Sunday, December 30, 2007

Sunday Craft Update - December 30

OK, so Christmas has passed and I'm still working on the 2007 Christmas ornament for Jill, but I'm getting there .... the stitching is all done and I have just the finishing to do. In the meantime, Julia asked for a new scarf and I did a quick 2-hour crochet scarf in pink and white to match her coat. I also started knitting socks this week, using my new Christmas sock yarn from Laura. Our sock-yarn exchange was so successful last Christmas that we decided to do it again this year.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Can't Do This with Photoshop

Julia is almost a teenager, and she must be very advanced for her age, as we've been putting up with the teenage attitude for a good long time now. However, when Mom gets a snarky comment, she can get her revenge by making a layout out of it!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Note to Self

Kate has been writing daily notes to herself. Tonight, after a wonderfully fun and relaxing Christmas day for all of us, Todd found her writing, "Yesterday was the best day ever!" When he asked her whether she was referring to yesterday, Christmas Eve, she said, "No. This is tomorrow's note." Kate has always been good at planning ahead!

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to all! We had a lovely Christmas morning with Nana, Opa and Uncle Jamie. Santa found our house, ate the cookies Kate left for him, and dropped off lots of presents for everybody. We talked to all our family members in England (Tim, Kimberly, Alexandra, Lily-Ann and Teaghen), Singapore (Joe, Jill, Martin and Oliver) and Montreal (my Mom and Dad).

My family was very generous to me and this photo was taken with my brand new Canon PowerShot. Finally, I have a camera that I can fit into my purse, so I won't have any more of those "Darn, I wish I had my camera!" moments.

I hope all of you, whether you celebrate Christmas or not, are enjoying your family time together, as we are here at home today.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Club Competition

Saturday was the local skating club's annual competition. This competition is meant to be inclusive and all club members are invited to participate, even if they're, like our kids, not normally in a competitive stream.

This was Kate's first club competition. Because she started the StarSkate program so recently, we hadn't expected her to participate, but her coach taught her a short solo and encouraged her to register. This resulted in a frantic, last-minute sewing session which my regular blog readers heard me whine about in a previous post. Kate didn't place in the top three in her group of seven, but we were very proud that she managed to perform her first solo with no major mistakes. She also looked pretty cute in her new dress, even if I do say so myself!

Julia, also in a brand new dress, skated a bit later in the afternoon. She did a terrific job, and we were thrilled that she made it onto the podium! She came in third in her group of seven, and the photo above shows her at the medal ceremony afterwards. Coincidentally, one of her good friends was at an adjacent rink, watching her brother's hockey game, and so Julia had extra applause and cheers when she got her medal.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

An Ornament from Jill

I've not made much progress on needlework projects this past week, so instead of the usual Sunday Craft Update, I'll post a photo of the gorgeous ornament I received from Jill. The photo doesn't do it justice. In real life, the beads are very sparkly and you can see the subtle shading in the hand-dyed linen. When we opened the package, Kate wanted to put it up on the tree right away and she found a very special place for it where it would be seen by everyone who passed by!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Winter Wonderland

There's a challenge on the Circle of Scrapping Friends blog to post your favourite Christmas carol and/or do a layout based on one. Well, I wouldn't say "Winter Wonderland" is my favourite Christmas song (maybe Pavarotti's rendition of "O Holy Night" would be high on my list), but I do hear it a lot around the house, especially from Kate. Coincidentally, had these great freebies and I had a bunch of photos from last weekend's snowstorm.

Layout credits: Tree brush from "Holiday Trees No. 7 Brushes-n-Stamps", text from "Worth Repeating Holiday Brushes-n-Stamps", paper from "Winter Wonderland Paper Pack", all by Katie Pertiet, "Edition" font from

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Word Freak

I recently finished Stefan Fatsis's Word Freak: Heartbreak, Triumph, Genius, and Obsession in the World of Competitive Scrabble, which a co-worker had lent me. You don't have to be a Scrabble player to enjoy the book, and indeed it has gotten good reviews outside the Scrabble world. However, it helps if you tend to be obsessive about something ... anything. Otherwise, you won't see the point.

The book is, on the surface, about competitive Scrabble, but really it's an examination of a subculture and obsessive people. Many years ago, I was more deeply involved in this subculture. Then, "real life" (kids, jobs, etc.) got in the way and I drifted out of it. It scares me a little to know that people described in Fatsis's book as "borderline pathological" seemed normal ... well, not terribly abnormal at any rate ... when I ran across them at Scrabble tournaments.

Reading this book has made me realize how much I miss playing Scrabble with real people sitting across from me and spending entire tournament days playing one exhausting and thrilling game after another. It's got me thinking that I need to dig out my old word lists, learn the new OSPD 4 (Official Scrabble Players Dictionary, Fourth Edition, for my non-playing blog readers), and practice tracking tiles again. But then those real-life things start demanding my attention, and the index cards covered with 3-letter words get put aside for a while longer.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Sunday Craft Update -- December 16

I spent the entire week sewing skating dresses for the kids' club competition (an informal annual fun competition for the local members), which will be held next weekend. It took me a few hours to finish Julia's dress, as she asked for a simple design that I'd used in previous years. Making Kate's dress took the rest of the week.

First, the design Kate chose required a zipper. I've not yet mastered the art of applying zippers to lycra. If anyone has advice on how to make this easier, other than baste, baste and baste some more, please let me know. The pattern instructions suggested using adhesive tape to stabilize the fabric. Bad idea, at least with the type of tape I used.

