Friday, April 24, 2009

Biospharenhaus: Fischbach bei Dahn

Thursday was the big field trip day, with Jordan's class visiting the Biospharenhaus in Fischbach bei Dahn. (It's too bad we couldn't have stopped in Dahn: we passed right by my favorite basket factory!) Within the Biosparenhaus are three levels exemplifying habitats found in Germany, most specifically the local region, and how those areas are affected by industrialization, pollution, etc. The displays are fantastic as they are all highly interactive to keep the kids engaged in learning. The only problem I found is that each display had so many bells and whistles, the kids spent more time rushing around trying to figure out what each display did and not necessarily ingesting any actual knowledge. I mean, who really wants to read about bats when there's a really cool set of night vision goggles on the display that you can use to find bats within a darkened room? Jordan and his friend Skyler climbed up to a rock ledge to burn off a little excess energy after an hour long bus ride. Jordan looks like King of the Mountain with that cocky smirk on his face!

While the kids enjoyed the Biospharenhaus, it's the area surrounding it that held the most appeal for the group. A short distance from the museum is the Baumwipfelpfad, a sort of obstacle course built up in the trees. Click on the link to see more pictures of the course, including the treehouse platform and slides. The end of the tree course ends with a bang...a fantastically twisty-turny metal slide! Once the kids went down the slide, all of them had to go through the course a second time. Even I went down the slide twice: talk about fun!

Here's my group, kindly obliging me by stopping for a photo op!

After the excitement of taking the group through the tree course we stopped for a picnic lunch and started on a 2 kilometer walking path with several interactive stations for the students to visit along the way. This tree trunk fascinated the kids as it was home to some very large ants! The ants dug an entire colony within the tree trunk and it was unbelievable to follow a large trail of ants right up to the trunk.

Jordan stops to check out a Vampire Beetle on the path.

Despite the frigid water temperature, the kids just had to strip off their shoes and play in the water. It was hilarious to watch each kid quickly hop in to the water just to see them hop out even faster! Eventually they would brave the water again and look for various creatures inhabiting the water.

A brook runs down from the pool the kids were in and actually meanders from a small lake nearby. It was a tad overcast throughout the day but you can still see how beautiful the area is and was rather ideal weather for the kids to be out in for such an extended period.

Big cheesy grin from Jordan!

We thought the slide from the Baumwipfelpfad was going to be the big attraction for the day but the Vampire Beetles stole the show. They were all over the walking path and once the kids got over the initial scream and freak out over touching them, they began to pick them up. The kids ended up adopting them as we walked along, letting them crawl up their arms and onto their clothing. The coloring of the beetles was beautiful: a deep, glossy black with an irridescent blue-green sheen to them.

Here's the beetle Jordan carried around for about an hour. He wasn't too happy with me when I made him leave the beetle on a rock before we left but I'm sure the beetle was relieved to be left in his own habitat!

A few nature shots: these fern fronds captured my eye and everywhere you looked there were lovely shoots of flowers and ferns cropping up beneath the trees.

Whew! We made it to the end of the path and needed a much deserved break in the swing. I highly recommend visiting the Biospharenhaus and Baumwipfelpfad if you're even in the area. Thanks for stopping by!

Photo of the Week

I know, it's April and I'm STILL posting pics from our trip in December. I couldn't help posting this one of the kids because it's a realistic depiction of their relationship and sweet personalities. The day I took this, we had arrived at the Monterey Bay Aquarium too early and decided to walk down to Starbuck's to while away the time. Part of our amusement included taking photos at the table, much to the annoyance of a few of our fellow customers (I think some of them were a little irritable because the morning coffee hadn't kicked in!) so this picture is a result of our impromptu photoshoot. I know I'm prejudiced because I'm their mom, but aren't my children adorable? You can probably tell what kind of grandma I'll of those annoying ones who constantly shares photos and stories about the grandkids, chasing total strangers down in order to shove reams of photos at them and gloat about how baby Suzie is potty training early. Seriously, I've been extremely blessed to have two children who love the Lord, enjoy being with each other, and are a joy in the home...despite their occasional cranky moments. A picture really IS worth a thousand words!

