Sunday, January 29, 2012

Pennant Punch 50th Birthday Card

Submitted by Linda
Here's the 2nd thing I made with my new Pennant Punch: a 50th Birthday card for my dear friend Rosie! I won't bore you with the details of how I made it. But I just can't get past how SC (stinkin' cute) it is, if I do say so myself. Part of the charm is that cute Cheerful Treat paper and the Sweet Stitches button! A little touch of bling on the numbers and the bitty baker's twine bows, and I'm in my happy place! Again, the birthday greeting came from Happiest Birthday Wishes.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Pennant Punch:Planting Seeds of Kindness

Submitted by Linda
I think one thing that keeps a workplace healthy and happy is the care that colleagues have for one another. At my school, people are genuinely caring, and we have committees in place for celebrations. Our "social committee" continues to amaze me in their creativity. Every Bosses Day and Secretaries Day our team comes up with some uber-clever theme. Usually, we teachers find a note in our box directing us to decorate an attached item.

This time, for our office manager's birthday, we were given a seed packet to decorate (because she loves to garden). The instructions were to embellish it with words that described the types of 'seeds' she 'plants' at our school (seeds of kindness, friendship, etc.). Here's my yellow 'seed packet', cut apart.
Normally, I throw something together with supplies I have at school, but this time, I remembered that I had the perfect stamp set for this occasion, Farm Fresh. I also had the weekend for my idea to percolate, so I was able to improve upon the yucky fast-fading construction paper. I was eager to try out my new Pennant Punch that I got for Christmas, so off I went, combining the apple image with October Afternoon's Modern Homemaker paper and die cuts. The cute Happy Birthday is from the Happiest Birthday Wishes set.
It's hard to see in the photo, but the apples are covered in SU's Crystal Effects, which makes them look super glossy.

When she came to work on Wednesday, she found this basket on her desk, full of the 'seed packets', a plant, trowel and a giftcard from Armstrong. Of course, there were also balloons, and cake!
She really enjoyed her 'garden birthday', and I enjoyed adding something cute to the basket!

Monday, January 23, 2012

A "Must Do": NOS (Notebook of Stamps)

Submitted by Linda
In kindergarten we talk about the 'must do's and the 'may do's, and the saying has trickled into our personal lives. If you are any kind of stamper, and have any amount of stamps, this notebook is a "must do".

This N.O.S, or Notebook of Stamps, is simply a photocopy or a stamped image of all the stamp sets I own. Lately every time I sit down to create something, I look in the book (usually several times) to find the right words, or an image that fits into a certain space.

For my notebook, I grabbed an old notebook, some random dividers, and got started. You'll notice I even have 2 different sets of dividers. Don't worry about making it perfect....just get it done!
Inside, I have xeroxed the front of the stamp boxes or the actual stamps (just lay the set on your home copier/scanner). Then I quickly cut and pasted the copies onto white cardstock. I also include the year I got it, and sometimes make other notes about which stamps I've used out of a set.
For all of my "handstamped by.." stamps, I simply stamped them all onto white cardstock.
I have found my NOS to be so helpful, that I began nagging Michelle to make her own. Hers is just as functional as mine, but much prettier. Her spine is labelled.....
...her labels are printed and fancy....
...and her copies are all nicely aligned on the page.
Here's a great view of the notebook opened up!
Whether you throw it together with what you have, or create an upgraded version like Michelle's, you'll be glad you did.

Next, my plan is to add some pages with a punched shape from each of my punches and die cuts. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Happy 75th Birthday!

Submitted by Linda
I'm sure my mom does not appreciate me posting her age on the blogisphere, but since the card I made for her makes it obvious, I had no choice. Fortunately for her, she doesn't look her age, and I'm crossing my fingers that I inherited her good anti-aging genes.

I didn't have a specific idea in mind, except that I wanted to use Thickers chipboard sticker numbers. I asked Michelle to do some research for me through her SU connections, and she emailed me this picture of an anniversary card. So, as on this card, I used 3 layers of card stock, punched the corners, embossed the background cardstock, put my greeting on the top, put numbers in the middle, and a pretty bow on the bottom.
Here's my version:
My mom has always been a fan of pink and green, and always appreciates a touch of bling!
I love love love this cupcake! In fact, I bought the Wagon Full of Fun set specifically for the cupcake. Normally if I make one card, I'll mass produce a bunch. Well, this one is a limited edition one of a kind!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Four Frames

Submitted by Linda

Happy MLK Monday everyone!
Here's another card I CASEd from the wonderful Heather Klump. Check out her blog post here to see her original. I love the format of this card and can see myself making it again and again with other colors and papers.

