate about blogging, DIY projects, and creating beauty in the home for less. With a perfect mix of DIY and blogging sessions, it’s a conference not to be missed!" {credit to Haven Conference}

I'm excited about this conference because I think it will really help develop my skills as a diy-er, and continue to see things as their potential instead of what they are.  Not to mention meeting some amazing people!  I think this conference may be a bit over my head, but I think much of that is due to the fact that I don't own my own home.  My husband and I have many of the tools needed to be quite adept at woodworking, but nowhere really to practice it on.  We have no walls of our own to paint, no nasty carpet to rip out and replace with hardwood floors, and very little space to store furniture for redo projects.  Luckily his parents let us use their garage, so all current projects are housed there.  I think this conference will be a huge help to me when we have our own home. 

For both of these, I'm so excited about the social factor.  Getting out and meeting people that I interact with online and meeting them IRL is going to be ah-mazing! (hhmmm I'm starting to have deja vu...didn't I just talk about this...yesterday...?)

What conferences have you been to?  What was your experience?

Will you be at SNAP! or Haven???

If so, I'll see you there!!!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Meeting Online Friends...IRL

Have you guys ever had the chance to meet friends you have made online in real life (IRL)?  Maybe you met them at a conference, or perhaps they live not too far away from your own backyard.  The latter is the case with two of my favorite Tweeters, Jen and Jill - okay you might know them as @garagesalediary and @junkyvagabond!

We all live in metro Detroit, and managed to get together earlier in the summer at Cari Cucksey's (@caricucksey) Repurpose Warehouse in Westland. 

Jen (@garagesalediary), Jill (@junkyvagabond), me, Kristina (@pearlgateway)
At Cari Cucksey's Repurpose Warehouse in Westland

We have all had very busy summers, so we were excited when we could finally meet up again.  We met up at Hayden's, a local joint with great food, service, and ambiance. 

Me, Jill, Jen, at Hayden's

Jen found two of these funky mustache glasses she found at a garage sale that morning.  How fun!  I think I'm gonna put little candies or maybe small crafty crap inside mine.

Meeting people from my own backyard is also the case with Lauren, who you may know as @laurenweber84.

This is at the Detroit Bloggers Conference, where I learned about SEO and Google Analytics.  A post on that to come soon!

I hope I get to meet more of my Twiter friends soon.  Have you met any online friends IRL?  How did you meet them?  Let me know!

Monday, August 22, 2011

New Puppy!

I know I just gave you guys a post maybe two weeks ago with pics of my Boston Terrier, Chase.  Remember how I warned you from the get-go that you would be subjected to such things...?  Well now...double the pleasure, double the fun!

We bought a new puppy!!!
Meet Ella <3
Breed - Boston Terrier
Age - 8 weeks today
Weight - 3 lbs, 10 oz
Strength - Holding her own when play fighting with Chase
Weakness - Waking up 4 times + a night
Likes - Hanging out on the coffee table
Dislikes - Being flipped on her back, belly up (Chase loves it!?)

Chase meets Ella for the first time (hope pic quality isn't too bad; half of these are from my camera and half are from my iPhone)

Ella's first vet appointment (of course she has some type of intestinal virus in her poo, probably got it from her mom.  Darn the bad luck, puppies are so expensive their first 6 months of life!)
Hanging out on the couch
Sorry she's blurry, she's rather difficult to get a decent shot of as she's moving all the time!  But I really do love Chase's expression in this one.  He cracks me up.
This wasn't a natural shot, but isn't the forced pose worth it!?
Back under the endtable where all the cool dogs hang out (?)  Chase never went under there until Ella came along...
Thanks for looking!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Top 25 Cardmaking Supplies Day 5

As we wrap up the last day of top 25 cardmaking and papercrafting supplies, I want to encourage you to think outside the box.  Today's items will not have links, and they are actually more locations and collections of ideas than specific items.  You don't even need to go far to be inspired, so let's get  going!

1. Around the House - Lots of items around the house can provide inspiration for papercrafting and cardmaking.  The bathroom might have cotton balls, to make clouds or sheep.  The office has paperclips, small binderclips, staples, and other things to make embellishments.  The kitchen has spices to use instead of glitter for a muted earthy look, or try soaking paper in tea or coffee to make your own custom dyed materials.

2. Around the Garage - Screws, washers, and all types of odds and ends potentially await in the garage.  If you are savvy in the craftroom, but not so much in the garage, try heading to a local hardware or home supply store for some unusual inspiration.

3.  Around the Backyard - Let nature be your guide!  Leaves, feathers, shells (if you are extraordinarily lucky and your backyard is a beach!), small rocks, sand, flowers, and more are just waiting for you to pick them up and use them lovingly in your creations.  Make sure you don't disturb any wildlife, and if you're in a private area be sure to ask permission before taking as in some parks taking 'souvenirs' may not be allowed.

4. Around the Craftroom - Go back to the craftroom and you may see some useful items that you may have previously overlooked.  Dig in your sewing basket, and you'll find needles and thread, leftover fabric and scraps of lace, ribbons, buttons, and all types of goodies.  Grab your jewelry making supplies and you may find some beautiful small stones or gems to adhere to a card, or maybe you can wrap some wire into a fun shape to use. 

5. Garage Sales - Sometimes you might find something unexpected that could go great with your project.  Maybe you run into some old dictionaries or sheet music - these can easily be used as backgrounds or shaped with punches.  You could find a vintage photo or postcard that would be the perfect backdrop to a card.  You might find little flat(ish) items that could be used as a focal point, like an old pen nib or small skeleton key.  Keep your eyes peeled and you may score some steals!

