"Art is my vehicle through life; may we share the ride together." Ron Wickersham

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Are you ready for Christmas yet?

The Little Blue House has been hopping these past few weeks! We've taught packed Buffet classes trying to get everyone's projects completed before Christmas.  Tomorrow is my last class for this year - sounds very strange!

Luckily for me I haven't had to prepare much for the holidays. Our family has rented a house in various parts of the country for the last five years and everyone comes to spend the time together. It's fantastic - no decorating, no shopping, no wrapping, no baking - just spending quality time with the family.  This year we are going to the wine country in Northern California for five days - my husband and I plus our five kids, two sons-in-law, one boyfriend and two grandsons. Can't wait!

Looking back through the blog, I've noticed that I never posted the holiday projects I created, so I will share them here.

Double-page Layout

Vintage Tree

"Family" Block Set

Monday, December 9, 2013

You Distress Painted What?

When we replied to Fabio's family that we would be attending the wedding, Jo promptly asked us to be in the wedding party!  Apparently in Brazil (at least at this wedding) there were no bridesmaids and groomsmen. Instead one has "madrinhas" (female) and "padrinhas" (male) - family members or friends or people close to the couple. The couples walk down the aisle together and then go together either to the groom's side or bride's side of the altar.  In all there were 31 of us! The women all wore long formal dresses and men wore suits with matching ties.

I was luckily able to borrow a beautiful dress from one of my co-workers (thanks Lynette!) but the only appropriate shoes I had were silver and the dress was bronze.  I really didn't want to buy a new pair of shoes! After much thought, I finally came up with the idea of using Tim Holtz's Distress Paints to color the shoes!  They are advertised as working on all surfaces and permanent when dry, so I figured I had nothing to lose!

I have to report that it worked beautifully! I used Antique Bronze Distress Paint which was almost a perfect match for the dress. The paint went on really easily with the dabber top.

Here's one original shoe (on left) and one coat of paint on the right shoe.  I could have probably stopped at one coat, but I wanted to make sure they were well covered, so I did two coats. I didn't do the insoles as I thought they might get sticky in the heat when wearing them.

And here's the finished pair!  (Oops, before the pedicure...) They stood up to an entire night of walking and dancing and still look like new. No nicks or scuffs!

So, Mr. Tim Holtz, thank you for another fabulous product which is more versatile and useful than I ever thought! Now I'm wondering what else I can paint...

I'm back!

 It's been a whirlwind November around here for sure.  We returned just before Thanksgiving from Brazil and I hit the ground running! We left a few days later for Thanksgiving weekend in Austin with three of our daughters and families. As soon as I got back, it was crunch time to prep and get ready for our annual Little Something Workshops for 100-150 students planned for this weekend.

However, TX was hit with major ice this weekend and everything, including our workshop, was  canceled!  This did leave me with some free time so I decided it was time to update this much-neglected blog.

Brazil - our trip was amazing, wonderful, fantastic!  The country is so lush and beautiful and the weather was warm since it was the beginning of their summer.  We flew into Sao Paulo and then took a local plane to Rio Preto where Fabio (our exchange student eight years ago) picked us up for the 45 min. drive to his home.  We met up with his parents, sister, fiancĂ© and a few other family members at a churrascaria for typical Brazilian "churrasco" - BBQ.  In retrospect we didn't look too bad for having been up for over 28 hours!

With Neusa, Fabio's mom

First up after our arrival was the wedding of our exchange student's sister.  They live in Votuporanga, a small city of about 100,000, and their father is the owner of the town's largest newspaper and a radio station. He is also a local sportscaster and a very prominent man in the community. So, this was the local "wedding of the year". It was held in the main cathedral of the city with all the pomp and circumstance imaginable including a large choral and orchestral group, 31 in the wedding party, 450 guests and fireworks at the conclusion of the ceremony!