Second, those of you who have met Kate know how particular she is about things. Skating dresses are no exception. She fussed about the style, the colour, the embellishments ("It's just too plain, Mommy!"), and everything else except, ironically, the zipper. When I suggested, as calmly as I could, that she wear her old skating dress instead of putting us both through this frustration, her reply was, "My skating coach says it's illegal to participate in the competition with an old dress." I'm sure her coach didn't put it quite that way, but she does have a new dress now and won't risk being arrested as she steps on the ice.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

A New Martin Layout

I realized it was time to do another scrapbook layout of my newest nephew, Martin. I stole this photo of him at two months from Joe and Jill's Web site. Got inspiration for the title after spotting Kernighan & Ritchie on my shelf.

Layout credits: Template from "Paper Reveals Layered Templates", blue paper from "Mail Room No. 1 Paper Pack", frame from "Decoupaged Photo Frames No. 4", and alphabet from "Messy Stamped Alpha No. 2 Brushes", all by Katie Pertiet. Corner paper from "The Grunge Factor, Just the Solids Ma'am" by Dana Zarling. All materials from

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Sunday Craft Update -- December 9

Did more Photoshop layouts this week, like this one of Julia that I'm posting just for fun. I'm still working on the Christmas ornament for Jill. It's almost done, though I've given up hope of getting it to Singapore by Christmas. (Sorry, Jill!) I also finished sewing Julia's new skating dress today. Spent more time cursing at the serger than I'd care to admit.

Layout credits: Papers from "The Grunge Factor Just the Solids Ma'am" by Dana Zarling. Frames from "Snap Frames Brushes-n-Stamps" and title from "Snap Frame Alpha", both by Katie Pertiet. Labels from Dec. 2, 2007 Ad Freebie by Lynn Grieveson. All materials from

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Recital Videos

Jill asked, in a comment to the last blog post, whether we had any videos of Kate playing her violin. Luddites that we are, we've not gotten around to purchasing a video camera. However, our friend Chris took a video of Kate at her last recital and he put it up on YouTube here. There is also a video of Chris's very talented daughter Sara that you can find here. Sara is a good friend of Julia's and she also has the same violin teacher as Kate.

In other concert news, we attended Kate's big orchestra concert today, in the company of her Opa and Nana who came to town especially to see the performance. Her group, the junior division, played well, and we were all very proud to see her up on the big stage! The rest of the concert was terrific and included performances from the intermediate and senior-level orchestras. Sara played too, as she is part of the intermediate strings group. Now, Kate gets a nice long break from rehearsals and concerts until they start up again in January.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Violin Shopping

It's Christmas concert season. Kate played in group concerts Saturday and Sunday and is preparing for the big youth orchestra concert this coming Saturday. She is in the junior division which includes a good number of first-timers.

Kate was ready for a new violin and we'd planned to go shopping after all the concerts were over. That way, she'd get the Christmas break to get used to the larger violin. However, she was so eager to get her new instrument that we decided to purchase it early but keep the smaller one another couple of weeks.

On Saturday, after her strings school's Christmas concert, we went to the violin shop with her teacher Martha. It took us an hour to find the right violin. Kate had definite ideas about which ones sounded good and which didn't, and fortunately, her teacher approved of her choice. A good chunk of time was spent on choosing the bow. Todd likened it to the Harry Potter idea of the wand choosing the master. Kate wasn't satisfied until she found one that gave the perfect sound and felt good in her hands.

Kate was able to play all her songs on her new one-quarter-sized violin right away. So we decided not to keep the old one any longer. Kate gave the little one-tenth-sized violin a kiss and said goodbye to it. It had a beautiful sound and served her well for her first two years of violin playing, but it is wonderful to have the louder and stronger sound from the new one.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Sunday Craft Update -- December 2

I've been playing with Photoshop a lot this week. I won't post all the layouts here but you can see them in my scrapbook gallery. However, since it's Sunday Craft Update, I'll show one about a craft I haven't done in a while. I finished these a few years ago and have not had the urge to make another Winnie-the-Pooh character since. I also worked on Jill's Christmas ornament this week, and it's about two-thirds finished.

Layout credits: Papers from "Mail Room No. 1 Paper Pack" and "Notebook Paper Pack". Frame from "Doodled-n-Curled Photo Frames". Alphabet from "Messy Stamped Alpha No. 2 Brushes". All items by Katie Pertiet,

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Kate and Beethoven

This week's dare from Circle of Scrapping Friends, proposed by guest designer Tammy Bingeman, is to use three different patterned papers from three different companies. I decided to use this photo I took of Kate with her new Webkinz, Beethoven, a couple of months ago (when there wasn't any snow on our patio).

Papers from "Carnival Collaboration Kit" (, "Festa Kit" by Jessica Sprague, and "Flat Jacks Frolic Kit" by Katie Pertiet ( Alphabet from "Messy Stamped Alpha No. 2. Brushes" by Katie Pertiet.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Winter's Coming

The past few days have been cold, windy, icy and generally unpleasant. Luckily, I have pictures like this one of Kate to remind me that winter is not all that bad. This photo was taken by Todd a few years ago but Kate is still eager to help us shovel whenever there's a snowfall.

Layout credits: Papers and snowflakes from "Winter Wonderland Paper Pack". Frame from "Frostbitten Frames Brushes-n-Stamps". All items, including grungy alphabet, by Katie Pertiet,

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A Weekend Away

I can think of 21, maybe 22, things I'd rather do than go shopping in a mall. I do the majority of my shopping on-line these days, thus avoiding the Musak and aggressive sales clerks. However, Julia had been asking for a shopping trip to Toronto and the thought of going away for the weekend was rather appealing.

