Friday, February 25, 2011

Downgrading Background Annoyances

My First Class in Photo Editing:

     I took a class today called Beyond the Basics of Photo Editing with Photoshop Elements as taught by Patty Debowski. My version of Photoshop was too old and didn't have some of the features needed to complete the classroom demonstrations so I had to use the teacher's spare computer, so embarrassing. Later I practiced one of the things I could still do in my version - Creating a Focal Point in a Photo. This technique is used to eliminate distractions in the background, like blurring out bystanders in your photos.

     Here is my photo with a distraction in the background.

     Here is the photoshopped version with a Guaasian blurred background and focused foreground. Much better right? It makes the photo look 3-D. Thanks Jenn for modeling for this example, or was it just a candid photo?

     The other useful feature I learned was Groupshot Photomerge. I can't demonstrate this effect since I don't have it on my computer. But you can take several photos of the same group of people, erase the face you want, and transport it onto another body. If someone is closing their eyes in a photo,  you can place their face from another photo onto their body. Then everyone in the group can look good. It was really quick to do this. I know Jacob photoshopped a Christmas group photo and it took him several hours. 

      My head was hurting after two hours of learning commands on someone else's PC. I've never worked with Photoshop so I learned about layers, brush sizes, shortcut command keys and fancy tools from the sidebar. How do you find this fun, Kevin? Hopefully utilizing photo editing will help my layouts. Tomorrow I'm learning about copic markers, the tool of the manga artist. 

Ciao for now!

Tea for Two

Making Something for Me:
     I've been making things recently for challenges which puts pressure on me because it will be seen and judged. I want the item to be perfect, so it does add a bit of stress during the creating process. This time I made something just because I wanted it and not for any other reason. I have all these flavored loose leaf teas and decided to just use them instead of waiting for a tea party, which rarely happens.

My last tea party was in November, 2010 @ Huntington Library
with Dad & Jenn. Why is she drinking from the carafe?
Why ask why?
     K suggested I use all my fancy teas to make ice tea. I make two pitchers at a time, one in decaf and one in regular. The containers look the same and I can't sleep at night if I drink the wrong one. Which one to choose? K also suggested using a paint pen to write on the container. I thought he was ruining a perfectly crafty opportunity, he probably thought I was crazy.

Plain tea pitchers
      I made these tags one evening while we were watching TV, and by watching I mean listening while we multi-task. I combined two My Mind's Eye lines together. One is Alphabet Soup which is designed for little kid pages, but sometimes you have to look past the intent and to see its usability. I actually won the line, otherwise I would never buy a kiddie line with xylophones and  dinosaurs. But the colors were right in complementing a plainer greenish line, I can't recalled its name. I kept it flat and laminated the tags, since it is for daily use. I used memory thread to make the tag holder. It stays on the flip part of the lid and can easily be removed when washing the containers. I did want one 3-D element, but didn't want it to come off so I hole punched through the laminated tag and used some thicker thread to tie on a button. K thought the tags might get in the way when you pour, but it hangs on the back so your hand holds onto it. Basically it works.

Cute tea pitchers

I had forgotten about making these and was pleasantly surprised the next morning. I was so happy to see its cutesy goodness nestled on its own refrigerator shelf. 

Tea for two

It is nice to be able to craft something practical instead of something that is sitting inside a closed album or on a dusty shelf. Thanks for viewing this!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

My Challenge Entry

Bo Bunny Layout Challenge
     I had purchased some Bo Bunny papers specifically for their monthly layout challenge and decided I better get on the ball and actually make the layout. I had some other papers prepared for last month's challenge and ended up bypassing it. I didn't want to let another month slip on by. Here is my take on the sketch.

My Interpretation
Here is the original sketch.

Bo Bunny layout sketch

Summer Vacation:
     Last summer K and I went to Taiwan to visit my Dad along with my sister, Jenn. Then we all traveled to Japan together. I scrapped the Japan portion of the trip into an entire album, which took months to complete, but I didn't scrap a single page of Taiwan. Maybe it is because I lived there for 10 years and it feels like going home, whereas Kyoto had more of the lure of an exotic vacation. This layout is my first foray into my stack of Taiwan photos. 
     K and I were wandering around the crowded downtown area, and Jenn took these pics. I'm sure the locals were wondering what we were up to, but it was so hard to resist posing like Tom and Cameron. It was so weird to see American movie stars plastered on the sides of giant buildings in another country. Is that what they think of us? 

