Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Depredation (If you're not interested in my bluebird posts, skip this)

The one thing that I looked forward to doing after work today was to make our weekly check on the bluebird box. The one thing I did not look forward to was learning the definition of a new word: Depredation - n. a predatory attack; raid. Sadly, this is what I have to report.

I was very suspicious that something was not right because I did not see either the male or the female anywhere from the time I got home around 4:45 until the time we went up to check, which was about 6:30. Thad got the ladder and I got the camera and we headed up to the garden. I had been worried that maybe they had been the victims of the cold weather last night. But, instead of finding the five tiffany jewels snug in the box, only two remained and they were on the ground below the box.

Looking inside, you would not have know that something dastardly had happened there today. After doing some research, I believe that the eggs were the victims of a house wren attack. Enemies of the bluebirds include house sparrows and house wrens among the birds. My conclusion is three-fold: 1. we do not have house sparrows in the area that I am aware of; 2. there was no evidence inside the box of blood or shell fragments; and 3. the eggs were left and not eaten which would most likely point to a bird attack. The other eggs were probably also on the ground but removed by the parents, or they could have been eaten by a mouse or other small animal before we found them.
In any case, they're gone for now. The eggs and the parents. I checked the Bluebird Forum on Nature Web and they suggest removing the nest from the box as soon as possible to encourage new nesting.

So we will once again watch for that "flash of blue" that gives our heartstrings a little tug and hope that they will not be discouraged by this and will come back to us.

I don't remember if I related the story of how they begin their nesting, humanizing the process, but here goes. The male goes out house-hunting and finds prospective nest sites. He sits atop the box and calls to his mate, twittering and flittering his wings. She comes, gives the outside a once over and then hops onto the front of the box to take a peek in. You know that she is interested if she actually jumps into the box. If not, no sale. They do this for several days it seems. You know, the process of elimination with the other houses on the market.

Then the nest building begins. He brings the grass and the needles and the feathers and puts them into the box. She goes in, and presumably, starts arranging the nest. This goes on for several days. If he brings some piece of grass or weed that is not of her liking, she brings it right out again. If you're lucky enough to be outside and near when this is going on you can hear them twittering back and forth like an old married couple: "Be careful where you put that now." "I know." "That's not going to be soft enough." "Yes it will." "I told you not to put that there." "Okay, I'll get something else dear."

Then the egg laying starts. One egg a day. In and out. Taking turns checking on the eggs. Making sure they're still there. When she's done laying, they're both responsible for making sure that they're properly incubated. There's also egg rolling to be done - got to heat all the sides. He'll stand watch in a tree or on the fence nearby, waiting to hear her call when she needs a break.

Once the hatching starts, dad will feed mom and the chicks and the story will go on and should go on. But tonight I think they are out in the woods and the conversation will be somewhat different: "Why did you leave, I said I would be right back." "You were gone so long, I was worried." "I'm sorry." "I know - I'm just so sad." ................."I know."

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Hot Tamales

Years ago I had a boss who took a trip to Mexico and brought all the office staff back these very colorful paintings that were done on rolled up paper that looked like tree bark. There were flowers and birds painted in all of these very bright colors. I don't know whatever happened to that painting, but the flowers that I got from my current boss last week reminded me so much of that Mexican painting that I thought I would pull something together for Cinco de Mayo. I got some Hot Tamales candies and repackaged them in small cellophane bags and made a holder for them using the following ingredients:

Paper: Kraft, Black, Confetti White, Real Red, Whisper White
Stamps: Spring Solitude, Tart and Tangy, Lots of Thoughts
Ink: Chocolate Chip, Pink Passion
Markers: Real Red, Only Orange, YoYo Yellow, Green Galore, Orchid Opulence, Tempting Turquoise, Garden Green
Accessories: Key Tag, Boho Blossoms, and Large Oval Punches, Gelly Roll Glitter Pen, White Label, dimensionals

I made 10 of these and of course, I would take a picture of the only one where tamales is spelled wrong!!!! Go figure.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Floral Inspiration

Last Wednesday our school principal, my boss, gave my co-worker Carol and I these beautiful floral arrangements for Administrative Professionals Day. Aren't they beautiful? He did good!! They are the inspiration for my next project, which I'll show a glimpse of below.