So we headed to Toronto on Saturday for our shopping weekend. However, the idea of going anywhere for the sole purpose of shopping is so offensive to me that I insisted the trip include a cultural component. Thus, we paid a visit to the ROM and saw, among other things, a very impressive glass paperweight exhibit and a collection of antique typewriters . Of course, walking down Queen Street is in itself a cultural experience.

Julia doesn't like the big city much. She's an outdoors girl (didn't get my urban genes obviously) . However, she loved the Eaton Centre and took us to all her favourite stores. Against my better judgement, I even bought a couple of items, on her recommendation, from a store I'd normally never enter. I fell for the "You're not too old to wear this, Mom" line, knowing full well that Julia was really looking to expand her borrowing options. On the other hand, she also convinced Todd to get some trendy items, and there's no chance she'll be able to borrow any of those. Above is a photo of Julia modelling some of her new purchases. Kate loved shopping also (scary thought, that ...) and we found her several nice new items too.

We had a terrific sushi dinner, a passable dim sum (we're spoiled by the Furama in Montreal), and enjoyable long walks through the downtown. It made me realize how much I miss the variety of people, buildings, sights and sounds in a big city, though I'm happy at this time in my life not to live there.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Julia: Then and Now

This week's dare from Circle of Scrapping Friends is to use wallet-sized photos and at least three tags in a layout. This challenge inspired me to finally organize all the kids' leftover school photos and scan them into my computer. Julia is reluctant to have her photo taken or displayed these days but didn't seem totally horrified when I told her I was going to post this layout on my blog.

For this layout, I used papers from June 24, 2007 Web Challenge Freebie by Kellie Mize. For the "tags", I used date tabs from the "Tuckables No. 02" Kit by Kellie Mize. I also added a grunge overlay by Katie Pertiet. All materials are from

Sunday Craft Update -- November 25

I worked on Todd's sweater this week. After the marathon knitting sessions with the red and gold yarn, it was nice to knit with some other colours. (As you've probably guessed, I am not making a Gryffindor sweater for Todd.) I'm also making good progress on the Christmas ornament for Jill, though I have fears it will not get to Singapore in time for Christmas. The final news is that I was very pleased to have received a letter from St John Ambulance thanking me for the three tea cosies I sent to England, even if they didn't make it onto the Tea Cosy of the Week page.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Lady Writer

I'm been listening to old Dire Straits tunes in the car, especially Lady Writer. Don't know why I like that one so much. It's not their most popular. It doesn't have the best lyrics or melody. But something appeals to me. Maybe it's that distinctively melancholy Mark Knopfler feel to the song or the nod to Bob Dylan when he drawls, "Plus your mother was a jaaaazz sing-ah." Maybe it's the guitar solos. (I'll bet Todd never thought I'd say this.) Anyhow, here are my top 5 Dire Straits songs:
  • Lady Writer
  • Your Latest Trick
  • Tunnel of Love
  • Why Worry
  • Romeo and Juliet

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Violin Recital

Kate participated in her string school's Autumn Recital on Sunday. She played very well the Lully Gavotte by Marin Marais, from Suzuki Book 2, and even added a tiny bit of vibrato!

We all went out for dinner afterwards to celebrate, though the real reward, as far as Kate's concerned, is not having to practice that piece anymore.

This photo was actually taken a couple of months ago by Todd at the school's opening play-in, where all the students played selections from the Suzuki repertoire together.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Sunday Craft Update -- November 18

I finally used up all the Gryffindor yarn. I made a hat and mittens for Kate, and a little sweater for her Webkinz. I had to do some reverse engineering based on a Webkinz sweater I saw at the mall, but there was no way I was going to pay $12.99 for something I can make with a dollar's worth of scrap yarn. (This mentality comes from living for two decades with a very practical engineer.) Actually, I do have a very little bit of red and gold yarn left, and Kate asked for a toque for her Webkinz. We'll see. I have to first figure out how to stuff the ears in.

In other news, my INTJ layout got a mention in the November 9 Weekly Digest on the Creating Keepsakes blog. Most of you probably have no clue what this is, but for scrapbookers (those who bother to upload to on-line galleries anyhow), this is a reasonably nice honour.

I also took the girls to a friend's annual card-making party for our little scrapbooking circle. We had a great time, ate good food, participated in a card exchange and came home with a lovely assortment of holiday cards.

Friday, November 16, 2007

A New Beginning

This week's dare at Circle of Scrapping Friends, from guest designer Renee McCloskey, is to do a layout on someone you remember. This photo is one of the few I have of my parents and grandparents together.

Layout credits: Paper from "Monoblendz Paperie Origins" kit by Anna Aspnes. Flowers (recoloured) from "Silk Road" kit by Lynn Grieveson. Journaling lines from "Ledger Grids" kit and brush around photo from "On the Edge Flourishes No. 2" kit, both by Katie Pertiet. Brush from "A la Mode" kit by MaryAnn Wise. All products from

Thursday, November 15, 2007

An Experiment

I'm experimenting with creating my own digital papers and embellishments. Here's the first attempt, consisting of four papers, a striped ribbon and "frosted" snowflakes. Not quite as nice as the beautiful kits from, but I was able to match the papers to the girls' snowsuits. And I was even willing to admit how pathetic I am at skiing.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Word Lists

Last week's 30-minute challenge in Jessica Sprague's Photoshop course was to do a layout on some "geeky little secret". Since Scrabble has been on my mind lately, I did one on studying word lists. Well, this isn't really a secret, though it's not something I bring up in conversation with normal folk ... and I really don't study word lists much anymore ... but I should. (Speaking of Scrabble, Nigel Richards of New Zealand won the World Championship.)