Here are some close up shots:

Finishing Touches:
     In terms of the embellishments, I added two 50 NT coins with Sun Yat-sen on them. I was saving them to go with photos of visiting his memorial. At this rate, I thought I'd just go ahead and incorporate them now so they would get used. I guess I'll have to ask dear ol' Dad for more coins for purely aesthetic reasons. I also fussy cut some flowers and flourishes from Bo Bunny's Delilah collection. They looked kind of flat and lifeless, so I curled the edges with a skewer. I ended up adding the skewer to my tool bag, it seemed so handy. Who needs a professional petal roller? I added three Prima flowers that I had lying around and originally didn't know where to use them. It looks like you can totally make it yourself. Just punch out 5 hearts, crease the middle, glue it onto a circle base and add a pearl center. These were made out of felt, but I'm sure cardstock or patterned paper would suffice. I think you should try making your own embellishments. Besides saving the money, you will probably have a greater sense of pride in your layout. Thanks for joining me today!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Online Scrappy Classes

A Note to my Readers:
    K and I figured out how to put in reactions to the bottom of a post. By K and I, I mean I wanted it and K figured it out. I hope you enjoy this new feature. There is also a star rating system per post, but I did not want to subject myself to further scrutiny.

Blog post rating system I didn't incorporate

      I don't know if I have a lot of time to make some crafty items of my own that I can post. I am designing some items for the DT applications and they require new, never been seen items. So I can't show you until after the process if over. But know that I am busy thinking up new ideas and creating away.

Class #1: Finding Your Way
     I signed up for two online classes that begin this week. One is called, Finding Your Way from Big Picture Classes.  You can view the synopsis and sign up here if you are interested. The topic seems very interesting - finding your own design style and being true to who you are as a designer. I've been thinking about what is my personal style lately. When I take a short workshop class, it is more product oriented rather than process oriented. I end up with a carbon copy of the teacher's project. It looks nice but doesn't feel like I had much to do with it. When I look through my old albums, I can tell what I was influenced by at that time. I was wondering what makes a layout truly my own.

    According to the class description, a side benefit is that you save money because you know what you will and won't use on your pages and won't be lured by the pretty packaging. Knowing your style will help you focus on what to purchase and what to ignore. The instructor found her "design voice" by scrapping a layout a day for 31 days and then noticing repeated patterns in her work. I wonder if that is what we will be doing.

Karen Grunberg's 31 day challenge to herself

Class #2: Mouse, Paper, Scissors
   The other class is called Mouse, Paper, Scissors from, you can view the course content here if you are interested. It is a hybrid class, meaning it uses digital scrapbooking on the computer combined with traditional paper and glue scrapbooking. This sounds interesting because I did want to learn more about Photoshop but didn't want to give up all my fun supplies. The class is taught by Jessica Sprague and Heidi Swapp, two big names in the scrapbooking world. This class comes with a kit of materials mailed to your door. I was surprised by the quality of the contents. 

Mouse, Paper, Scissors class kit

     Our first assignment today was to write down on the enclosed notepad 10 status updates, like you would for Facebook or Twitter. I don't really like to write status updates. Do people care where I am and what I'm eating? The class stated there were 6 types of updates - informative, declarative, philosophical, quotations, complaints and inappropriate. I looked up declarative sentence on a grammar website and the first example read, "I like children - fried." W.C. Fields. Anyways, I realized I only posted informative statements, it seems the least revealing and the easiest to write. I thought it would be short and sweet to write some updates, but I ended up writing 3 pages, albeit, small pages. I tried to write some in each category. Another thing I realized is that it was physically very difficult to write with a pen. I think I'm so used to typing and I'm not teaching handwriting anymore or having my writing projected on a Smart board. Do you lose your muscle memory or fine motor coordination if you don't write that often? K answer below if you read this. This is a wife test, hope you pass, haha. 

1st Assignment: Status Update 
The teachers hinted we would be doing something with our writings for a later project. Also, this plain little notepad will eventually be decorated like this:

A future class project
I'll post what I make in my classes, tell you what I learned and let you know if I make any epiphanous self discoveries. 