I used the Spring Solitude hostess set to make these fronts for a special project I have coming up.
Here's a close-up. I don't know if you can see the sparkles on the flower centers, the birds wing, and the leaf veins - I used a gel pen for those highlights. Sorry to tease, but I don't have a finished product yet.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

What's a Greeting Card?

I was spending some time looking at blogs from Splitcoaststampers and came across a blog from a fellow New Jerseyan. She had this poem posted that I would like to share with you today.

What's A Greeting Card? by Anonymous

It's a little piece of paper
That tells someone how you care;
It can be a ray of sunshine --
It can be a wish or prayer.
It can simply say, "I love you"
Or just say, "I understand"
It can be a little visit,
Or the clasp of someone's hand.
It can be a word of comfort
When somebody's heart is sad,
It can be a smile or chuckle
Making someone's heart feel glad.
It can keep folks close together
Even though they're far apart
It can show someone you're thankful
From the bottom of your heart.
It can travel any distance
In all kinds of weather, too.
And it has the "magic something"
That some "big things" never do.
Yes, it's just a piece of paper
And it costs no big amount,
But it proves that old, old saying:
"It's the little things that count."

Just a little bragging - I was thrilled today to see that my card (Faux Seersucker) made the Favorites of the Week thread on SCS. I love going there on Sunday morning to catch some inspiration.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Close Encounters of the Bird Kind

This card is made with two retired SU sets: Chickenwire background and Best of Cluck. It's for a gentleman that my husband works with that just underwent major surgery. They have a running joke about mulch but I didn't think mulch was appropriate to add to a card, so instead opted for the raffia. The paper used is So Saffron, Confetti White, Choc. Chip, and Real Red. The Chickenwire was stamped in Real Read (stamped off once) and Choc. Chip, So Saffron and Real Red were used for the rest of the stamping. Red Gingham ribbon was used on the top. I didn't want it to look feminine but it needed something.

My husband (whose name I'm not allowed to mention) will add a handwritten note inside. I hope his buddy doesn't have a fear of fowl!
I want to caption the picture below "I Don't Want Your Stinkin' Squirrel". This morning my daughter came back from getting coffee before I left for work and told me that there was a family of geese trying to cross the road not far from our house. She said that she saw 3 green fuzzy baby geeslings and their parents on the side of the road and that they were probably going to get hit by a car. After discussing the proper terminology for baby geese (which we still don't agree on) I had to leave for work myself. As I approached the bend in the road, there they were, there were 5 babies and they did indeed look green and fuzzy the way the sunlight was shining on them. They were on the other side of the guardrail and the parents looked so frantic, trying to keep them from wandering out onto the street and into the path of a car. I wished I could stop and do something but there's nowhere to stop on that curve. So when I got home from work I got my camera and walked down the street to see if I could see anything (by the way, luckily there wasn't anything dead on the road so I was assuming that I would see them alive somewhere). Much to my surprise, across the brook there was this large black object. Upon getting closer I could see that it was a bird - a turkey vulture. I walked down a little farther but I couldn't get a clear picture of it so I turned around and started to walk home. Just about half way there I heard this hissing noise and saw this guy. Now I like birds, but I'm not sure that this guy was very friendly hissing at me and all. Turns out that he had something on the ground in front of him and was pecking at it. When he lifted it up I could see that it was a dead squirrel. I guess he didn't want to share his dinner because as I lifted my camera (which by now was in sleep mode and had to be awoken to take the picture) he grabbed the squirrel and flew away. I guess the picture would have been much clearer if that bush wasn't there cause the camera focuses on the closest object, but then again, if that bush wasn't there I might have found out how truly unfriendly he was.

Administrative Assistants Day

This little packet was delivered to 19 of my fellow secretaries and clerks in our school district. I couldn't send real chocolate dipped strawberries through the interoffice mail so I picked up these cute boxes of strawberry gum and added some Hershey Kisses - an improvisation I hope they'll enjoy.
The picture is a little blurry (finished them after midnight last night). This uses SU's Lots of Thoughts and Full of Life stamp sets. I'm thinking this would be good for Staff Appreciation Day also. The paper used for the clips and topper is Real Red, Bashful Blue, Old Olive, and WW. And the back of the clip has the flower cut from one of the Summer Picnic DSP sheets. You can see the clip better in a post below.