Here are the layout credits. Background paper is from the "MonoBlendz Paperie" kit by Anna Aspnes and the patterned papers are from the 2007/10/13 Ad Challenge freebie by Andrea Victoria, both from Word list (which doesn't include the new OSPD4 words) is from

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Sunday Craft Update -- November 11

St John Ambulance is holding their BIG Tea Cosy event and asking knitters to send donated tea cosies. They are hoping to collect 5000 by November 30. So I spent the last couple of weeks knitting three cosies using the free pattern from their Web site and I sent them off to England a few days ago. I used the yarns left over from Kate's Gryffindor hat-and-mittens set, which I'll show in a future blog post. The first cosy is in the Gryffindor colours. The other two each have a happy face on the front, and a grumpy or winking face on the back. Couples can choose the orientation of their teapot on the breakfast table depending on who is the grumpier person in the mornings.

Friday, November 9, 2007

World Scrabble Championship

The World Scrabble Championship has started. This tournament has been held every two years since 1991 and this year it is in Mumbai. Canada has an impressive roster containing three former world champions. You can see current standings and live coverage of selected games at the WSC Web site.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

New Computer Background

This week's dare from Circle of Scrapping Friends is to create a layout of an unusual size, something different from the standard 12"x12" size that most scrapbookers use. I decided to do a 1280 pixels by 1050 pixels layout, as I thought it was time for a new background on my computer monitor. All materials are from Lynn Grieveson's "Silk Road" kit, available at

Tuesday, November 6, 2007


So what is your Myers-Briggs type? You can do a self-test at this site. I won't vouch for its reliability, but there are worse ways to spend 10 minutes than answering 72 binary-valued questions about yourself.

This test tells me I am an INTJ (Introvert- iNtuitive-Thinking-Judging), and a number of other Web sites tell me what personality traits I ought to have as a consequence. All this self-knowledge led to a new scrapbook layout, done in response to a challenge given in Jessica Sprague's Photoshop course. The layout uses papers from the "Carnival Collaboration Kit" from, a circle template from Jessica Sprague and notepaper from Katie Pertiet.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Happy Birthday to Joe

It's my little brother's birthday today! Happy Birthday, Joe! I hope Joe won't curse me too loudly for posting this old photo from 35 years ago, in celebration of this special day. I decided to convert the photo to a nice warm sepia tone, to hide the fact that Joe was wearing a polyester burgundy suit that clashed terribly with my bright red tights.

If you would like to leave birthday greetings, you can do it here.

Sunday Craft Update -- November 3

Made lots of progress on all my knitting projects this week. Even worked on Todd's sweater, but instead of just uploading a progress pic, why not make a layout about it? I did this for a 30-minute challenge given in Jessica Sprague's Photoshop course. It actually took me 45 minutes from taking the first photo to saving the final version of the layout. Jessica posted the challenge on her blog, so you can try it for yourself if you like the idea of doing something totally frivolous under an insane amount of time pressure. For this layout, I used a freebie paper pack from Katie Pertiet at and a brush from the "Circle of Life Brush Set" by Mary Ann Wise, also from DesignerDigitals.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Using large pictures in a layout

This week's dare at Circle of Scrapping Friends is to use a large picture in a layout. So I figured I'd go big and cover the entire layout. This is one thing I love about digital scrapbooking -- I can make the photos any size I like.

It was a bit tricky finding a photo with "whitespace" in the right areas but I found this one from our summer vacation in England. I used a "grungy" overlay and the "Snap Frame Alphabet", both from Katie Pertiet at The brush is a freebie I got from Jessica Sprague's Up and Running with Photoshop course.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Vote for Pedro

We had two witches and Napoleon Dynamite at our house today. Todd decided to dress up for the Halloween rounds this year. Kate thought this was a great idea but Julia was appalled by the fact that some of her schoolmates actually recognized him. Todd graciously offered to lend me the costume but that wig just doesn't go with my colouring.

Our street was packed this year, thanks to the good weather and the neighbours down the street who, every year, set up an amazingly elaborate and spooky haunted house for all the kids to enjoy. Not having prepared adequately, I had to shamefacedly close our doors at 7:30pm, as we'd run out of candy after receiving over 150 trick-or-treaters. I really enjoyed seeing all the children's costumes. Kudos to the kid who dressed as a very realistic box of popcorn!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Sunday Craft Update -- October 28

If you've been following my posts, you'll know that I spent most of the week learning new digital scrapbooking techniques. Here are two more layouts I'd created. I also went to a Creative Memories event and finished 4 more layouts for the "Oliver's First Year" scrapbook I hope to give to Joe and Jill before Oliver goes off to university. I did continue with my knitting projects this week as well, but there's no progress on any one project significant enough to mention.

The first layout, featuring Julia and my brother Joe at the Ardastra Gardens in Nassau, uses the "Carnival Collaboration Kit" from The second layout was done for a 30-minute challenge given by Jessica Sprague: take a photo and create a layout on the theme "Today". Materials are from Kelly Mize's "One Eighty" kit from

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Pretty in Pink

This week's dare from Circle of Scrapping Friends is to create a layout that uses paint or a digital brush. In addition, we were asked to use pink on the layout because October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month (a great time for me to think of my friend Chantelle, breast cancer survivor and talented jewelery designer). This layout uses a photo taken by Todd when we visited Joe and Jill in Nassau several years ago. We were at the wonderful Ardastra Gardens.