Facebook Musings

I finally came out of the dark ages and joined Facebook today. Blogging has become a means of self-therapy for me: a way to jot down thoughts on projects or trips and clear out the mental clutter. Since I'm barely able to maintain any level of consistency with my blog, I've always told myself that I just don't have time for Facebook but if I'm honest, that's not the real reason I haven't joined. Want to hear my really lame excuse? My weight!! Isn't that the silliest and saddest thing you've ever heard?! It's amazing to me how much I've allowed what I look like to control what I do or don't do in life and I hate to think of people from my past perusing my photo and dismissing me or not thinking of me as a worthwhile person because I've gained like 1,000 pounds since high school. There was a boy in elementary school that I had a crush on (yes, that's how far back this goes...I'm so pitiful!) who once told me that he liked me and thought I was pretty but didn't want anyone to know because (and I quote) "You're fat". You'd think I could move on from cruel comments made by a pre-pubescent boy who probably doesn't even remember me but it's amazingly true how we allow ourselves to feel inferior for the minutest of things. The media crams its version of beauty down our throats everywhere we go, to the point that we're so appearance conscious that I think we often miss seeing the true beauty of people we come into contact with because we're focused on the outward appearance. It's even true at church, where often people are sought out because they "look" like a Christian. You know what I'm talking about: the right clothes, the right haircut, the Bible tucked under the arm, etc. For all my insecurities, I'm just as guilty of putting more stock in appearances than I should but I want to strive to reach out to people and get to know them for who they are and not what they appear to be. So I'm hoping that by putting my toe out there to test the Facebook waters, I'll be able to re-establish old friendships and make new ones without anyone caring what I look like but want to reach out because of who I am as a person and vice versa. Okay, now that I've aired my little insecurity for the day, I'm going to go out and enjoy the beautiful weather before it once again departs. Thanks for subjecting yourself to my angst and if you want, look me up on Facebook and ask me to be your friend so I don't look friendless! Ha! Have a wonderful day!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A Mess and a Few Projects

What a mess but a happy mess! Last Saturday I hosted a German Stampin' Up! workshop and it was a lot of fun! I've been wanting to purchase some of the German Stampin' Up! sentiment stamps since the company established itself here in Germany in 2007 but could never find a German demo until recently. This is some of the mess leftover from the workshop and my subsequent club class on Sunday. I needed to finish up some samples and figured there was no point in shlepping everything upstairs to finish it when everything was already set up in the living room. I had eleven guests, some American and some German, making extra work for the demonstrator as she had to translate between English and German, but she did a great job and I think everyone had a good time. Beate brought some terrific samples (unfortunately, I didn't take photos!) but you can visit her blog to see her handiwork.

Isn't this fantastic?! This was my hostess gift from Beate, which immediately made all of us want to make one. Beate added so many little details that made this project extra special, such as the addition of organdy ribbon and the beautifully detailed chipboard flower.

How cute is that?!!! The box coordinates perfectly with the hazelnut chocolate nuggets inside and I love how the lid fits into the box to create a display. You can visit Beate's blog to see how to make this project, however the directions are in German and the dimensions are in centimeters so be prepared to adjust your thinking if you're used to working in inches. You can also contact Beate through her blog if you're interested in ordering however, she can only ship to German addresses so you're out of luck if you live stateside!

After posting that beautiful gift box, I don't know that I want to show my meager little project! This is a simple but quick design for a lovely card that can be used for any occasion. I'm really hooked on the Close To Cocoa/Baja Breeze/Kiwi Kiss color combination, which you may have noticed since the last three projects I've posted have utilized these colors.

Here's a close-up of some of the detailing. I'm off to run errands and enjoy some of the beautiful sunshine! Have a wonderful week!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Circle Scissors, Paper Pleating, and Ribbon Flowers, Oh My!

Here's the latest in club projects featuring two new techniques and a new crafting tool! While both of these projects are a bit more labor intensive, I think they're well worth the extra time. I designed these for Mother's Day but you could easily adapt them for other occasions.

The Mother's Day Window Bag, adapted from a bag demo'd by StampinUp!'s Shannon West, utilizes the new Circle Scissors Plus. The Circle Scissors Plus is a circular cutter which can cut varying sizes of circles, up to 16". This is actually version two of the original bag I designed as I gave away my original to one of my customers who couldn't stay to complete the bag. Before teaching yesterday, I had already been playing around with the Circle Scissors so I could demo the tool with confidence. Every sample I made while trying it out was effortless but when I went to demo it for my Sunday stamp club, disaster struck! It was hilarious: everything I cut was either crooked or didn't cut all the way through, and I ended up screwing up SIX craft bags before I got it right. At one point I grabbed up all the bags, tossed them on the floor in a fit of dramatic pique and said, "That's it! I quit!" Everyone cracked up and I finally was able to demo the project. When Shannon West features the tool on the video for SU!, she says, "Just turn it like you're stirring a pot of soup." Well, my soup was defective! If you'd like to see a video tutorial on the Circle Scissors Plus, visit Angie Juda's Stamping Academy.