The Strawberry on the clip was stamped using Tart and Tangy and I just used Choc. Chip marker and then crystal effects to make it look like it was dipped in chocolate.

EDITED 4/23 2:00 PM: Don't put candy in the same bag with anything that you have used E6000 on that hasn't cured for several days. The candy picks up the smell and taste of the glue!!!

More Bluebirds

If you can imagine the whoosh that we heard as we were being warned not to get too close to the nest. We were quick. After we left the garden, they both came to check out the nest to make sure that we hadn't done any harm.
So, I think because we were that close and they know we did no harm, he wasn't as skittish when I tried to get closer to him.
Isn't he handsome in his blue coat and rust vest!!!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Simple Birthday

This simple birthday card is for someone, well, not so simple - I hope she appreciates it. I wish you could feel the texture of it. I ran the front panel through my paper crimper both ways and the paper feels almost like fabric and kind of looks like seersucker. I had colored the Pretty Petals background stamp with SU markers - Old Olive, Regal Rose, Real Read, Lovely Lilac, with Pumpkin Pie and Chocolate Chip for the butterflies. I did not ink up the butterflies for the background. I did them separately. On the stamp you only see half of a butterfly, but if you cut the halves out leaving the body intact, you can glue the bodies together to make a complete butterfly. The front panel is mounted first on Old Olive CS and then the card base of Regal Rose. It simply says "Happy Birthday" inside.

This project below is for tomorrow's Administrative Assistants Day. I have to finish them tonight. They're going to be packaged with some strawberry gum and candy kisses. I'll explain more about it when I get them all done.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Friday, April 18, 2008

Hostess Gifts

Well, after my presentation last night I gave each of the four event hostesses one of these baskets. There are fruit flavored tootsie rolls in the bags. This is the same basket that you'll see in this post .

The ladies loved the projects that we did - you can see them in this post . I started out by showing them a little wheeling magic by making one of these, filling it with a viola plant and giving it to the lady who had a birthday in April. I also had some of the red hat nuggets (see two posts below) for the ladies that belonged to the Red Hat Society.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Three New Posts Today

Just a head's up that there are 3 new posts below -

Red Hats

These little hat treats are cute...... and just a little time-consuming depending on how many you're making. They're very simple to make though. All you need is a 1 3/8" circle punch and a 3/4" circle punch. You punch 16 of the 3/4" circles and one of the larger one. Glue 5 of the smaller circles together and then use your crop-a-dile to punch a hole in the center of that stack. Glue that stack to the center of the larger circle. You then push a brad through the punched hole - that's what will attach the hat to the base paper (the white paper wrapped around the Hershey nugget). Then continue to glue/stack the rest of the 3/4" punches to complete the basic hat. You can decorate it as you like.

Note: Not an original idea of mine - I've saw it first on Wanda Pettijohn's blog. You should check out her blog - she's got some great ideas.

Another Note: If you have a Xyron sticker machine - use that instead of glue on all those little circles - goes much faster!!!!

Women's Club Projects

These are two of the "Simple Acts of Kindness" projects that I'll be doing with the Branchburg Women's Club at their monthly meeting tonight. They will be making the magnetic bookmark on the left and using a business size envelope to make the cute pouch on the right. This is my first "big" venue but I think the crowd (if there is a crowd) will be happy with what I've chosen to share. I'll post more about it later.

Bluebird Nest Update

Last Thursday we peeked inside the nestbox and this is what we saw. You can tell it's a bluebird nest because it is mainly made of grasses and needles - no hard twigs for mama bluebird.

They twitter to each other in the trees and always keep an eye on the box.

Yesterday we peeked again and it looks like a little Tiffany's gift was left, but yes, it is a bluebird egg. (Makes me wish we still had Cool Caribbean in the SU repetoire!)

Bluebirds usually have a clutch of 3-5 eggs so we'll be checking again in another couple of days to see what the progress is.

Mama won't start incubating the eggs until they're all laid - strangely enough. Then they'll hatch in about 12-14 days.

Oh, and it is a wives tale that the birds will abandon the nest if you bother it. We would never take the eggs out, but it is recommended to check the nest and the babies when they hatch for parasites, ants, and to keep the box wasp free.

Once they hatch, mom and dad will take turns fetching food and feeding the babes. They are also in charge of removing the egg shells to keep predators at bay and to remove the baby poop. Aren't you glad you only had to change diapers!

