Archives for September 2011

Punch it down

Twisted Sketches has revealed its latest sketch, #121, and the twist is “punch.” Be sure to head over to the site to grab the sketch, then create something and link it up! :)

Here’s my Design Team layout inspired by the sketch.


I love using Twisted Sketches to inspire me to tell stories I might not have thought of telling.

I actually struggled for a while, trying to come up with a layout based on this week’s twist (punch). I knew I could always just include an embellishment created with a punch, but I really wanted my topic to somehow incorporate the twist. Then it hit me that you punch down dough when you’re making bread, and I had the perfect story to tell!

When it came to cooking and baking, my Nana—my paternal grandmother—had mad skillz. She commanded a kitchen. Of course, that came from a lot of practice, as she owned and ran restaurants throughout my father’s childhood and young adulthood. In fact, I don’t think she ever baked a loaf of bread. Instead, she always pulled out her huge metal bowl and dumped a whole 5-pound bag of flour into it and baked several loaves of bread.

And I never saw her follow a recipe. In fact, when I was a teenager and wanted to try baking bread for the first time, I asked Nana to tell me how to do it. She didn’t have a recipe to share with me, so while she baked a batch one day we captured what she did. She would pour a big handful of salt into her hand (her usual method of measurement) and then pour it into a measuring cup so that I could record the amount. We had a lovely time together putting her recipe down on paper, but honestly, how often am I going to need to bake several loaves of bread at one time? :-)

For years now, my brother and I have been inspired by Nana to bake bread, too. Even though we don’t make it often (usually at holidays), we both love the process of combining and kneading simple ingredients to turn them into loaves of home-baked magic. It’s a slow, homey procedure. It requires patience while the dough rises. Then it offers a therapeutic opportunity to punch it back down (If you’re going through a stressful time in your life, I highly recommend baking a loaf of bread on a Saturday morning to get out your frustrations.). And finally, it’s hard to deny the sense of pride you feel when you take that fragrant loaf out of the oven and serve it to your family.

With all the fall and winter holidays that are on the near horizon, as well as the cool fall days I’m hoping to experience soon (temperatures are still rising to over 100 degrees in Austin), I think it’s time to break out my bread pan and flour. It’s time to get a little punchy!

Field notes from a scrapbook convention

This weekend I attended the Creating Keepsakes Scrapbook Convention in San Marcos, Texas. I have made the short drive from Austin to San Marcos for this convention two or three other times over the years, and I would say this is the best one I’ve been to so far. The main reason I give this year’s event the highest marks yet are because many of the vendors actually brought new products with them that I haven’t yet seen at my local stores!

You might be thinking, “Jan, do you mean that I could set aside a day of my weekend, drive to San Marcos and pay my $10 to get in the door at the Embassy Suites—all just so that I can shop for new scrappy products—only to find old merchandise?” To which I would think, “Yes, that’s exactly what I mean.”

There have been years that I’ve found tables full of what looked like old inventory the vendors had dug out of the farthest corners of their warehouses. Very disappointing, not to mention inappropriate! How many scrapbook enthusiasts who would make the time and effort to pay to shop for their hobby would be interested in anything but the newest offerings? So, whether the improvement came about because of attendee feedback (which I certainly gave in past years) or because the vendors realized that they weren’t doing their sales numbers any favors, I don’t know. I’m just happy to report that I came home with more brand-new items this time. Score!

Tips for going to a scrapbook convention

I was also thinking about the things I’ve learned by going to these a few times and have put together a little list of tips for any of you who haven’t been to a local convention and are thinking of going to the next one that comes to town:

  • Dress for comfort. You’re on your feet all day in an over-air conditioned hotel/convention center. Dress in layers and wear tennis shoes.
  • Take your own shopping bag. You aren’t allowed to bring wheeled craft carts into the shopping area (it would make things way too crowded), but that doesn’t mean you can’t bring a bag for carrying what you’ve bought. The first year I went I just carried around the bags that my purchases came in, and that became a pain because they really started cutting into my hands after a bit. So I always take a craft bag that straps across my chest and can hold 12×12 paper without bending it. I just slide all my purchases right into that baby and keep my hands free for more important things.
  • Take cash. Yes, most (maybe all) of the vendors take credit cards. However, they don’t all spring to have a telephone line turned on at their booth. This means they run your credit card the old-fashioned way: with carbon paper. I suggest avoiding those kinds of worries by using cash whenever you can. And then only pull out your credit card when it’s a larger purchase and you know they are running it through a phone line.
  • Go as an informed shopper. I’m not suggesting that you spend hours finding out what’s new from all your favorite craft companies just so that you’ll know what products you might see at the convention and what they should cost. That would take way too much work. However, if there’s some specific tool that you’re looking for I would suggest you read up on it a little. Make sure that you know if there are different versions available and what the retail price is so that you know whether the “show deal” is really a deal at all.
  • Don’t be afraid to go alone. I think some people miss out on going to events like this because they don’t know anyone who is interested or available to go with them. I have found that going alone is still lots of fun! I enjoy moving at my own pace and looking closely at one booth and then completely skipping the next, which is much easier to accomplish if you need only please your own tastes and interests. I also find it fun to talk to the friendlier vendors. I never feel lonely when I’m there. Don’t get me wrong here; I have gone with friends and had a great time! In fact, this year I ran into a friend of mine almost as soon as I arrived, and we spent several fun hours together perusing and purchasing. I’m just suggesting that you go whether you have a girlfriend to accompany you or not.