Thanks to the MLK holiday I was able to rest, recharge and even stamp a bit!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

To Gnome You Is To Love You

Submitted by Michelle
Next week are my monthly card making clubs in La Quinta and Claremont. This morning I am prepping materials for the ladies. Here is a look at what they will be making.
I love the Gnome Sweet Gnome stamp set that is in the Occasions Mini Catalog so much that I simply copied a card idea from the catalog.
Bottle caps are all the rage in the crafting world right now so I figured I'd better get on board. This Valentine's themed project has a magnet on the back so it can hang on a refrigerator or a file cabinet.
Last year my clubs made a mini-calendar in January and one of my members requested that we do it again this year. The base is made from a chipboard coaster and there are magnets on the back of this project, too.
Sale-A-Bration, a great promotion from Stampin' Up! where customers can earn free merchandise, starts on January 24. Everything on the Hello card is from the Sale-A-Bration catalog. I love the designer paper so much that I used it on the card and the mini-calendar. Well, actually Linda used the designer paper on the card and mini-calendar. I recruited her to help me design projects for this month's club when I was visiting her at the end of December. She gladly obliged, just as any front row friend would do. :)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Sweet Hot Chex Mix

Submitted by Linda
Several years ago when Michelle and I launched Front Row Friends, our good friend Nancy asked (by way of a comment on the blog) if we would ever post this recipe. Well, the time has come, and today's the day!

The real story is that this afternoon, I received an email reminding me that our church leadership team's monthly meeting is tonight. As a former member on that team, I always appreciated when snacks or goodies were brought to our meetings. Considering that some committee work is a thankless job, I decided my new job is to bring goodies whenever I can. And I will say that baking something once a month is much easier that doing the difficult and important work of leadership and vision casting.

Since I had sort of "forgot" about the meeting, I hurried home from school to see what I had on hand. I usually like to take both a sweet and savory item, in case people haven't had dinner or are avoiding sugar.

This recipe blends the right amount of sweet and spicy, to make it positively ADDICTING!

Sweet Hot Chex Mix

Ingredients:
5 C. chex (any combo of rice, corn or wheat)
5 C. popped popcorn
1 package taco seasoning
1/4 C. brown sugar
1 cube butter
optional: peanuts, pretzels, etc

Directions:
Melt butter in microwave. Add brown sugar and taco mix. Drizzle onto cereal/popcorn and stir. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes, stir. Serve when cool.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Cancer Fighting Soup

Submitted by Michelle
Somehow I've ended up with a subscription to Martha Stewart Magazine. Several years ago I stopped magazine subscriptions all together. I find that magazines stress me out. They come in the mail, they pile up around the house, and they cause me to feel guilty because I rarely find time to read them, but I can't throw them out until they are read (or so I think) so the piles become bigger and bigger. A few summers ago I experienced the freedom of taking an gigantic stack of unread magazines and throwing them into the recycling bin. It was then that I decided to rid my life of the magazine clutter. However, Martha seems to have crept back in and I'm not sure how. I think I got a year's subscription for free. I'm letting her stay for the time being, and over the Christmas break I was able to read the November, December and January issues that came in the mail.

Since adopting the "We Don't Have to Live Like This" motto with Linda, I have found that as I peruse magazines it is much easier to tear out pages that I find interesting, rather than folding down the corner and saving the entire magazine for a later date. That way, I can file the interesting article or recipe or idea, and then throw the bulk of the magazine away. One recent tear out, was the recipe for a Cauliflower and Kale soup.
The ingredients (kale, cauliflower, garlic, onion and dill) don't appear to be a combination for culinary home run. However, the end result is surprisingly delightful.
The procedure is simple. Saute the garlic and onion in olive oil. Throw in some salt for flavor and to help the onion release it juices.
Add the cauliflower and some water, and let it cook for about 10 minutes.
When the cauliflower is tender, add in the dill and kale. I threw in some red pepper flakes for extra heat.
After about 5 minutes it will look like this. At this point the soup needs to be pureed either in a blender or food processor. I have an immersion blender, so I was able to whirl it all up in the pot.
I ended up with a gorgeous green, creamy soup. My friend Sarah, who is a dietician, says the cauliflower makes the soup seem creamy and the kale makes the soup excellent for fighting cancer.
I say, add a little fresh cracked pepper, dill and a drizzle of olive oil, and you've got one yummy soup!