This card features two new techniques: paper pleating and creating a ribbon flower. The paper pleating is super easy and creates a lovely effect. Simply score a strip of cardstock or designer paper at 1" and 1/2" intervals (1, 1 1/2, 2 1/2, 3, 4, 4 1/2", and so on), then fold the paper in pleats. Once the pleats are folded, go back and smooth the pleats with a bone folder or Scor-Tool so they will lay properly. Back the pleat with a strip of Scor-Tape or Sticky Strip as you'll need something stronger than Snail adhesive to keep the pleated strip on your project. If you pleat a 12 inch long strip, it creates a 4 1/2" pleated strip which is perfect for trimming down for a standard A2 card.
The ribbon flower was created with a 10" strip of wide grosgrain ribbon (the wider the width of ribbon, the larger your flower). Beginning at one end, run a loose stitch or gathering stitch all the way up one side of the ribbon, pulling the thread tight at intervals. I used DMC floss rather than thread for its strength factor as it is less likely to break each time you pull the ribbon for gathering. Once the end is pulled tight, place a small knot at the end to help keep the gathers in place, then stitch the two ends of ribbon together to form a circle. Stitch a button over the top and you've got yourself a lovely ribbon flower perfect for a card or scrapbook page. Who knew that my mom's lessons on sewing would actually come in handy! Here's a link to a ribbon tutorial on Peacoats and Party Hats for those visual learners. I'm sorry the pictures aren't the greatest...I was trying to get some nice outdoor photos and they weren't as clear as I thought they'd be. Still working on the photography :) Happy crafting!

Supplies: (Bag) SU! Close To Cocoa and Baja Breeze Classic Ink, SU! Parisian Breeze Designer Series Paper, SU! Chocolate Chip, Whisper White, and Baja Breeze cardstock, SU! Great Friend stamp set (2009 Mini Occasions catalog), Circle Scissors Plus, paper piercer, Buttons Galore assorted white buttons, natural twine (Listmann's), Marvy Uchida Giga Tag punch, SU! 1 3/4" circle punch, SU! ribbon originals, dimensionals, window sheets, Cricut, SU! Crystal Effects, SU! Dazzling Diamonds glitter (on butterfly)
(card) Supplies almost identical to list above. White grosgrain ribbon (Dollar Tree), SU! Baja Breeze flower button from Button Bouquet set, SU! eyelet lace punch

Friday, April 17, 2009

More Etsy Goodies!

I'm addicted to Etsy!!!!!!!! Somebody please block my computer from allowing me on their site.....! I love, love, love Etsy! Okay, I'm okay now. Frequently I will see a product on a project that you just can't find overseas or if you find it, it's really pricey. Most of the vendors on Etsy are very reasonably priced and everyone I've done business with has given such great customer service. So here's my enabler alert for the week: The Polkadot Strawberry

Isn't this pompom trim just gorgeous? Of course, it doesn't hurt that it's my "signature color". (Okay, who knows what movie that line came from?!) I'm working on an awesome project by Ali Edwards and this trim would be perfect for it (click on Ali's name and it will link you to my nifty new project). The Polkadot Strawberry carries oodles of beautiful trims, ribbons, and beads. The vendor is allowing me to bulk order my trim, which I think is uber nice, and there are so many lovely colors and textures to choose from. So if you're working on a crafting project and you're looking for some rich, beautiful trims, this is the shop to visit.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Hot Colby Ham Sandwiches

I served these yummy little beauties at my Tuesday Stamp Club and thought I'd post it on my blog for your cooking pleasure. The picture just doesn't do them justice! The original recipe is from Taste of Home and then I tweaked it according to my personal tastes. I substituted Hawaiian Sweet Rolls for the dinner rolls in the original and cut the poppy seeds down to 2 tsp just so you don't end up with a million poppy seeds stuck in your teeth after eating them! I use 1 lb. sliced colby-jack and 1 lb. sliced Virginia Ham, with the slices cut in half. The Pampered Chef Stoneware Bar Pan is perfect for making 24 sandwiches (2 pkgs. of sweet rolls), so I use one-and-a-half times the mustard/butter sauce for drizzling inside and over the top. Think of them as ham and cheese sliders, perfect for any get together or a small sandwich to just tide you over. Happy cooking!

Gartenschau-Neumuhle Park

Another day trip during Spring Break took us to the Gartenschau/Neumuhle Park in downtown Kaiserslautern. The Germans really enjoy outdoor venues like parks and hiking trails so places such as the Gartenschau are often open even on holidays. After uploading all my photos from the Gartenschau, I realized that I didn't take any pics of the flowers! I'm sure we'll go back again so you'll just have to enjoy the few candid photos I took of the kids playing. This top photo depicts one of the many lifesize dinosaur statues in the Neumuhle or Dinosaur portion of the park.