I kept getting interrupted during this post because I was baking some muffins, and wanted to make sure they didn't burn. They turned out just fine.

My cranberry, pecan bran muffins

Side Note:
     On Saturday, K and I went to watch a musical production of Gigi by the Reprise Theatre Company, (performed at UCLA) which is still going on this week. It was fine, but I'd recommend Daddy Long Legs more, both are based from books written by the same author, Colette.  But what I found interesting was when the lights first turned on, the solo person on the stage was the actor who played Professor Hathaway from Real Genius, which contains one of our favorite movie quote, "I was thinking of the immortal words of Socrates who said, 'I drank what?'" For the rest of the musical I kept thinking of Professor Hathaway instead of the character Luminaire from Beauty and the Beast was based upon.  

The musical Gigi

Then another actress came out and I knew I had seen her before and then I remembered. Once while my family and I were having lunch after church, we were flashmobbed by a group of dancing men wearing only Daisy dukes. There was a group of their friends filming and watching, one of them was an actress I knew I had seen around on TV before. My friend Debby found the video on Youtube which you can view at your own discretion here. What a strange small world in which we live in.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

A Proposal via a Mini-album

    Most people think I'm the scrappy one in my family. Actually, I think I just make things the most often, so I get associated with scrapbooking and little creative projects. I remember growing up, my Dad would say, "You're creative, you do this." At work, the same thing would happen and I'd be the one designated to make a gift. I didn't really mind since I did it for the recipient and it is not a bad reputation to have. But there are others out there who are also very scrappy but you wouldn't think of them as such, like Kevin making that Valentine's card or my bro-in-law proposing with a mini-album before I even knew what a mini-album was.

A Very Disney Day:
     Here the layout of this story:

A Royal Engagement Layout
   Vic, Jacob, Kevin and I went to Disneyland together under the pretense of Kevin's birthday. It started as a typical day at Disneyland, doing silly touristy things.

Riding the tram into Disneyland

Pretending to be Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse

A Very Memorable Night:

The day ended with dessert at The Blue Bayou restaurant which can be seen from the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. 

Blue Bayou Restaurant

Over the creme brulee, Jacob pulls out a photo album from his backpack that he had been carrying around all day. He gives it to Vic saying he didn't want her to feel bad that Kevin received presents and she didn't. Meanwhile Kevin is filming this and I'm taking a bunch of photos in this dark setting. 

Vic receiving the album
She is perusing the album which has photos of them and hand written journaling. Impressive right? Towards the end of the thick chipboard album, he glued some of the pages together, then cut out squares from the middle of the pages. This made a  recessed alcove with two doors that opened and can house something inside. 

Vic opening the doors with a surprise inside
This is my favorite photo of Vic, because it shows her reaction at the moment of realization. Isn't it priceless?

Vic's initial reaction

Vic's secondary reaction

There was a diamond ring inside. Isn't that a great proposal via a scrappy mini album? I think it one that scrappers can truly appreciate. Thanks Jacob for letting us be a part of this special memory and this is a belated welcome to the family. I hope I got all the details correct, it has been a few years. Now who is the crafty one in the family? 

Sidenote to the Proposal:

     Remember how I said the restaurant can be seen from the Pirates ride? During this dessert, I heard a voice call out from the darkness, "Hi Michelle!" I couldn't see anyone floating by, but I did recognize the voice from a coworker. When I saw her at work, I told her she interrupted at the exact moment of the proposal over the creme brulee, but I was just kidding. Later, when her boyfriend took her to a restaurant and ordered creme brulee, she said she had a feeling he would be proposing because of the creme brulee in this proposal. And he did. 

More about the Layout:

     Here are some close up photos of the layout. I placed the main 4 x 6 photo overlapping both pages so it did get cut, but the two parts of it could stand alone. One side had the statues and the other side had the people. The bottom smaller photos show the progression of the event.

I really like the ribbon banners I put on the turrets that looked like they were blowing in the breeze. I cut up a skewer from my kitchen for the poles.

I wanted to highlight the time and place, so I printed it and placed it in the O of the title with a popped up crown.

Here are the journaling strips documenting the event.

