ten things.

January 24th, 2013 by nicole

Ten things I’m thankful for right now:

ONE // Pinterest. It’s amazing what a trip to Pinterest can do for my design mojo. I just about thought my mojo had up and abandoned me for good… until I started regularly scanning Pinterest every morning!

TWO // My Keurig. I’ve had my Keurig for a month now and I love it as much as I did on the first day we bought it. I don’t like how much K-Cups cost. Blah! But I love my little filter thing.

The unexpected perk from getting a Keurig: I’ve been drinking tea like a mad woman! I haven’t really enjoyed having a daily cup tea for maybe 11 years now. The last time I was this excited about tea was when I first moved up to Pennsylvania when I was engaged to Travis. We would have a cup together every night. Well, now that I can have hot water at the touch of a button, there’s no barrier to my making a cup! For the last few weeks, I’ve used a cup of tea at night as a replacement for that evening snack I always used to crave!

THREE // Trader Joe’s. Last September, Sarasota got a Trader Joe’s. I was on Cloud 9 from the moment I heard the news. Getting to shop there weekly is just wonderful. I can find most all the natural things I’m looking for there—and typically save more than I can at any other store.

FOUR // Losing 10 Pounds. When Trader Joe’s first came to town, I quickly gained 10 pounds from all the not-so-healthy treats they carry. Then Christmas came along and suddenly I was up another 10 pounds! Holy cow. But after a few weeks of clean eating, I’m back down again. Still have a ways to go to be truly happy with my weight, but this is a good start!

FIVE // Project Life. Now that a new year has started, I’m enjoying looking back to January 2012 to see just what we were doing last year. It’s been fun to sit around and read off things, playing the “Oh my goodness! It’s been a year since that?!” game. Still planning out what 2013 will look like in my head. What I do know is that it will be cleaner and more streamlined. I’m taking pictures and taking notes. At some point I’m going to need to transition from working to finish 2012 to working weekly on 2013.

SIX // Wunderlist. I thought I had tried and given up on all types of computer based calendars and organizational apps. This one surprised me! I love using it for setting reminders, for making shopping lists, for making meal plans, for reminding me to clean the bathroom and do the laundry… everything! It’s changed my life.

SEVEN // My Day Planner. I still have a soft spot in my heart for my “paper & pen” planner. I would be lost if I were unable to dump all my thoughts, tasks and deadlines onto a piece of paper!

EIGHT // No More Eczema. For two years my husband has had terrible bouts of eczema on his hands. It would come and go. I think it might finally be gone. During the first week of January, every he would use two of his prescription creams along with taking a zinc supplement and a Claritin. At the same time, I went to Target and decked out our bed with dust mite covers and new sheets. Something out of those five things is helping. Right now, our money is on the Claritin and the dust mite covers. We are guessing that this whole time, he’s been allergic to something and maybe it was the bed! Ugh. So creepy to think about, but this is Florida—a hot and humid environment. At least now, his eczema is under control!

NINE // Friends. Friends that encourage me to take up running (even though I’ve kinda fallen off track with that…). Friends who answer the call to help you out when you’re feeling blue. Friends that will go see Les Mis (and sing!) with you. Friends that love to talk and talk and talk some more. Friends on-line and friends in real life. I feel blessed when I think of all of them…

TEN // Things I’m Learning. I’ve been reading a lot of great books lately and they’ve been working on my soul. I’m feeling a real call to find ways to practically live out the words of Jesus. I’m feeling convicted, but refreshed… strengthened… encouraged. It’s good stuff.

mobile blogging.

January 22nd, 2013 by nicole

So… hello, blog. Here I am!

It’s been a while since I’ve made the time for my blog. I love blogging—really, I do! It’s just that pesky life that gets in the way. When you have four kids, you homeschool two/three of them and you work from home as a part-time graphic designer, life is… beautifully overwhelming. And interesting. Always interesting! I want to blog about it—without having the entire process take over my free time!

So, I gave up on it.

Until today.

That’s when a comment from a friend made me think about blogging in a new way. We were talking about how I’m almost done with my Project Life album—which is SO exciting! I’ve captured all of 2012. I’ve slipped my last photo into my binder! Now, I have to still decoratively scrap all the little cards from mid-September until the end of the year. But in one sense, I’m done. Totally done—I did it.

So, when I share this with my friends in the forum at SSD, they say “Show us!” And I laugh and say that I don’t have the time. All that photographing. All that photo editing. It would eat up the time I have for the actual scrapping!

So, then my friend Jen says, “One word for you: INSTAGRAM!”

But I use Instagram so much for the pics for my album, I don’t want to clutter it up with pics OF the album. LOL!