In this layout, I used the recolouring technique I learned in Jessica Sprague's Now We're Rocking with Photoshop course. So I managed to "paint", use a digital brush (for the hearts embellishment), and use pink for both the papers and the title! Here are the credits. Paper: "Beautiful You" kit by Jessica Sprague. Journaling tag: "Echoes of Asia" kit by Jessica Sprague. Title: "Snap Frame Alphabet" by Katie Pertiet ( Brush: "Valentastic Valentine Brushes" by Jason Gaylor (

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Tea for Two

I've started Jessica Sprague's new intermediate-level course for digital scrapbookers, "Now We're Rocking with Photoshop", and here is the Assignment 1 layout. The photo is from our visit a few years ago to the Children's Museum in Ottawa. I love that museum! You've got to go if you have young kids!

In Assignment 1, we learned how to use an adjustment layer to create a sepia-toned image over the original one and to use the eraser tool to remove parts of the overlay, thus "recolouring" the image. The layout design is by Jessica Sprague and uses lots of elements, including a distressed-edge overlay. I just can't do "grungy" without copying someone else's layout. Fortunately, Jessica does grungy so well.

Here are the other credits. Background and journalling papers and grungy-edged frame: Trish Jones. Torn paper template: Katie Pertiet. Alphabet: Meredith Fenwick. Heart embellishment: Jessica Sprague. Valentine brushes: Jason Gaylor.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Paulina Knits!

I got a nice surprise in the mail today. It was the Holiday 2007 issue of Vogue Knitting, with the headline "Paulina knits" prominently displayed on the front cover. I've been faithfully buying this magazine for the past 20 years, so it's about time they put my name on the cover! OK, so they're talking about the other famous Paulina, but I still think this cover deserves to be framed and displayed in my craft room.

A Snapshot of the Day

A snapshot of yesterday, to be precise:
  • What I worked on: code and documentation (ick)
  • What I listened to on my iPod: Vivaldi, Maroon 5
  • What I listened to in my car: High School Musical 2 soundtrack (not by choice)
  • What I ate: leftovers from the terrific dinner that Todd, Kate and Julia made on Sunday
  • What I saw while surfing the Web: a Globe and Mail article on how business execs meditate
  • What I did, very reluctantly: laundry and dishes
  • What I read: a chapter from Stefan Fatsis's Word Freaks
  • What I played with: Photoshop, for Jessica Sprague's new digi-scrapping course

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Sunday Craft Update -- Oct. 21

Here finally is a photo of my new sweater, made with Needful Yarn's Kabir. Never eager to have my photo taken, I asked Kate to model it which she did willingly. Fortunately, she is way too small to wear it, and Julia is way too cool to wear it, so I get to keep it all to myself.

In other news, I put a few stitches into my Christmas exchange ornament for Jill and continued working on socks for Kate.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

No-Faves Dare

There were actually two dares posted at the Circle of Scrapping Friends blog this week, one for paper scrappers and one for digi-scrappers. Never shying from a challenge (not from a scrapbooking one, anyhow), I decided to do both and here is the result. Most years, we try to make it to the Festival International de Jazz in Montreal. Todd took these photos at the stupendous kids' show we attended in 2003. Yes, the pianist really did play "Take Five" with his hands crossed behind his head.

The challenge from Kim was, "I dare you not to use your faves": don't use your favourite paper product, embellishment or tool. My digital take on this was to forbid the following: any Designer Digitals product, any brushes (equivalent to stamps for paper scrappers), and the eyedropper tool (used for picking out colours from existing elements) in Photoshop. This was a good challenge as it made me search out some new digital supplies. The paper and embellishments for this layout came from the "Sun Porch" kit by Amy Teets, available at Shabby Princess.

Now Kelly also proposed a dare, which was to try a new digital technique. I used one that I learned from the October/November 2007 issue of Digital Scrapbooking magazine. The technique is how to make a title out of patterned paper, and I made the word "Jazz" from a paper in the "Sun Porch" kit. There's more detail given in the magazine (which I highly recommend) but here's my quick summary:
  • Open your paper in a layer, and then create a title in black in another layer.
  • Select your title layer while pressing on the control key.
  • With the title outline still selected, click on your paper layer. Then go to Select->Inverse and then Edit->Cut to cut away the paper around the title.
  • Finally, delete the original title in black and you'll be left with the one in the patterned paper.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Another Season of Skating

The girls had started the new skating season in September, but the adult session only started last week. I am again taking semi-private lessons once a week with my usual coach, who is infinitely patient. She teaches all types of skaters but specializes in special-needs students and adults. Is there a connection there? Hmmm ....

Julia is well beyond me. She is working on her fourth dance pattern and will likely attempt the test before the year's out. However, it was a bit of a shock to realize that even little Kate can do some things better than I can. I can do a not-so-pretty (half-revolution) waltz jump and I can almost make a full revolution on a clumsily-executed toe loop, but frankly, jumps are hard. Not technically hard, just psychologically hard. Kate still has much to learn in terms of technique, but hopping around the ice on one foot seems to be no big deal to her.