Creamy Cauliflower Soup with Greens
Ingredients:
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
4 cloves garlic, chopped
Sea salt
1 medium head cauliflower (about 3 pounds), florets and stems cut in into 1-inch pieces (about 5 to 9 cups)
4 1/3 cups filtered water
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill, plus more for garnish
5 large kale or collard leaves, or a combination, tough ends removed and leaves roughly chopped
Freshly ground pepper

Procedure:
1. Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat; cook onion covered, until soft, 4-5 minutes. Add garlic and a pinch of salt, and cook for 3 minutes more. Add cauliflower, and pour in filtered water until it reaches just below the top of the cauliflower.

2. Bring to boil over high heat. Add 2 tablespoons dill. Reduce heat to low, and simmer until cauliflower is just tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in greens, and simmer for 3 minutes.

3. Let sit for 5 minutes to cool slightly. Stir in remaining 2 tablespoons dill. Puree soup in batches in blender until very smooth, adding more water (about 1/2 cup) if it's too think. Return to pot, and reheat. Season with salt and pepper.





Monday, January 9, 2012

Happiest Birthday Wishes

Submitted by Michelle
One of my goals this year is to stay ahead of celebrations rather than constantly sending cards and presents late. You might even call it a resolution. In an attempt to get January off to a good start, I already have a birthday card for my cousin Steve written out, addressed and stamped. I haven't mailed it yet, because his birthday isn't until the end of the month, but when the time comes I will be ready!

My Uncle Dave is having a birthday on the 3rd of February and while that seems a long ways off, I'm sure the date will be here before I know it. I took some time out today to create a card for him. And then, as long as I was making one, I figured I might as well make four so I could give one to Linda and have some extra around for the future.
I used a stamp from the Happiest Birthday Wishes set, and I tried to choose vibrant, masculine colors. I added a corduroy button for texture (and because it felt manly), and even put a little bit of crystal effects on the "i"in Birthday.

Hopefully I will be able to keep up my strong start to the new year. I'll let you know how I do next month.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Greeting Card Girl Ornament

Submitted by Michelle

I know Christmas was 2 weeks ago, but I have to share this adorable ornament that Linda made for me!
She used the Greeting Card Kids stamp set, which is a favorite of ours, and then used watercolor crayons and an aqua painter to color it in. In typical Linda style, she thought of using Mica flakes for snow and liquid appliqué to add fur detail on the coat, hat, and scarf. The "Merry Christmas" at the top is from an old set called Holiday Best. I think the seam binding is perfect for the bow.
Here is a view of the backside.

When I was packing up my Christmas decor I couldn't bear to part with her, so my GCG (Greeting Card Girl) has a place of honor in my craft room on the bulletin board. After all, it is nice to have a little bit of Christmas in my life 365 days of the year!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Tissue Drawer

Submitted by Linda
You will not catch me complaining about my husband. Craig is known far and wide for his work ethic, and his ability to work harder and faster then men half his age. And there isn't much he can't fix. The only thing is, (notice I didn't say 'problem'), is that he really likes big jobs. He enjoys getting a crew together to roof or paint a house. He enjoys maintaining much of the 4 acres of church property. He enjoys fixing someone's plumbing. What he doesn't enjoy are my many little projects, like installing one broken hook at school, or repairing an easel, or hanging curtain rods. Enter my dad, Norm.
This picture of me and my dad was taken at California Adventure in May, 2010.
My dad is retired, and he also can fix anything. He seems to enjoy the little jobs, as he is always figuring something out for my mom, rewiring something, or repairing something that is broken. So I always have a list of jobs for my dad. You can count on him 'measuring twice, cutting once', and he'll always arrive with my mom as his sidekick, because someone has to hold the flashlight or hand him the tools.He always shows up with a caddy full of assorted tools.

Well, this past fall I was wrapping a gift, when I had a little meltdown in the cabinet where I store the giftwrap, tissue, giftbags, and so on. My giant pile of tissue (from Costco) was on top of the gift bags, which was on top of the gift boxes, and it was a mess each time I needed to wrap a gift. Right then, I said to myself, "Why don't I have a tissue drawer like they have at Crate and Barrel or Coldwater Creek?" When I make a purchase, they pull out the drawer with ease, and voila! Tissue paper! I immediately went into my craft room and began scheming. Look at the space under the two drawers of the built in desk.........maybe an additional drawer could fit there?
So I talked to my dad, and said that all I want for Christmas is a tissue drawer. He agreed, and several weeks later, lookie what I got! A tissue drawer!
While I was wrapping my Christmas gifts, I had my tissue, ready to go!I got the cute knobs at Hobby Lobby, where knobs are always on sale.
I don't have any to-do jobs on my dad's list currently, but he does such nice work, I'm sure I'll find something soon.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Bless Our Home

Submitted by Linda
You may remember my new-old hobby post in July about my taking up embroidery. Well, I'm hooked! It is the perfect hobby when you want something to do in front of the T.V., or for me, when I'm hanging out with my parents. You should see me and my mom, stitching away like little old ladies!