And then it hit me as I was cooking dinner tonight: I bet there’s an app for that!

And there is! There’s a WP app! And through the app, I can blog. But better yet—I can take pics right off my camera roll, like this:


(That’s a page in progress that the same friend, Jen, begged me to take back in December.)

So, hello blog! I’ve missed you. Technology has brought us closer once again. It’s time to get chatty!

art journaling… on a budget.

August 3rd, 2012 by nicole

I was talking to a friend who is interested in getting started with art journaling. She’s interested, but she said money is tight. Oh, is she in for a surprise! Art journaling is the cheapest hobby I have. You can get started with $10.00 in your pocket. Here’s how:

Get Going with the $10.00 Plan:

First, you’ll want a stash of stuff. There are a number of things that you probably have on hand already, especially if you have kids. Here’s a list of found objects you should start to collect:

1. Paintbrushes: You probably already have these around your house, especially if you’ve purchased Crayola watercolor sets for your kids. Don’t worry about the quality of your brushes. You’re going to beat the heck out of them as it is. Might as well use something inexpensive! Here is our collection of kid brushes, along with my collection of brushes I’ve acquired from other crafts… and an old baby toothbrush. In the background you’ll see the old coffee can I keep them in:

2. Found Objects: You will find a wide variety of fun things in your house that you can use to make impressions on your canvas! Here are just a few that some to mind: cardboard (for scraping paint), corrugated cardboard (I like using those Starbucks things that keep your fingers from burning), bubble wrap, an old flip flip (one with a textured pattern to it), a pencil eraser (for making dots), a paper doily, anything with holes in it (like a plastic non-skid mat), toothbrushes, paper towel rolls (for applying paint in a “stampy” way), lids to small bottles (for making circles).

3. Something to Paint on: You have numerous options that are cheap and/or free. You could re-purpose an old book. You could cut out several pages of a magazine and make your own paper (mod podge several papers together for added strength). Dig up an old diary or an unused journal. Chances are someone has given you something like that over the years! Or make your own book from start to finish with cardboard or watercolor paper (assuming you also have that on hand). If you don’t have anything on hand, I found my current art journaling book in the $1.00 section of Michael’s—so there are inexpensive ways to find what you need!

4. Paint: Here’s where you’ll actually spend all of your $10.00 at the craft store. Go to the paint aisle and look for the rows of little acrylic bottles. Pick out 8 colors to get you started. I’d recommend looking for a rainbow of colors in shades you know you love. Also look to see if there is an assortment of acrylics in a box set. You might be able to pick up more paint for less! But do the math first. If you have another $2.00 you can part with this week, buy a big old bottle of white, too. You’ll use it a lot and it will be your “cheapy gesso” until you have the budget to play with gesso later on. And if you have purchased one of those watercolor sets for your kids, feel free to borrow it back! If you find out later that you love watercolors more than acrylics, then you can look for a nice set of those. But don’t go spending $30 on watercolor paint before you really know what you like!

5. Newspaper: To protect your table.

6. Paper towels and wipes: For your fingers and anything else you get paint on. (Also good for removing paint from a page for a unique look!)

7. Shoebox: My husband got new shoes. I got a box for all my paints!

All The Extras:

If you have more money you can spend in the weeks to come, you can get yourself set up with even more goodies! You can get started and play for weeks with all the things listed above. Here is a list of other things you may want to add as you play more with your goodies:

1. More Paintbrushes: If you don’t have that many brushes on hand you can pick out something cheap and fun from the store. Target has a huge set for kids in their crafts department (pictured below). This set will give you all the brushes you’ll ever need—and it’s just $10.00! If you just want to stick to a handful of brushes, then I’d recommend that you pick up a large 1″ or 2″ brush along with 1 medium sized brush and 1 smaller, pointed brush (see the three brushes at the top here). These are the ones I use most often.

2. More Paint: That probably goes without saying. More colors always equal more fun! I keep a handy guide with me when I go to the store. It’s a scrap of kraft paper that I’ve painted a color chart on… so I make sure that I don’t buy the same shade of green paint 25 times—because I would! I love green and I would probably think “Oh, I don’t have this one!” when I’m at the store… and then kick myself when I got home.

3. Stamps & Ink: Save money by purchasing stamps in sets. You will also want to be on the lookout for a good alphabet that you feel like you can use over and over again. I used to be really in to rubber stamping and cardmaking and I had tons of ink pads. But I’ve found that I don’t miss them. When I’m art journaling, I typically only use three pads: a regular black (for stamping images or background texture), a regular brown (for those times that black is too intense) and a pigment black (that’s ink that acts more like paint—I use it for titles). So I’d say that’s all you need! Some stamps you like, an alpha you love and three ink pads.