So I have a few modest goals for this season: don't get any major injuries, don't be an embarrassment to my kids on the ice, and oh yeah ... do a one-fit spin with at least three revolutions. I should be able to accomplish two of the three.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Sunday Craft Update -- October 14

Jill posted this super photo of Oliver on her blog. So of course I had to create a layout. The design was scraplifted from a designer named Elena, and the layout was done for the Oct. 13 Saturday Scraplift Challenge at Credits: Papers and tag from Lynn Grieveson's 09/23/2007 Ad Freebie kit, and alphabet by Katie Pertiet, all from

My big achievement with respect to this layout was learning how to create "torn paper" digitally. I used the instructions in this tutorial. Do you think it looks realistic enough?

In other craft news, I finished knitting my sweater but haven't had a chance to take a photo yet. That will be in next week's update.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Reasons to be Thankful

I did this layout for Dare #3 from Circle of Scrapping Friends. Since we'd just celebrated Canadian Thanksgiving, the dare asks that we do a layout on four things for which we're thankful. To read the journaling more easily, just click on the photo to get a larger view. The dare came at a good time, as I've been getting very stressed over work deadlines, mounting laundry and paperwork at home and other such things. It's good to step back and get some perspective.

Here are the credits. Software: Photoshop Elements 5.0. Paper from 06/24/07 Web Challenge by Kellie Mize, brush from "Circle of Life" set by Mary Ann Wise, title tag from 08/26/07 Ad Challenge by Dana Zarling, all from Journaling tags by Jessica Sprague.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Rush Knitting Bag

Todd went to a Rush concert last month and brought home a souvenir for me. He figured this would make a good knitting bag. Really. Such a thoughtful guy. Actually, it does make a good knitting bag. I didn't have the nerve to take it with me to Kate's orchestra practice earlier in the week. Somehow, it didn't seem to fit in with the crowd. However, I proudly sat in the arena today during Kate's skating lesson, with the Rush bag perched on the bench next to me.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Remembering Pavarotti

I still feel sad when I think of Luciano Pavarotti's death a month ago. So today I bought a few of his greatest hits for my iPod. (I also had to download a Billy Talent song to offset all that lushness.) I loved Paul Pott's rendition of "Nessun Dorma" from Turandot and am grateful to Mark for introducing me to this in his blog post, but as far as I'm concerned, Pavarotti owns "Nessun Dorma". This is his signature piece. I also love "Torna a Surriento". My Dad used to whistle this all the time as he worked in the restaurant kitchen when I was a kid. I didn't know what it was called until I bought The Three Tenors CD in my twenties. I finally added "La Donna e Mobile" from Rigoletto and "Recondita Armonia" from Tosca to round things out. If there are any Pavarotti fans out there, feel free to suggest other songs I should add to my little iPod collection. Pavarotti had said, "A life in music is a life beautifully spent," and I would wholeheartedly agree.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Digital vs. Traditional Scrapbooking

I was asked in a comment, "Can you please explain to me this digital scrapbooking?" Basically, digital scrapbooking is creating a "scrapbook page" entirely on the computer, typically using graphic software like Photoshop. Of course, using software to create layouts is nothing new. I remember spending a summer work-term as a student doing "Desktop Publishing" with PageMaker in the late eighties.

What makes digital scrapbooking different is that it is done mainly by regular people, not professional photographers or graphic designers. The digital scrapbooker's goals are the same as those of traditional scrapbookers: to preserve memories and do it in a fun and creative way. Digital scrapbookers use the same language too, so we have digital "papers", "ribbons", "stamps", "brads", and so on, even though they're really just JPG and PNG files. (One can similarly make the argument that the "real" scrapbooking materials are just a bunch of molecules moving around together.)

It will be interesting to see how the digital and traditional scrapbooking industries develop. The traditional scrapbooking industry has really boomed over the past decade. There are now three scrapbooking stores within a 15-minute drive of my house, compared to one lonely specialty yarn store (which I greatly prize). However, digital scrapbooking is growing rapidly, to the extent that there seems to be a bit of a backlash. Clearly, its rise is hurting the traditional industry. I doubt paper scrapbooking will ever die out, but many people are "hybrid" scrapbookers these days, using a combination of paper and digital elements. I confess I'm quite drawn to digital scrapbooking ... but I really don't need another reason to spend more hours on my computer.

Sunday Craft Update -- October 7

Not much progress on anything this week, except that I finished the second sleeve on my sweater. So now it's on to the blocking, sewing and final knitting of the neckband ... all the finishing work that I detest. With any luck, I'll have a photo to show by next Sunday.

Saturday, October 6, 2007


Here are Julia and Todd with the Beatles T-shirts they'd picked up at the Beatles Shop in London. Beatlemania is alive and well!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Thoughts on Whitespace

Another dare has been posted on the Circle of Scrapping Friends blog: create a layout with lots of whitespace. So here is my response, created with Photoshop Elements using digital papers by Lynn Grieveson from the Sept. 23 Ad Freebie at Designer Digitals. The photos were taken by Todd on our trip to China.

Using lots of whitespace has never been a problem for me. Indeed, I tend to leave too much, which makes some of my layouts look half finished. When I was in high-school, I went to a workshop on how to create yearbook layouts. Three rules were repeated over and over: line up photos and text blocks, keep internal margins consistent and leave plenty of whitespace around the edges.

This training in my formative years has made it impossible for me to do anything else. I greatly admire those scrappers who can use tons of colours, add all sorts of wacky embellishments, put photos down in random positions, doodle, paint, and somehow make it all work. I really wish I could create like that, but I can't. I wouldn't even know how to start. So there it is ... but I guess it's these differences in style that make the hobby so interesting!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Woody Allen's Manhattan

Todd and I watched Woody Allen's film, Manhattan, on Saturday night. Most people I know either hate Woody Allen or love him. I belong to the latter category. It's true that, if you consider his personal rather than professional life, he's not exactly a role model, but I believe that the art stands on its own merit. At one time in my life, Hemingway was my favourite novelist, and he was known as a rather unpleasant person.