Of course these are just ideas, but your own imagination is the key.  The sky really is the limit!  Inspiration is everywhere, are you ready to capture it?  Let me know what inspires you!!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Top 25 Cardmaking Supplies Day 4

Continuing on with the week's theme...We're on 15-20 of the top 25 cardmaking supplies!  This day's post is about unique techniques.  These supplies are just some more tools to step up your card making (or scrapbooking).

1. Marvy Uchida Heat Tool - This is a heat tool that I personally use primarily for two things.  Embossing, and getting ink to dry quicker.  Some people think you can cheap out and use a hair dryer, and I say that this is a much better tool for the job for three reasons: 1) The heat tool gets much hotter 2) The nozzle is smaller for a smaller concentrated area of heat 3) The tool itself is much lighter and more comfortable to hold. 

I like to use Zing Embossing Powder when I emboss, and this style is also referred to as 'wet embossing'. 

Wet embossing is done by stamping an image with embossing ink (I usually use Ranger Embossing Ink or Versamark), and then you pour your embossing powder on top and then remove the excess.  Your image will only be barely visable with the embossing ink, but when you have your powder on you will see a powdery dusty image.  Then turn on your heat tool, and move it in circles about 3 inches or so away from your project.  Make sure you keep it moving, because it will otherwise burn your paper.  You will see your image go from powder to a magically raised smooth finish within 30 seconds.  As soon as all the powder has "converted", turn your heat tool off because again it will burn.  I like Zing because it comes in three finishes - regular, metallic, and glitter.
2. Sizzix Texture Boutique - If there's a 'wet embossing' there must surely be a 'dry embossing', right?  Yes there is!  This is one of my favorite tools in the craft room because this little machine can quickly take a plain sheet of paper or card and turn it into an embossed design!  The reason I picked the Sizzix Texture Boutique out of several similar machines out there (Cricut's Cuttlebug being it's primary competition) is becuase it's ridiculously cheap!  It's $29.99 in most craft stores, but use a 40% off coupon (which Cricut just about never allows) and that takes it to $17.99 - a steal! 

How it works:  Take an embossing folder (sold separately) and insert your paper inside.  Sandwich it between the two black plates that come with the Sizzix, then insert it into the machine's slot.  Hand crank it through, and the pressure of the machine will press (emboss) whatever embossing folder's design on to your paper, and it will roll out the other side.  This machine is cheap, small, fun, and easy!  Another bit of good news is that you are not limited to Sizzix's embossing folders.  Tim Holtz also makes his own line for Sizzix, and the Cuttlebug's folders can be used as well.  A great bang for the buck!

3. Quilling Tools - Quilling is a wonderfully simple technique that is experiencing a comeback.  It is taking long strips of paper that are very thin, and rolling them into shapes, then using multiple shapes to create a larger shape.  It is very easy to do, although somewhat monotonous.  Take your slotted quilling tool, insert the end of your paper strip, and roll until the strip is in a small coil.  Take the coil off the tool, then choose to either keep it tight, let it expand, or press it into another shape.  Glue the end down, and you are on your way to a simple yet beautiful masterpiece!


4. McGill Flower Paper Punch - These punches will add a whole new dimension (literally!) to your papercrafting.  McGill has a complete line of flower punches and stylus tools to create beautiful, realistic paper flowers.  Examples of what flowers can be made are: roses, peonies, lilies, geraniums, pansies, sunflowers, hydrangeas, and so much more.  The steps are pretty simple once you decide what flower you want to make, and line up the appropriate punches.  Some flowers only need one type of punch (like a poinsetta) while some need up to six types of punches (like a peony). 

First punch out the number of each type of punch you need.  Then you will place the individual petals you punched and place them on your mat (honestly, thick foam or a mousepad will work).  Then take your stylus tool, and press the petal in a circular motion.  This will cause the paper to curl, giving it a more realistic look.  Glue the pieces together in the appropriate pattern (click on the link for more specific instructions to the flower you are creating).  Before you curl your flowers, you may want to add some ink to the edges using Distress Inks and the Inkssentials foam tool to make them even more realistic.  I love adding these to my cards, and once you invest in the punches, you won't ever have to spend money on pre-made flowers again!

5. Ranger Inkssentials Mini Mister - This is a fun little tool to break out of the box a little bit.  Basically it's just a water sprayer in the tiniest format I've ever seen.  There are a couple of reasons why you would want to purchase this and not cheap out again and use a water sprayer you already have.  1) This tool is much smaller than a regular water sprayer, and produces a very fine mist. 2) It can be used to make your own mixes of mists, by dropping in Distress Ink refillers inside and mixing to create whatever color you want. 3) I think it's great for travel, I take my wrinkly clothes from my luggage, spray them using the Mini Mister, hang them in the bathroom while taking a hot shower, and my clothes are wrinkle free!

The regular use of this tool, for my purposes anyway, is to give a watercolor effect using Distress Inks (yet another way Distress is so versatile!).  Using the Ranger mat that I mentioned earlier this week, place some ink colors directly on the mat, and spray with the Mini Mister.  Then press a tag or piece of paper into it, and it looks like a watercolored creation!

Thanks for joining me again with some of my favorite papercrafting tools.  Check back tomorrow to wrap up the last 20-25 of my favorite supplies!