The patterned papers had cute little animals, so I fussy cut them out and placed them throughout the  layout. There were some trees from the paper that I liked, but they were only about 1 inch high so I paper pieced some larger ones and hand stitched around the edge.

I made this for an Imaginisce color challenge, which was to use yellow, pink and blue, as inspired by this photo. The colors made me think of Sleeping Beauty Castle, which made me remember this event that I had never scrapped. The papers are from Imaginisce's Enchanted collection. There was a castle on the paper, but it was too small and the turrets were green. I enlarged it on my printer and lightened the color, and it became my background die cut piece. 

I based the layout design from an Allison Davis sketch from

Thanks for making it to the end of this long post. This one is dedicated to you Jacob.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Valentine Love

     I wanted to post some of the items I made and received for Valentine's Day and some other occasions.

Valentine Projects:
     I decided I wanted to use craftiness for good towards others and not just for my own pursuits. I thought Valentine's Day was a perfect opportunity to spread the love around. I altered some little containers in an eight hour period and gave them out to some friends and family members.

My Valentine Creations

Valentine Labels
   Here are some close up shots:

Valentine Candy Holders

The genesis of this was I had some containers that I liked the shape and thought I could extend its life capacity. For example, this was a camembert cheese spread container. I made this for Jenn. I filled the inside with pink, red and white M&Ms. Enjoy!

This one's for you Jenn.

Homemade Cards I Received:

     On Facebook, there was a scrappy game being posted, where if you leave a comment and you should receive something homemade from the person who posted. Then you repost it and you give out something homemade to 5 people who leave you comments, and a chain reaction occurs. I signed up on Jenn's and Becky's posts. Becky sent me a card and I'm still waiting on Jenn, nudge nudge wink wink say no more. I didn't repost the game myself, because I don't like bothering people on FB, but didn't want to just be a slacker, so that is another reason I made the Valentine projects, to give out some homemade items to people. This is the homemade banner card I received from Becky, you can take a look at her blog here.

Becky's card

    Kevin's grandmother also sent us a card for Christmas and Valentine's that she drew (the same one who painted the corn husk dolls). She also wrote a poem inside. We sent her a care package that included chicken noodle soup and biscuits which you can order here.  She said she ate it for supper.

Kevin's Grandmother's cards

     You might be surprised by this next one, this is from Kevin, and he even made a pop up sentiment.

Kevin's card

He snuck around using my stash before I woke up, hoping I wouldn't hear him. Isn't that totally cute! I hope you had a happy Valentine's Day.

My First Printer's Tray Altered Item

Sassy Wall Hanging

Sassy Printer's Tray Wall Hanging
   I entered a challenge that required the use of one of Sassafras' new lines - Paper Crush or Count Me In.

Sassafras' Count Me In line

   I chose Count Me In because I liked the colors better. I ordered it in December, the company was showed in and then went to CHA, so I finally received the papers in February and had to rush to get the project completed before the deadline on 2/18/11. This is the completed project using the printer's tray I was mentioning in my last post. You can see all the submissions here.

Here is the before shot:

Original Tray

Here are some close up shots:

Close ups of the tray

 It was fun to work with new materials and a new concept. I placed the completed project in the kitchen under a painting by Kevin's grandmother who used the same yellow and orange colors, but you can't really tell because I altered the photo. I always think of Thanksgiving when I look at the painting. I thought it was Pilgrims working in the fields. I asked her about it when we were in Ohio visiting her, and she said it was of cornhusk dolls. You never really know the author or artist's inspiration unless you talk to them.

Kitchen Decor

That phone is a real 1913 phone that was reconfigured with a 1970's rotary phone inside. It really works and we did use it sometimes, except now we don't have a line to the house anymore and only use our cell phones. How times have changed. The other thing of note is the train oil lantern. I was looking for one for years with red glass to put in the kitchen. We drove by a run down antique/garage shop somewhere, maybe around Escondido, and bought it for $25. It was so random. My printer's tray is a modern reproduction, but once Kevin and I did stumble upon a real letterpress with the wooden letters and trays at a garage sale. We told a teacher from GHS about it and he bought it for his class, he taught woodshop and ROP classes so it fit his curriculum and he was appreciative. If only I was into altered crafts back then, it would have been a real find. When I think of altered items though, I always remember  a quote from Ty Pennington, "Turning crap to craptacular."