Here's Jordan enjoying the large climbing tower. The kids were in their element on this monstrous structure and never seemed to tire of squeezing in and out of the different levels.

Here's Alex pushing a friend from church on the swing. Teenagers like to act "cool" and mature but there's still a little kid lurking in there!

Please don't eat me! The little kids that accompanied us thought Alex was hilarious for trying to shove her head in the dinosaur.

Here's Jordan trying not to get eaten by a dinosaur head!

Here's all the boys, tired and ready to go get ice cream! Yippee!
I hope you've enjoyed the photos from our latest trip :)

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Altered Password Book

I know I've posted altered notebooks before but I thought I'd share one I recently created for Jordan. It's difficult to find good "manly" or "boyish" crafting projects out there but a random blog-hop a few months ago yielded an adorable card designed with this Cosmo Cricket robot paper called Cogsmo. Isn't this paper awesome? Very much a "boy" paper, with lots of cool sayings and designs throughout the set. I keep a small notebook with passwords and usernames for the various newsletters and blogs I subscribe to and Jordan wanted something similar since he visits various game sites and can't seem to remember his usernames and passwords. This project would be great for a kid's party, either as a project for the kids to make or a party favor. The notebooks are only 39 cents so it's definitely an inexpensive project and it takes about 15 minutes to complete. Happy crafting!

Supplies: Cosmo Cricket Cogsmo Designer Paper, SU! Whisper White cardstock, pewter brads, Crop-A-Dile, dimensionals, Oriental Trading mini alphabet set, SU! window punch, cotton cording, notebook

A Day in Idar-Oberstein

With the kids on Spring Break, I've been looking for short day trips to take and Tuesday we ended up in Idar-Oberstein. The town is well known for it's gem mine and being a center for jewelry, gems, and crystals but it also has an interesting legend. The ruins of two castles can be seen at the top of the gorge above the city and were once owned by two brothers. According to the legend, the two brothers fell in love with the same woman and in a jealous rage, one brother was killed. As penance exacted by the church, the surviving brother was told to build a church for the town. The Felsenkirche, pictured above, is the church from the legend and is actually built right in to the rock of the gorge. We didn't have enough time to actually go in to the church but seeing it inset into the rock is a stunning sight.
Our first stop of the day was the Steinkaulenberg, or Idar-Oberstein gem mine. All tours going in to the mine are required to wear these attractive yellow hardhats. Jordan's friend, Drake, accompanied us for the day and as you can see, they were having a miserable time (not!). Jordan collects fossils and crystals so the tour in the mine was fascinating for him.

Photography isn't allowed inside the mine so this is about as exciting as my photos of the mine get! The area around the mine has extensive hiking trails and many spots for picnicking, plus a digging "camp" where you can look for different kinds of rocks to take home (for a fee, of course!). With the weather being exceptionally nice, we took a short hike and then ate a late lunch at a picnic area near our car.

Our last stop of the day was the Kinder-Sternenland, a huge family-oriented indoor playplace located in an industrial area on the outskirts of Idar-Oberstein. Inside was a small go-kart track, indoor soccer room, a small bounce-house, kinder playground for little people, a large inflated climbing mountain, air hockey and ping pong tables, small bicycles to ride, and this huge maze with slides. We were there for about two hours and it was a blast! I'd love to take the kids back when we have more time because they weren't even remotely ready to leave at the end of two hours. It was a terrific way for them to get exercise and just have fun.

The kids were "dying of thirst" which meant we HAD to get slushies (smile). Jordan's favorite flavor is blueberry and they just happened to have blueberry slushies. Don't you love his blue teeth and tongue?! I hope you enjoyed the photos of our little day trip!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Thank You Card: Experiment Two

This is card experiment two, inspired threefold by: a scrapbook page layout on pg. 6 of the new SU! Occasions Mini Catalog, a Kwerner Design Challenge, and a card by Beate Johns. I've been trying to add more layering and detail to my cards but just haven't found my own "niche" yet so there's a tendency to cheat and check out what everyone else is creating. The "Gratitude" stamp and details beneath it are from a new clear stamp set I recently purchased from Technique Tuesday called Family Circle. It was designed by Ali Edwards and features her terrific sense of style that I felt would compliment this layout. So, what do you think? Card one or card two? I think I prefer this one but I'm determined to keep playing with the colors Jordan likes until I find a design I think she'll like. Enjoy!