Happily, I bumped into my friend, Tina, and we spent time shopping together!

Overall, I think of going to this kind of scrapbook convention as being a lot like spending the day at an amusement park. If you dress for comfort, are prepared to stand in some lines, understand that the food is going to be overpriced, pace yourself and don’t mind occasionally bumping into other people in the crowd, then you should have a great time enjoying the roller coasters!

Juicing for health

Twisted Sketches has revealed its latest sketch, #119, and the twist is “start.” Be sure to head over to the site to grab the sketch, then create something and link it up! :)

Here’s my Design Team layout inspired by the sketch. It’s about how we just started juicing and are really enjoying it.


This bunch of vegetables and fruit that was ready to be juiced was so pretty that I had to take a few photos!

I want to explain a little more about my layout than just the surface facts. The truth is that when I was designing this layout I was thinking about fear and how we all deal with it. This was on my mind because we personally faced a really big fear recently.

Matt began noticing some physical changes that concerned him and made a doctor’s appointment to look into it. Before having even one test run on Matt, the doctor plied him with stories about cancer in men his age. So while we awaited the day that Matt could have the test the doctor ordered, we talked about…everything. The possibilities. The probabilities. What we would do if we received bad news. How we should change our lives if we received good news. I honestly believe that Matt started making lists of things he wanted to do to prepare me to be without him. Gulp…it was a hard week.

So, with this palpable fear orbiting us, we started looking at actionable ways to live with a daily commitment to good health. The truth is that we are like so many people: we know that we’re supposed to make healthy choices, but we’re not always sure how to make that a daily priority. For instance, how do you eat good foods when you’re on the road making customer visits all day like Matt does? How can you get anything resembling a balanced day of nutrition if you eat out? The choices out there are so bad! Think about the portion sizes, the saturated fats, the additives. It makes your head spin when you really focus on how unhealthy our food supply has become.

Then, on the night before Matt’s test we watched a documentary called “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead.” Sounds gruesome, doesn’t it? But it wasn’t. In fact, it was quite inspiring. It was the story of a man who was overweight and suffering from an auto-immune disease who turned to radically changing his diet as a way of getting control of his physical problems. He started making his own juice combinations (mostly vegetables and some fruits) and barraged his body with great nutrients. He drank juice only for 60 days and lost the weight as well as the need for his medications (all under the care of his physician)!

Now, I’m not trying to convince anyone reading this to juice. Really. I just want to tell you how Matt and I have dealt with the health scare that we underwent. We used the fear as motivation to take a hard look at our habits. And making a positive change in our diets (by adding fresh juice to our day) makes us feel more in control of our healthy futures. Knowing you’re making good choices lessens fear about your own future. At least it’s working that way for us!

I’m on a new design team!

What fantastic news I have to share! I recently submitted my application for a design team position to a great scrapbook site called Sketchabilities. Yesterday I received the news from Karan Gerber, the site owner, that I was selected to be on the team! I really am so excited. Karan’s sketches are such a fun style, and I can’t wait to get started working with them.

Our term starts in October. If you’re interested in seeing the whole team, here is the list of new Sketchabilities Design Team members. Yay!

Soo cute! Using bright patterns with a black-and-white photo

How cute is this photo of me and my little brother from 1969? I know: we were cute, our outfits were cute, the expressions on our faces were cute, the way the photographer had us positioned was cute. Cute, cute, cute! Now I will attempt to write the rest of my post without using that word even one more time (for your sake as well as mine).

So how could I fail to use sweet, colorful patterned papers to highlight all this adorableness? I wanted this layout to feel bright and colorful and young and fresh, so I turned to some of the older lines (Family Dynamix, Tail Waggers & Cat Naps) as well as one new line (Making the Team) from Bella Blvd.

And I think this got the job done, don’t you? The bright colors show off the black-and-white photo rather than competing with it. Also, portraits can sometimes feel a little stale, so by surrounding this one with fun banners, butterflies and buttons I kept the eye hopping and happy. At least I think so! What do you think?


I couldn't help myself from using lots of colorful patterns with this black-and-white photo.