Manhattan stars Diane Keaton and Mariel Hemingway (there's that Hemingway connection again) as Allen's character's love interests. I don't understand why Allen's films aren't more popular with men. In them, the whiny, neurotic, scrawny middle-aged man always gets involved with the most beautiful women. Interestingly, the film deals with the complexities of the relationship between 42-year-old Isaac (Allen) and 17-year-old Tracy (Hemingway), foreshadowing Allen's own relationship with Soon-Yi Previn some years later.

Apart from Allen's insightful and hilarious view into relationships, I loved this movie because it was just plain gorgeous. Shot in black-and-white and set to Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, it showed the beauty of a vibrant city full of diversity. Of course, it didn't match much my own recollections of Manhattan, which I saw as a child while visiting my aunt. This tells me it's high time for another trip to New York City so that I can discover Woody Allen's Manhattan.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

My Favourite Layout

The first "dare" has been posted on the Circle of Scrapping Friends blog asking for everyone's favourite layout. I made this layout a year ago, using Basic Grey and Dream Street papers and Quickutz raindrop die cuts. This is my favourite layout simply because I love the photos and I was very pleased to find papers that enhanced them so well. The photos were taken by Todd, of course. He thinks he isn't a good photographer, but out of the many photos he takes, there are frequently some really stunning ones.

Sunday Craft Update -- September 30

Didn't get much done this week, except for a couple of hours on my cross-stitch projects. However, I finally got Julia to model the short socks I made for her with Plymouth's Sockotta yarn. This is a cotton/rayon/wool blend available in lots of bright colours.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

News from the Blogs

A few interesting items from the blogs I read:
  • Todd and Mark have almost finished their amp. They've been doing the final tasks in our basement, including covering it with a cool material called tolex. I'll be the first to admit I'm not really into amps, but this creation truly is a thing of beauty.
  • Laura has started blogging! She wrote about an excursion with shopping expert Chantelle.
  • Kirsten has ventured into digital scrapbooking. Her first few layouts are on her blog and they are gorgeous!
  • Jill continues to write interesting things about Singapore, and we're all awaiting another update from Joe.
  • There's a new blog called Circle of Scrapping Friends devoted to combined digital and traditional scrapbooking. This one was started by several local scrappers and I'm looking forward to trying some of their challenges.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Settlers of Catan

I was away earlier in the week on a business trip and am finally getting time to write in the blog again. The highlight of the trip, apart from those very exciting meetings, was a 6-person Settlers of Catan game one evening with my colleagues. It was the first time I'd played the game with that many people and it was interesting to see how the dynamics changed with more players.

Jill and Joe introduced us to the game years ago when they lived in Toronto and we'd play when they came to visit us on weekends. Jill comes from a serious board-game-playing family. According to her, they play quickly and they really pay attention. I thought it was the greatest compliment when she finally said, "You'd be able to keep up with my family."

These days, we have the occasional game with Mark and Sharon. It's very popular with a number of people at work, and a few years ago, we even had a co-op student who was the reigning Settlers of Catan champion of Canada!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Sunday Craft Update -- September 23

I'm still learning and experimenting with Photoshop. Here's a layout I did using a couple of Todd's photos, with some colour adjustments. That's my cousin Wing walking in front of Julia on the Great Wall. The layout is in my new scrapbook gallery, which is still somewhat incomplete as I've not finished adding all the credits.

Apart from a couple of digital layouts, I also continued working on Chatelaine's Japanese Garden and Mirabilia's Adia this week. I'm also making progress with my new sweater ... only one sleeve left to knit!

Friday, September 21, 2007


Todd turns 42 today, and we all know that 42 is a very special number. Here is a photo of him with his beloved guitars and amp. Kate spent an hour making a beautiful hand-made card for him that said, "Got you this instead of a new guitar. Knew you'd like this better." Happy Birthday, Todd!!

Joe and Jill are also celebrating their anniversary today.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

A Visit from Nana and Opa

Here are some photos from last weekend, when Todd's parents came over for a visit. Unfortunately, I was stuck at the office trying to meet an upcoming deadline, but the girls had a nice time with them while Todd made a lovely prime rib roast for dinner. The weather was beautiful, and Kate spent lots of time out on the patio with Nana working on their painting.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Rotation Stitching and Time Tracking

In a comment to my previous post, Jill asked me how and why I track the time I spend on my stitching projects. "How?" is easy to answer. I use Google spreadsheets for tracking many other aspects of my life, but I have a low-tech system for stitching hours: a notebook in which I record the time spent each evening, rounded to the nearest quarter-hour.

"Why?" takes longer to answer. Tracking hours accomplishes several things:
  • It helps me predict how long it will take to complete a project.
  • It helps identify certain projects that are being neglected and are deserving of attention.
  • It provides a sense of accomplishment when I see a certain number of hours completed.
  • It is one way of setting goals (e.g. "complete 10 hours" as opposed to "finish the front piece of the sweater").
  • It is a good way to impress people. I usually get a stunned look when I tell someone I'd spent 200 hours on a cross-stitch project. This could be interpreted as, "I am impressed by your dedication!" or "You need to get a life!"
At work, we do time-tracking of our software projects for many of the same reasons. However, stitching projects, and cross-stitch projects in particular, have some characteristics quite different from those of software projects. Cross-stitch projects tend to take a large number of hours, many of them quite repetitive. (As one knitter has said, "I love the thrill of starting a new project and I love having the completed item. It's all that knitting in between ....") Unless you're doing a round-robin project, you work on them on your own. Unless projects are planned as gifts, they have no deadlines. Thus, it is a challenge to remain motivated long enough to finish a large cross-stitch piece. (There is nothing like an impending deadline or a frustrated customer to get me moving at work!)