On Thanksgiving, I brought my work-in-progress to show my nieces, who are all very crafty and all use a sewing machine with great results. (I'm sticking with hand stitching - my sewing machine and I aren't always good friends). Kari insisted on grabbing my camera and snapping a few pics.

I think I already mentioned it, but nowadays, you print your design from your printer (!!!) onto some "sticky fabri-solvy" and stick it onto your fabric. When you're finished stitching, the pattern rinses right off!
Here is the final result:
For anyone interested in getting started embroidering, check out Bird Brain Designs. Here you can print out easy and free designs to get started with. You can also order your Sticky-Fabri-Solvy here.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Don't Disrespect the Jello: Pretzel Salad Recipe

Submitted by Linda
Maybe it's because I grew up in a home where Jello was a mainstay of our dinnertime menu, almost considered a food group. Maybe because it was a staple at my midwest family gatherings (and funerals). Somehow jello seems 'old school', outmoded by our healthy 'California' cuisine. Well, this recipe had me taking back all the mean things I've said about Jello!

Let me point out, that the two times it's been served to me, it was brought to an event by younger women. So even the younger crowd knows what's good! This Christmas eve, I took it to our big 'soup supper' family gathering, and folks were asking for the recipe. One sister in law told me later in the week that she kept wishing for the pretzel salad!

The secret, I think, is the combination of the salty-sweet-crunchy pretzel base (some people don't even realize it's pretzels), combined with the creamy layer and the fruity layer. Yummm!

It's made in a 9x13 dish, and looks like this before it's cut. (If you don't want to cut it to serve, then by all means prep it in a prettier dish.) Little blobs of the creamy layer have peeped up into the fruit layer. No worries! I'll just cut around those sections (and then I'll eat them later-ha).
And here it is plated up!

Pretzel Salad

This recipe takes awhile because of the wait time for cooling and setting the jello. Start this one in the morning, or make it the day before.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups crushed pretzels
  • 3/4 cup butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened (I use low fat)
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 (8 ounce) container frozen whipped topping, thawed
  • 1 (6 ounce) packages red jello (I like Blackberry Fusion)
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1 (12 ounce) package frozen fruit medley or strawberries (pureed)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Stir together crushed pretzels, melted butter and 2 tablespoons sugar; mix well and press mixture into the bottom of a 9x13 inch baking dish.
  3. Bake 8 to 10 minutes, until set. Set aside to cool.(Be sure it is really cool before adding the next layer!)
  4. In a large mixing bowl cream together cream cheese and 1/2 cup sugar. Fold in whipped topping. Refrigerate for about 10 minutes. Spread mixture onto cooled crust.
  5. Dissolve gelatin in boiling water. Add fruit puree and mix well. Refrigerate until jello begins to thicken (about the consistency of egg whites), then pour and spread over cream cheese layer. Refrigerate until set.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A Bright and Happy New Year!

Submitted by Linda
Do y'all know that when the ink is a different color, you can click it to see the related post? I went a little nuts this time on linking you to other posts. Read on, and you'll see what I mean.
I will admit that I usually feel a little blue after Christmas. Because I really do like the decorating, wrapping, baking, gifting, and so on, I feel a little let down when it's all over. As much as I love decorating my home for Christmas, I hate putting it away after the holidays. You know what I'm talking about: everything's a giant mess, boxes and dust everywhere, and suddenly your whole house is in desperate need of a deep-clean.

I will admit though, that when it's done, I like the de-cluttered fresh look. Yet, something seems missing. That's when I decorate the ledge on my sideboard. These truly vintage 'New Years' postcards are another find from my Clovis adventure.
My sideboard ALWAYS has twinkle lights on it, year round, and then I try to add something seasonal. These postcards are the perfect antidote to my 'de-Christmased' house.
I love the pastoral scene on this next one, and the subtle holly sprigs in the background.This next one is one of my favorites. I love the "Right Hearty Greeting" and the ivy.
And it has delicious, old-time writing on the back. It was sent to Sonora, CA from New York in December of 1913 with a one-cent stamp!
See, I feel better already.

Now about those links I mentioned at the top of the post. If you care to see my sideboard decorations during other seasons, here you go.
Christmas Version
Summer and September versions
Graduation Version
Fall Version

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Review of 2011: What Worked, What Didn't and How "We Don't Have to Live Like This!"