4. Alcohol Inks: These are fun! These are also expensive as all get-out. You can find them for about $5.00 each (for only 1 or 2 oz. of fluid). This amazing person, Birgit, will tell you all about how you can make your own for the price of travel bottles and rubbing alcohol. I have yet to sit down and try this, but I have five bottles and I’m ready to play!

5. Gelatos: I found out about these fun things from watching Christy Tomlinson’s videos (LOVE her!). They come four to a pack and they cost about $9.00, though. And you can only buy them in limited color sets (red/pink, yellow/orange/red, all green, blue/purple, neutral) and that’s annoying—because I want a rainbow of colors to play with! But Birgit also shared on her blog that Faber-Castel makes a set of these gelatos for kids. They are the exact same product–and you get 12 sticks for $10.00. They are in my shopping cart already.

6. Gesso & Mod Podge: Wiki says: “Gesso is a white paint mixture consisting of a binder mixed with chalk, gypsum, pigment, or any combination of these. It is used in artwork as a preparation for any number of substrates such as wood panels, canvas and sculpture as a base for paint and other materials that are applied over it.” It gives your paper or canvas something called “tooth” that feels great and helps to grab paint. You could use white paint to cover a surface, but having gesso around is preferred. Mod Podge is a crafty glue-like substance that you can use for a number of things to adhere, seal and finish a project. I use this to glue paper on canvas, to protect a part of my work that may bleed if I don’t seal it or as the final layer on a canvas. Birgit tells you above how you can make your own Mod Podge with Elmers.

7. Canvas: There are several inexpensive ways to get canvas. First, buy from a big box craft store. Second, take advantage of their coupons for 40% off! Or wait for “buy one, get one free” sales. Michael’s has these often. I’ll get two canvases at a time for just $8.00.

My rough guess at the cost of picking up all these things… probably a $100.00. In 3 months by spending only $10.00 a week, you could have yourself quite a collection of things to play with!

Educate Yourself for Free:

But with all of this… I think the most important part of art journaling is finding a hero. Once you see the work of someone who inspires you, you’ll know what you need to buy to do what she does! Here are some of my favorite links:

I love Christy Tomlinson. She offers amazing classes but she also is incredibly generous and offers free videos on her YouTube channel. And she is also on My Craft Channel as well.

I also adore the work of karenika.

And Julie Fei-Fan Balzer is amazing as well.

If you need inspiration for what to put in your art journal, then sign yourself up for the amazing Brave Girls Club newsletter.

If you’re a pinner, there’s lots of stuff on Pinterest. Here’s my art journaling board, if you’re interested in following me. I put both tips and quotes I like in there (so I only have to go to one play when I’m ready to paint).

I hope you have enjoyed this post! And I hope you see how quickly and easily you can get in to this great hobby.

Any questions? Just ask!

Have fun! And remember—there are no mistakes in art journaling; just opportunities for creativity.

what i did on my summer vacation.

August 2nd, 2012 by nicole

My 30 Day Experiment is over.

And I survived.

More than that, I thrived. (Just wait and I’ll tell you all the things I did!)

But I also discovered that… well… I kinda hate Facebook and how it makes me feel.

At this point, I really don’t have any plans to go back. I like being quiet, flying under the radar and staying out of other people’s drama. And there’s a lot of drama on Facebook! Sheesh.

So, what have I been doing this month in my free time? Well, I’ve been:

1. Knitting

On October 15, 2007, I wrote a post about casting on a pair of socks for my husband.

I finished them this month.

That’s almost five years. For one pair of socks. I will never live this down!

Really, the reason it took me so long was that I got to the point where I was 99% done—and almost out of yarn. It was fancy, expensive (and not-made-for-socks) yarn, which killed my motivation even more! I was so afraid that I wouldn’t have enough to finish. And so I put down my needles… for a few YEARS.

I just decided enough was enough. It was time to suck it up and finish. And I did! (And I had the tiniest ball of yarn left over!) But I will probably never live this down. Five years for a pair of socks. We’ll be in our eighties and Travis will still remember this…

As soon as I cast off the socks, I knit a quick cozy like one I saw on Pinterest:

It is cute. But pointless. I have not noticed that it keeps my coffee any warmer! But it feels nice to hold it in my hands. Maybe that’s the point?

2. Reading

I picked these up from the library (because I made the time to go!):


They were fabulous! I loved them. I don’t really care how bloated they were. I didn’t mind the fact that I couldn’t pronounce anyone’s names. They were great. I’ve read that this “trilogy” was going to originally include ten books! I would have loved to have read them. They way they are now, Dragon Tattoo feels more like a prequel and Fire and Hornet’s Nest feel like the “real” story. So, if you plan to read them, be sure you have both on hand!