Supplies: SU! Close To Cocoa, Shimmer White, Kiwi Kiss, and Baja Breeze cardstock, SU! Close to Cocoa, Kiwi Kiss, and Baja Breeze Classic ink, SU! Urban Garden Designer Series paper, SU! Great Friend stamp Set, Technique Tuesday Family Circle by Ali Edwards stamp set, SU! eyelet lace and 1" punches, SU! corduroy buttons and Chocolate dotted ribbon, paper piercer/mat set, mini glue dots, dimensionals

Thank You Card: Experiment One

Several months ago I was asked to make some thank you cards for one of the seniors graduating from Ramstein High School and for the last two days I've been playing around with different designs. I saw a card design in the 2008 Idea Book & Catalog that I liked but when I began to tweak it, it just didn't come out right. Believe it or not, this is actually an original design! It's not a horrible card but it's not one of my best projects. I'm going to post my second card and leave it up to you, the reader, to judge which one you like best!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Get Connected promotion

Stampin' Up! has another terrific promotion this month! Purchase $40.00 worth of product from the new Occasions Mini Catalog and choose any under $10.00 set from the 2008-09 Idea Book and Catalog (page 208) for FREE. Visit my Stampin' Up! website to see the new mini catalog! There's a new Matchbox Die for the Big Shot, window sheets, new Designer Series Paper, and some fantastic new stamp sets so be sure to check it out. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions about the promotion or you'd like to place an order.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Enabler Alert: Introducing the Crop-A-Dile Corner Chomper!

My recent online shopping forays led me to this terrific new tool from We-R-Memory Keepers: the Crop-A-Dile Corner Chomper! I try not to be sucked into purchasing every latest-and-greatest crafting tool out there but I always keep my eyes open for practical tools that will make crafting simpler and faster. This is one of those tools!
This tool is very simple and easy to use. Pull open the paper guides until they snap into place. There's a nice little bin located at the front of the tool to catch all the little pieces of paper that have been rounded off your project.

Insert your paper into the tool, clasp the handle together, and you're done! Shown here is the Corner Chomper rounding a piece of medium weight cardboard, so it can handle heavier weight materials as well.

The Corner Chomper has two sizes available, which is fantastic! I put together a bunch of tins at Christmastime to hold gift certificates and having the larger size corner rounder would have been great for making the Designer Paper inserts since the tins I purchased had larger corners and I ended up having to hand cut all the corners. You can also round several sheets at a time, making corner rounding even faster when you're working on multiple projects. If you're interested in purchasing the Corner Chomper, visit Scrapbook Pal for both the tool and the carrying case. Scrapbook Pal offers free shipping on orders over $25.00 and they always have good deals on Tombow Adhesive refills and Cricut Cartridges. I hope you enjoyed this little product review!

More Scissor Charms

My friend, Nicole, commissioned me to make her a scissor charm and I didn't post it with the last batch so I thought I'd put it on my blog before I give it to her. I wasn't smart enough to take a picture before I packaged it so this is as good a view as you're going to get! Varying shades of teal are very trendy right now and very fitting for the "heavenly" little cherub charm. I hope she likes it!

These are two simpler charms I threw together for hostess gifts and were finished in a matter of minutes. I'll have to temporarily retire from scissor charm design as I'm out of cell phone toggles. Thanks for looking!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Bearded Wonder is Gone!

Isn't my sweetie handsome with his beard? It has taken quite a bit of getting used to but the beard has "grown" on me (well, it's grown on him but, well, you know what I mean!). There's a lot of gray in it, which lends a bit of a distinguished tone to it. Why is it that men just look sexier as they get older and women just look washed out and old? Of course, my weight is part of the issue but we won't go THERE! I told him to send me a monthly photo so I can see how full his beard gets as the months progress, especially since I think he'll have to shave it off before he comes home.

Anyway, the past few weeks have been filled with many ups and downs and while I wish he didn't have to leave, I'm kind of relieved that he's gone. The coming and going and general upheaval in life leading up to his leaving makes me anxious to get myself and the kids settled into a routine as we count the days and months until Joe returns. Fortunately (or perhaps unfortunately) the kids have already got an agenda of trips to the pool, a trip to Portugal in August, sleepovers, and more so I won't be lacking for activities! I'm glad they're enthusiastic about the summer and what we'll get to do during that time but just give me a few days to catch my breath and reacquaint myself with "normal" day-to-day living!!! Please pray for our family as we get through this time and for Joe as he does his job in far off lands. Until next time!

Number of cows visiting my pasture...


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