Bluebirds are mainly insect eaters and we have just received an order of 40,000, yes that's right, 40,000 mealworms to help supplement their diet. I was going to take a picture of them but thought better of it. While adults may eat earthworms, they are not good for baby blues, however, they all like mealworms and they may eat some small berries. The trick is putting them out for the blues and keeping the other birds away.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

It's Wheely Swiss Cheese

Happy National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day. Yes, it is. And this, well this is a very sad attempt at a swiss cheese interpretation but I think, not a bad looking card.

As you might have guessed from the heading - I used some Stampin' UP! wheels here.......and many punches.

On So Saffron CS I wheeled the Leaves a la Carte on the inside in Old Olive and Speckled was wheeled on the outside in More Mustard. Then I punched out 1/2", 3/4", and 1" circles from the front of the card. It looked a little plain, so I punched donuts, or frames if you want to call them that, out of Old Olive CS. It still looked a little plain so I punched some more 1/2" circles out of More Mustard CS and edged them with Chocolate Chip ink. I also edged the More Mustard scallop with Choc. Chip. The flower was put together using all those colors and the leaves are Old Olive ovals (say that 3 times fast!) folded in half first and then sent throught the paper crimper. The ribbons are 5/8" Choc. Chip. grosgrain and Old Olive Twill.

The sentiment in the upper right is from the BoHo Backgrounds stamp set - and to be honest, it's there because it's covering a smudge!

Now, if you're going to make a card like this the only drawback is that you can only write on the upper half of the inside unless you want to see your writing through the punched holes.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

A Bow Without A Knot is Still a Bow

I got the best compliment today. I brought two of the leftover cones into school today and a few people couldn't believe that they were made of paper.

You see the close up of the bow without a knot. You need something to hold it together, however, and in this case it was a brad. You could use a thinner piece of string or an eyelet, or you could even get out your needle and thread and sew it together with a button. Use a paper piercer or needle tool to make a hole in the ribbon and then put the brad in.

I didn't care for the picture in the previous post, and, well, I thought I'd try another color scheme (translation - I got some new paper in the mail today). So here you see the cone again stamped with the Swirly wheel but in More Mustard on So Saffron CS. The ribbon is More Mustard grosgrain - all Stampin' Up products.

Mr. Bluetiful

Can you find him? He almost looks like he's posing. I wish I could get closer. The blurr you see in front of the box below is Mr. Bluetiful - they decided to stay and there is a nest in that box. This was taken in the morning - he was bringing the Mrs. breakfast.
Oh how I wish I could have moved that branch!!!!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Taking a Cue From Nature

Picture this cone hanging on a door knob. Don't you think it would make a cute May Day basket? My husband and I took a quick trip to the Great Swamp Nursery on Sunday morning. While there I saw these violas and loved the color combination. It reminded me of Groovy Guava and Elegant Eggplant. Since we were having our downline meeting later that afternoon and I hadn't prepared anything else in advance, I put them in the cart and on the way home, tried to come up with a plan.

I knew that I had the Guava paper and the Eggplant ribbon and originally thought I would use the Baroque stamp set. Time was not on my side with that so I got out my Swirly wheel and used that on a half a sheet of 8 1/2 x 11 cardstock. I then rolled the cardstock into a cone shape and pierced a hole in the lower point to attach the ribbon with a brad. Don't be deceived, the ribbon is not in the center of the cone, it is on the side which gives it a little character I think. In the back you can see that the two sides don't meet. A hole was punched in each corner and the ribbon threaded through. I put the violas in small plastic treat bags and slipped them into the cone. I think they came out pretty good for a last minute idea.

Paper-azzi Downline Meeting

My upline Debbie is just so generous with her time and talent. We had a downline meeting yesterday and welcomed another member - Lisa - to our Paper-azzi group. Debbie kept us busy stamping while filling our heads with good information and our bodies with good treats.

The first thing we did was to decorate a glass candle with rub ons. They were cute and fun to do.

Our second project of the day was this cute little 3x3. One of the objectives of the meeting was to introduce Lisa to not only the rest of the group, but to some of the contents of her new Stampin' Up starter kit. Isn't this a great example for using those pastels!!! (It looks like I was a little heavy with the hand on the sentiment there, but I love it anyway.)