Now I’m working my way through Water for Elephants because I have heard it was good and I might suggest it for our ladies’ book club. I haven’t been keen on reading it before now (because I am no fan of the sparkly Mr. Pattinson and seeing that he was in the movie took away all interest for me). But I warmed to it when a number of friends suggested it be our next pick. I don’t know about this one so far… there are some gross, graphic and kinda unnecessarily detailed descriptions of things. And this is a Christian ladies’ book club. I mean, we all married… but still. I might have to hunt up another book—and quick!

3. Sleeping

Or, rather, “going to bed at a decent hour and getting enough sleep.” Which allows for us all to indulge in a new Saturday Morning tradition: Breakfast out on the Town!

Here we are at Millie’s:

Love, love, love this place! I’ve been going here ever since I was in high school and my mom would treat us to breakfast out. This is THE place where I came to love breakfast food! It’s so wonderful to get to bring my own little family here now…

4. Playing With My Kids

Look at this face! She was saying “I goint to geeet you, Mama!”

And as I snapped the picture, she actually did get me in the shoulder. Good thing she missed shooting the phone!

We’ve also been enjoying watching Doctor Who together! We skipped around Season 1 and watched most everything from Season 2, 3 and 4. We are now on Season 5 and the kids just love it—which makes Travis and I very proud Geeky Parents.

And then there’s our new obsession:

It’s like WoW meets Pokemon. How could we resist?!

5. Gearing up for Next Year

This year I will have a 4th Grader, a 1st Grader… and an eager little girl who wants to do Pre-K workbooks:

She won’t be left out of the fun! And here I thought I would be able to give Joshua more time. Well, I guess Katie can teach Penny while I teach Joshua. Nine year olds. I tell you, they are amazing. Everyone should have one like this!

My first order for new books came in from Sonlight:

I still have an assortment of extra things in my Amazon cart so we’ll have another Box Day to look forward too.

We took a month off for our summer break and we are now back into the books again, wrapping up a few things for the end of the year as we get ready to dive into our new stuff! New stuff—it’s always more fun!

6. Having Friends Over

We’ve had some friends over for dinner and had fun playing games with them! We got to enjoy playing with the Johnsons’ amazing Munchkin collection:

What an investment, but it’s so worth it. This game is a blast with more pieces and decks. I can’t wait to play again!

Then last night, we busted out the Settlers for a little fun with the Fredericks:

It had been too long since we had played this. I actually kinda forgot all the rules. Eep!

7. Crop Night

I signed myself up for a crop night at the most beautiful scrapbook store in St. Pete! I took 102 tiny Instagram photos with me for my Project Life album… and spent most of my time monotonously trimming them and trying to stick them into their pockets. Halfway through this, I realized that I had no photos for our April trip to the Magic Kingdom! I had taken my old cell phone and Travis had taken his camera. The two days it was my birthday and I received my new iPhone… and I apparently hadn’t looked back since! That put a bit of a damper on my cropping. So I went out into the store and did some serious shopping… which I did get in trouble for later—whoops! I crossed the line a smidge because they had lots of art journaling supplies that I’ve seen my art journaling heroes using. I couldn’t resist buying them, too. And of course I bought paper. I even won some paper as my Door Prize! I picked a pack of Crate Paper from Valentine’s Day. I couldn’t believe my luck. I adore Crate Paper. After that, I sat down to work on my book. I’m so far behind but I still love it to pieces. I’m working on ways to stream line it because I just need to get caught up. Having it all be stunning is not a priority at this point when I am three months behind. Sigh.

So, there you have it! I’ve been crafting, schooling, reading, cleaning and socializing. And without the distraction of Facebook I have not been wasting away the hours just sitting here when school is over! I’ve been working on work, creating several new kits and collections while also wrapping up stuff for a fall paper release for my client.

Honestly, while I love my friends and the people I’ve come to know but I’ve never met, I just can’t get sucked in to that Time and Energy Vortex known as Facebook. I get too emotional. I get mad. Or sad. Or catty. Ugh! Or I bunny-trail and watch YouTube for an hour. Or check out 100 memes on some silly site. And then I remember “Oh! I was needing to work on XYZ before dinner!” I can’t afford to do this with the limited number of hours that I have in my day and my ever-growing list of hobbies and responsibilities.

So, so long Facebook! Once upon a time it was nice knowing you…


July 3rd, 2012 by nicole

After months of resisting, I finally figured out what I would do if I had a Smash Book. So, I gave in to temptation and bought one!