"When friends stop being frank and useful to each other, the whole world loses some of its radiance."
- Anatole Broyard

Linda: On NYE 2010, Michelle and I were lucky enough to be together with our men to ring in the new year with fondue, a peppermint pig, and a kitchen fire. On New Year's Day, 2011, we sat down together with our notepads and clipboards and dreamed up a wishlist of projects we were hoping to accomplish throughout the year. We even plugged in possible dates, coordinating with our Stamp Club weekends, school holidays, and summer vacation.

We were hoping that gathering together for New Years would become an annual tradition, but alas, David had to work this year. So though we rang in the new year separately, we managed to squeeze in an overnight visit in which we completed our last project of 2011 and planned our 'crafting year' of 2012.

Michelle: Our planning session was officially called, "The First Annual Shareholder's Meeting of Front Row Friends" and it took place at one of our favorite haunts, Le Pain Quotidian. Over a delicious salad and a board of fine cheeses, we made of list of all the projects we want to accomplish during 2012.
This is my list from last year. As you can see, it is nothing fancy. I like to write on grid paper and I especially enjoy crossing things off the list as they are completed. I also make little lists and notations on the side as the year progresses. Sometimes the lists remind me of supplies I need to bring to Linda's or to order from Stampin' Up.
And sometimes I just scribble to get my pen working, as you can see above.

Linda: As we created our 2012 list, we embraced being "frank and useful" friends as we carefully evaluated our projects from last year. We decided which projects we would do again, which ones to say 'adios' to, and what to change or add. In general, we were pretty pleased with having things done well ahead of time. We also really liked the 'divide and conquer' philosophy (especially for the tin o' tags and Christmas card). We also realized that our friendship allows the 'whole to be more than the sum of its parts'. I know that I wouldn't be able to accomplish all of this on my own.

Michelle: One of the benefits to having our crafting projects planned in advance is that we are well prepared when holidays come around, and we don't end up wishing for more time or fretting over small things. We are able to joyfully give handmade gifts to many of the people in our lives because we've worked in advance. My favorite thing about the list is that it means Linda and I have to schedule time together to work on our projects! And when we are together, we feel so productive because we know what we are doing and can jump right into our crafting, without spending extra time thinking, "What should we work on today?"

Linda: Another neato thing that evolved out of our friendship this summer was some accountability to tackle some nagging little tasks in each of our homes. I've long been a fan of the Flylady's philosophy of:
*maintaining your home in 15 minute increments
*DO IT NOW rather than procrastinating
*Not letting your possessions (clutter) cause you stress

In the past, Michelle has been much more organized than I am, but I'm working hard to catch up. But even Michelle loses her mojo sometimes, and this past summer we were both procrastinating on some tasks in our homes. In August, we decided over the phone to agree that we would both do some task that we had been procrastinating on, so we both made a list that looked something like this:
I used a green highlighter to cross things off my list as I did them.
Many of the jobs you will see on my list are jobs that were done so quickly, I think I truly spent more time stalling than just getting it done. I mean, how long does it really take to clean out the tupperware? I think the magic of the '15 minutes at a time' is that when you finish, you feel great about what you accomplished, and you find yourself willing to tackle another project, even if it's not on your list! We were both successful, because we reported to each other our progress though out the days, and we knew that we would be much happier teachers when school started, if our homes were in order.

Michelle: We were definitely happier going back to work because we didn't have clutter in our homes. (At least not as much as usual.) I also knew I needed my house in serious order because I was starting a Master's Degree program in September and my life was going to get insanely busy. Having a list AND the accountability to go along with it made the cleaning and organizing doable. Linda and I had a blast texting photos back and forth as we cleaned a closet or a cupboard or a drawer. The encouragement and support we offered each other with mundane tasks made the whole process seem rather fun. I guess Mary Poppins was right when she said, "In every job that must be done there is an element of fun. You find the fun and snap, the job's a game!"

Somewhere along the way, we made up our own saying to go along with getting work done. I believe it came about as we were watching a DVR'd TV show and we discovered that despite having the show recorded, we were STILL watching the commercials. As Linda fumbled with the remote control, trying to figure out how to fast forward, she exclaimed, "We don't have to live like this!" The saying stuck and now, during this Christmas vacation, we've been employing our new motto to the hilt.

Linda: Here's a look at our final project for 2011 - a calendar attached to a covered chipboard coaster!
Here are my finished calendars, wrapped and ready to give away!Our wish for you in 2012 is that you also will continue to develop friendships that inspire, support and are 'frank and useful'!

Happy New Year from Front Row Friends!