In typical Brazilian fashion, the reception lasted until 5:00 am the next morning; we got a few hours of sleep and then resumed the party at noon until 9:00 pm, with lots of beer, music and samba! At 9 we thought we were on our way back to the hotel, but no there was yet another party to attend. We stayed until midnight but it lasted for several more hours!

Bride and groom in the lovely church

Fabio and me - his "American mom"

Bill, Fabio and I with several of his friends at the wedding

Silliness in the wee hours of the morning - Fabio and his 79-yr old grandfather who out-partied everyone!

A day later Fabio, his parents and his sister and her new husband took us to Sao Paulo for a few days.  This is one of the largest and most dangerous cities in the world (20 million people!), but since we were with locals, we did not experience any problems. We took an elevator to the top of some building where we had a 360 degree panoramic view of the entire city - amazing!  We partied every night - eating dinner around midnight and staying out until 2-3 am. This wasn't too hard on me (as I'm a night owl anyway) but took it's toll on my husband who regularly goes to bed between 9-10 pm!

My favorite place in Sao Paulo was the Mercado where vendors were selling everything imaginable, especially all kinds of foodstuff. I have never seen larger or more beautiful fruits and vegetables!  (The raw meats and raw fish were much less appealing.)  Check out these tangerines the size of grapefruit.

Then we went on to Rio de Janiero for the last few days.  Rio is truly a gorgeous city, surrounded by green hills and, of course, the beautiful white beaches.  The famous Christ the Redeemer statue overlooking the city is breathtaking with magnificent views. Of course, we had to get the requisite photo with arms outstretched.

Every night we went to samba "bars" with live music and dancing. Brazilians love their samba! It was sensory overload and quite the experience. Of course, we were also trying to keep up with a 26-year old!

Brazilians are friendly, warm and loving. They are very proud of their country and want everyone to love it as much as they do. (And we did!) Too soon it was time to say our teary goodbyes.  Our families are just one big family now and we hope to return soon! We made many wonderful memories, enough to last a lifetime! 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

LBH 12 Days of Ornaments - Day #11

Today is Day 11 of the LBH ornaments - my day to share a cute little mixed media paper mache bell ornament I created.

(Since I was out of town for most of the time of this series, I did not post the other ornaments here like I have done in past years.  Please go to the LBH blog to see all the wonderful creations made by the other designers.)

Supplies needed (all except starred items available at the LBH):

1 paper mache ornament (I used bell, but any shape would work)
white tissue paper (regular wrapping kind)*
Tim Holtz tissue tape (I used music)
Mod Podge*
Art Anthologies Sorbet Dimensional Paint - Big Dip O' Ruby
Viva Silver Metallic Modeling Cream
Viva Peridot Lt. Green Glitter Paste
Black Archival Ink
Glossy Accents
Silver Halo Glitter
Kaisercraft Clear Stamp - script
Punchinella* (or one of new TH new stencils which just arrived at LBH)
Small paintbrush
Palette knife*
Sandpaper or sander*
Word stamp of choice*
7" - 3/4" wide silver metallic ribbon
12" thin red with silver stripe ribbon

Let's begin!

1.  Paint inside of ornament with red Sorbet paint with a slightly damp paintbrush (this paint is very thick and a damp paintbrush will help to spread it evenly).  This dries quickly.

2.  Crumple tissue paper (this is a good use for used paper from gifts) and tear into small pieces (approximately 2", not tiny). Apply Mod Podge directly on the outside of the ornament and add tissue paper, smooshing it into Mod Podge. This is one time when wrinkles are good! Continue adding and overlapping paper pieces until ornament is covered. This can hang over bottom edges as shown in photo below. When completely dry, sand edges to remove the excess paper. (Note: I like to use the inexpensive black nail files found at beauty supply or dollar stores for this.)

3.  Tear small pieces of tissue tape and randomly place on ornament.  Burnish well.

4.  Paint the outside of the bell with the same red paint, touching up bottom edge if necessary.  I love this paint as it is translucent and you can still see the tissue tape pattern through it. (Note: clean brush with water immediately as this paint hardens quickly in the brush. If it doesn't come clean, use hand sanitizer to clean it thoroughly.)