Next we put a cover on a little notepad that you can pick up at your grocery store. (I will be making many more of these I guarantee!!!)

And we used the new scallop notes - or at least a part of it - with the classy brass stencil for this tuck in card. Don't you just love the Afternoon Tea DSP - I know I do!
We did three other projects - I taught the group how to make my little basket (see previous post about Easter basket) using the Tart and Tangy Stamp set and DSP, Mae taught us the Dahlia Fold and showed us her beautiful samples, (which I forgot to take a picture of - picture me smacking myself in the head!), and Debbie had us make pin badges using old hotel room key cards and lots of glitter. Check her blog for the memorable vacation story she shared with us. I'll post my pictures of those finished projects soon.

And, as if that wasn't enough - she gave us all a beautiful coaster calendar that she had created. Thanks again, Deb!

$11 White Elephant

This is not a totally craft related post, however, there are a couple of pieces you will see here that will be used in crafts.

Saturday was our Rescue Squad's annual White Elephant sale. One of the few things that cause me to wake early on a Saturday morning. You see, you have to get there early to catch the good bargains. The doors were to open at 9 a.m. but there was a line forming much earlier than that. I was dropped off to stand in line about 8:55 while my husband ran an errand. I was a little panicked because he is my "box man" which means he follows me around and carries the box while I explore the tables. I grabbed my box as I was let in (there were about 30 people in front of me) and set out to find the table with the glassware. It was a banner year as you can see from the pictures. All of this was found for $11.

I have tea cups to add to my eclectic collection, serving pieces, little cordial glasses, a teapot which I think is either a bunch of grapes or a large blackberry. There was a boxed demitasse set and a little bowl I couldn't resist - see the cat on the outside, there's another one on the inside (it still had a price sticker on it for $2.99, I paid 25 cents).

Thankfully my "box man" showed up before my arm gave out. He dutifully fought through the mayhem behind me and I think that he has learned from experience not to ask questions anymore because he didn't even say "what are you going to do with that?" this time. Which reminds me that I forgot to take a picture of the copper wire tea pot that I will probably fill with flowers and put outside.
I was trying to juggle the box when I came upon the dishes - I just fell in love with the pattern. There are 4 dinner plates, 4 luncheon plates, and 6 bowls. They are stamped Arcopal France - I paid $2 for all the pieces. I later looked up the pattern on eBay and they are going for $5 per dish. I could try to sell them I guess, but I really like them. Someone on eBay had cups to match priced at 2 for $10 - ouch!

The pieces I will use for crafting are the plain little cups and saucers and the clear glass jar. I plan on using my Stampin' Up rub ons on them.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Spring Thank You

Picture Edited 4/8

I needed new thank you cards for some Easter and birthday gifts I recently received. Originally I was just going to use this set to make some 3 x 3's and played with some colors and came up with the stamped image. Then I thought that I should make the card larger. So here is the recipe for what you see:

All Stampin' Up products used.
Spring Solitude Hostess Set
Pale Plum, Elegant Eggplant & WW cardstock.
Ballet Blue Ink & Marker, Orchid Opulence, Old Olive, and Close to Cocoa Markers
VersaMark Ink with the Roller
Retired Bluebird 1/4" grosgrain

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

April Faux

As I was sitting here tonight I thought I should be doing something for April Fool's Day. I set out to fool the viewers by making an ugly card, grabbing at the first three colors of paper that I could and just throwing something together. But after looking at the finished product, I don't think it's ugly. It's not the most beautiful card in the world, but ugly - no. This was actually the fastest card that I have put together in a long time - and, drum roll here - it's not CASEd!!!!

I didn't even think about it until afterwards that I had chosen to use a technique on this card that would qualify as "fooling the eye" - thus the faux, or in this case, faux tile. You can see the scored lines in the card stock that represent tiles.

Here's the recipe (all SU products):
Cardstock - Basic Gray, Sage Shadow, Taken with Teal, Watercolor
Ink - Black Stazon
Stamps - Embrace Life
White Taffeta, Ice Brad, Watercolor crayons (Taken with Teal and More Mustard)
Word Window Punch, Aqua Painter, VersaMark Pen

And a close up of the watercolored flower image.

Let me know what you think of the color combination - does it work?