I have my painty-painty art journal that I’ve been keeping. The goal of that book is for me to have a place where I can try out new techniques and have fun making backgrounds. When I come to a stopping point, I’ll stamp an awesome, inspirational quote on one side.

But I wanted to start a different book–more of a real art journal with thoughts and feelings and reminders in it. Since I knew that I love painting on patterned paper (thanks to Christy Tomlinson), I thought a Smash Book would be a perfect thing to paint in!

So, I started…

And inspired by this post here, I got down to the work:

Yeah. I am a work-a-holic. My best is never enough–for me. There’s always more to feel guilty about. Can’t ever take a day off. Can’t read a book or stay in bed for hours… because, you know, burning the candle at both ends is healthy.

That’s why I started my book off with this reminder. 🙂

Page 2 is still blank. It will probably be a continuation of Page 1… maybe focused more on the word “plenty” to echo the feelings on the opposite page.

I kinda over-committed to the paint on these pages. I wanted more background paper to peek through. I’m working on just how to achieve that balance… it really doesn’t matter to me because the whole process is fun.

Hope you enjoyed a peek at my book!

getting quiet, being brave.

June 28th, 2012 by nicole

I have a new love—the Brave Girls’ Club. It’s such an encouraging, uplifting thing… a mix of art and truth and kindness. I fell in love instantly.

Well, as I was digging through the archives of the Brave Girls’ blog, I found a post on taking a break from Facebook.

And I almost didn’t want to read it—because I knew I was going to do it… because I knew I needed to Let. It. Go.

In the past—way back in the days before Facebook and WordPress, when all I had was my little LiveJournal community—I would come around to the same conclusion every now and again.

  • I was spending my spare time thinking about what sorts of witty/cute/funny/clever things I could say… because, you know, I want to be cool. I want to be loved. I want those little likes!
  • I want to have fun with my friends. And if my friends are busy talking on Facebook then—gasp! I might miss out! It’s like one big chat… that never ends.
  • I was distracting myself from everything else around me by making sure I checked in with everyone that was in my circle of friends (which ate into my free time like nothing else!). Refreshing, refreshing, refreshing. “It’s been 5 minutes! Let’s go back for more!”
  • My circle of online friends in 2001 was only about 20. I probably still only keep up with about 20 people now. But the guilt that comes from knowing you are ignoring everyone else? Ugh! Icky!
  • Hanging out online is something that’s so hard to get up and walk away from once you start. I didn’t make time to be creative. I didn’t make time to go outside. And I most certainly was avoiding housework! On bad days I just get up and sit here from sun up to sun down.

When I am 100% in my home, it’s a beautiful thing. I tidy up. I paint something. I scrap a memory. I think. I breathe. I think about feeding myself fancy whole foods. I actually cook! I usually light candles or make tea… and do all these little things to beautify my environment.

When I live at my desk it’s a hectic, grouchy thing. I am surrounded by clutter (notebooks, notepaper, a jar of almonds, an old coffee cup, my iPod…). I only daydream about painting as I look at things on Pinterest. I feel guilty about not scrapping as I look at other people recording their memories. I don’t have time to think because I need to remember to do the next thing before I forget about it—again. I sit awkwardly in my chair and I don’t breathe. I actually hold my breath a lot! I don’t feed myself anything but more coffee (yikes!). We eat at Wendy’s because I realize I should have started cooking something 30 minutes ago… and here comes my husband in the door! I don’t light candles. And I mentally beat myself up multiple times a day for not doing anything to fix the disaster areas in my house.

So… why do I sit here all day and do this to myself?!

Because I didn’t realize that it was happening and this is why I was so frustrated with life in general.

Everyone is on Facebook now. And Facebook is everywhere, too. I didn’t realize until stopped to think about it… this thing I used to take regular breaks from was taking over my life. I spent three years taking care of an online shop and being there 100% for everyone until it drove me crazy and I had to run away from it. But because I was on call and plugged in so much for those three years, I’m still living with this as the norm… I didn’t cut this part out. Time to amputate, heal and then come back a healthier person.

So, I’m taking my easily distracted squirrel brain and I’m going on a 30 day mental vacation.

I am going to think. I am going to be creative. I am going to be quiet. And I think I might be writing more! (No promises—I don’t want to lock myself in to the new addiction.) But blogging for me is always such a good way of gathering my thoughts, thinking as I type… putting lessons I’ve learned into words. I just haven’t made anytime to invest in my blog because I’ve. been. too. busy. on. Facebook. Good grief!

Here’s to a beautiful new beginning! I’m actually excited.