5.  Use a script stamp and black Archival ink to randomly and lightly stamp the ornament. We are going for texture here, not a perfect impression. Dry with a heat gun to set the ink which is permanent once dry.

6.  Lay a small piece of punchinella (or use one of the new Tim Holtz layering stencils which just arrived in the LBH!) over the ornament. Use a palette knife to spread small amounts of silver modeling cream randomly in several places.  (Can you tell my knife is well-used?)

The ornament will now look like this.

6.  Stamp word of choice on small piece of tissue paper. Heat to set. Tear around word very closely. If you tear a small piece off (as I did here), it can be fixed later.

7.  Apply Mod Podge directly to ornament where you want to place the word and then gently add tissue paper in place. Tap paper into glue and cover with another coat of Mod Podge.  When completely dry, the paper will be almost invisible and you can touch up any areas with a fine black Sharpie pen. 

8.  Put a small amount of glitter paste on your finger and tap all over the ornament.  This step will make the ornament really sparkle on your tree!

9.  Run a line of Glossy Accents along the bottom edge of the ornament and sprinkle with silver glitter while wet.

10.  Fold the silver ribbon into a bow shape.

11.  Tie the red and silver ribbon in a tight knot at base of gold ornament hanger, then lay silver bow on top of the knot. Tightly tie red and silver ribbon around the middle of the silver bow and tie into a bow.  Trim ends of ribbons.

 You now have a pretty ornament to add to your tree!

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial as well as the other ornaments we have created for you.  

Hop on over to the LBH blog and leave a comment there telling me when you usually decorate your tree - before Thanksgiving? right after Thanksgiving? or Christmas eve?  One lucky commenter will win my ornament.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

LBH "12 Days of Christmas Ornaments" - Day 4

Welcome to Day 4 of this year's "12 Days of Ornaments"! Today I am very excited to share with you a tutorial for an ornament I created for this series!

Mini-Starbook Photo Ornament

 Supplies you will need:
5 pieces of Christmas patterned paper - 2"t x 3"w
5 pieces card stock #1 (green in sample) - 2" x 3 1/4"
5 pieces card stock #2 (red in sample) - 2" x 3 1/2"
1 yd baker's twine in coordinating color
1 jump ring 
1 drop crystal
Scor-tape (1/8" or 1/4")
10 photos sized to approximately 1 1/2" x 1"
Optional: ink to match


1.  Fold each paper in half and ink all edges.

 2. Assemble one of each into a stack with patterned paper on top and then the two card stocks according to size - you will have 5 stacks.

3.  Tape vertical outside edges of each of larger card stock pieces (red here).

4. Adhere smaller card stock piece (green here) by aligning outside edges (there will be a gap because the top one is 1/4" smaller). Repeat for each stack.

5. Add tape to top card stock piece on both edges.  Repeat for each stack.

6. Adhere patterned pieces to top of each stack. You will have five little "booklets" like below.

7. Add tape along all four outer edges of one side of the back card stock piece. 

8. Repeat for 4 stacks, just on one red side. On the fifth one, attach tape to both back sides.

 9. Adhere one taped side to one untaped side, lining up edges and making sure the patterned paper is facing in correct direction. Continue until all except first and last sides are connected. 

Before adhering these together, cut twine in half.  Open jump ring and place through hole in crystal bead. Close jump ring and thread twine through. Fold in half and double knot the twine at the jump ring. Lay between last two sides with knot flush with bottom of pages.

10. Adhere last two pages together.  Make another double knot at top of ornament and then one more tying the ends of twine together for a loop.  Cut remaining piece of twine in half and make two bows around the knot at top of the mini-starbook.  Add photos.  

Here is a photo of the bottom of the finished ornament showing the star formed by the pages, hence the name star book!