For these reasons, there are a great number of on-line forums for cross-stitching, more I think than for most other hobbies of this sort. One really needs support groups for this activity. Where else would one get loads of praise and encouragement for an uploaded photo of a project that's only 5% completed?

My favourite forum is Rotation Stitchers. This is a long-running forum totally devoted to management of multiple stitching projects. Topics covered include time-tracking methods, styles of rotations, stitch-along (SAL) groups and even meta-discussion about whether rotation stitching or one-at-a-time stitching is best. If there's anything I like more than stitching itself, it's examining and analyzing the process.

For the record, I have about 10 cross-stitch projects on the go, with 5 of them "active" and the other 5 at some risk of becoming UFOs (Unfinished Objects). I have been pretty good the past two years about not starting new projects and consequently am not yet at the SABLE (Stash Accumulation Beyond Life Expectancy) point.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Sunday Craft Update -- September 16

I've been busy catching up at work, coping with the start-of-school rush and playing with Photoshop in my spare time. So there is not much to report for the week. I did a few hours of knitting on my various projects. The one bit of exciting news is that I decided to pull out Chatelaine's Japanese Garden again. I'd put in over 100 hours and completed about half of the project, but I stalled at the end of last year. The photo shows where I'd left off. Laura is also stitching this piece, on a different piece of hand-dyed fabric from Sugar Maple Fabrics.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

A Final Digital Layout

I'll bet some of you are tired of hearing about the digital scrapbooking course and wishing I'd get back to writing about "normal" things. So here's a final digital layout ... for now. I'm hoping to take Jessica Sprague's advanced digital scrapbooking course in October.

These photos were taken by Todd when we visited the Roman Baths museum in England. He took a great photo of a Gorgon head carving and I used this for the title, cutting it into a circle and adding a bit of a drop shadow. I also used the colour editing tools in Photoshop to enhance the photos, like toning down the distracting red shirts a few of the tourists were wearing. The background paper is from Jessica Sprague.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Week Four Layout

I'm at week 4, the final week of my on-line digital scrapbooking course, and this is the layout for the weekly assignment. This is, again, a design by Jessica Sprague, but I can at least claim credit for the photo. I really love these papers; they go so well with any sepia-toned photo. The photo is from our walk through the Bath Circus, which I wrote about in an earlier entry.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Geeky Yarn Creations

I stumbled across this awesome site recently: The Top 10 Geekiest Yarn Creations on the Web. You really must scroll down to view the crocheted Yoda hat and light saber.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Sunday Craft Update - September 9

I'd missed the last two Sunday craft updates, but I hadn't done much other than knitting while on vacation. I've been working on socks for the girls using a new cotton/wool/nylon brand from Plymouth Yarns, called Sockotta, as well as continuing on a sweater for myself using Kabir from Needful Yarns. I love the designs from Needful Yarns and will have to get more patterns from this company.

Since returning from vacation, I've been working on my digital scrapbooking course, and above, I've added another layout. The design is by Jessica Sprague, and I'm using papers from her Echoes of Asia kit and a "sanded overlay" by Katie Pertiet. This overlay gives the weathered look at the edges of the background paper. The photos were taken by Todd when we were in Beijing.

I also made a trip to the Kitchener-Waterloo Knitter's Fair yesterday. This is a huge event, with many vendors and visitors, some of whom are bused in from other cities in large groups. In past years, I've bought freely but I had to show some restraint this year, as my current yarn stash will keep me busy enough for the next two years. I did pick up more Addi Turbo circular needles, though. These are expensive, but well worth the cost.

Friday, September 7, 2007

The First Martin Layout

Here's the very first layout featuring my newest nephew, Martin. He's such a cutie, isn't he?? I did this layout for one of the assignments in the digital scrapbooking course, but this time, I didn't use a template so the design is my own. The white paper is from Amy Teet's Whities Tighties kit, the blue paper is from Jessica Sprague's Echoes of Asia kit, and the stamp is from Katie Pertiet's Stamped Moments brush set.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Digital Scrapbooking Course

Earlier, I'd bought a short tutorial on digital scrapbooking from Jessica Sprague and found it extremely useful, so I decided to sign up for her on-line introductory course on how to do digital scrapbooking with Photoshop Elements 5.0. This is a four-week course that includes four 30-40 minute videos. For $40, I got the videos, several digital kits, a daily e-mail newsletter with additional Photoshop tips and access to the course on-line forum. Definitely a terrific deal!! Jessica offered the course for the first time earlier in the year, and both times, it sold out in a matter of hours. She's planning to offer it again in December or January, and if you are interested, you'd better get on her mailing list.

The three layouts shown in this post are ones I created for the first few assignments. The first two basically involved using prepared page layouts and adding photos, text and embellishments, but I learned how to do a number of operations more efficiently in PSE (the sort of thing I would have learned had I had the patience to read the documentation). The last layout required using the elliptical marquee tool and a "digital brush", similar to the stamps used in traditional scrapbooking.

Todd took some great photos of my three beautiful nieces when we were in England, so I used them as the subjects of my layouts. The designs were created by Jessica Sprague and are not my own, but hopefully by the end of the course, I'll be more prepared to create my own designs.