I hope you enjoyed my ornament. It was such fun to create! I used photos from throughout the year of my two little grandsons to document their growth in 2013.  This would be a great addition to parents' and grandparents' trees!

These instructions are also appearing on The Little Blue House blog today. Be sure to click the link and leave a comment there for a chance to win this ornament (actually you will win a blank ornament as I made two. You probably don't want my pictures on yours!)

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

"12 Days of Ornaments" - Day 1

Bom dia!! (That's good morning in Brazilian Portuguese. As many of you know, when you read this I will be in Brazil attending our former exchange student's sister's wedding. I am sure I will have some stories to tell when I return!)

Since I am posting this early and have no photos of today's ornament to show, I direct you to The Little Blue House blog today and every day for the next week to view the ornament-of-the-day. Be sure to comment for a chance to win that ornament!

I have pre-scheduled the post for my ornament both here and on the LBH blog.  It will unveil on Nov. 20 so don't miss it!

I hope you enjoy this special series - a gift from the LBH gals to you during the holiday season!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

LBH presents the 4th Annual "12 Days of Ornaments" Blog Series

Tomorrow is the beginning of the LBH "12 Days of Ornaments" during which we will feature a different handmade ornament created by one of the LBH gals each day until Thanksgiving.  Included in each day's post will be the complete instructions on how to re-create that ornament. Please visit the LBH blog here each day to view the ornaments and leave a comment. One lucky commenter will win that day's ornament!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Brazil Here We Come!

We're leaving tomorrow morning for Brazil. We're attending the wedding of our former exchange student's sister and then touring Brazil with his family. This will be interesting as we don't speak Portuguese and they, except for Fabio, don't speak English!

I've scheduled a few posts here for the LBH "12 Days of Ornaments" that starts on Sunday, Nov. 17. Other than that, it will be quiet here for ten days.

So ciao for now! I'll surely have stories to share when I return!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Working with Intricate Dies

I recently purchased this very intricate pumpkin die from Serendipity Stamps that I love. Isn't it gorgeous? One reason I bought it was I saw samples of it used not only flat, but formed into a 3D shape using multiple cuts.  There was also a sample of a 3D apple using the same die so it's quite versatile.  

However, once I was home and tried cutting it, I got terrible results. I have since learned that there are metal shims sold for Cuttlebugs and Big Shots that are a great solution for getting good results from intricate dies. (That saleslady missed a perfect opportunity for an up-sale!!)

Since I don't have a metal shim, I did some research online and some playing around with my own Cuttlebug and wanted to share my findings with you in case you also don't have one.

First (and best) tip: add a piece of waxed paper between the die and paper you are cutting so all the tiny pieces come out easier and don't get stuck in the die.

 Photo 1 above was done with this sandwich: A plate + C plate + cardstock + waxed paper + die face down + 3 CS scraps for shim + B plate (you can see much was not cut through)

Photo 2 was done with this sandwich: A plate + C plate + cardstock + waxed paper + die face down + B plate + 3 CS scraps (more cut, but not all and it was hard getting most of those pieces out; I thought putting CS scraps on top of B would give flatter surface for cutting through)

Photo 3 was done with this sandwich: A + C + CS + waxed paper + spot-shimmed die face down (see tip below) + B + 3 CS scraps.   EUREKA - cut through with very little poking needed!!!

To spot-shim - add pieces of Scotch tape on backside of die where it's not cutting consistently - see the photo above with tape in the center areas on the back of the die 

Depending on your machine (I used my Cuttlebug) you might have to tape and/or shim with more or less CS. With 3 CS it was pretty hard to crank through mine, but it did cut!

My conclusion is that if you only have one or two intricate dies and don't use them often, try out these ideas for getting better cuts. If, however, you have several dies, use them often, or don't want to spend the time figuring out the perfect shims for each die, I would suggest you buy the metal shim. As soon as I find one, I think I will be getting it!  Hope this information was helpful.