Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Snapping Turtles are All Gums!

We are now in Snapping Turtle Advanced Class.  And we have a News Flash.  They don't have teeth!

All these horror stories I've heard about how they will absolutely amputate your fingers if you get too close are now simply puzzling.  I've seen the lightening fast attack with that hooked beak, seen those jaws close like a vise...but there are no teeth!  So, how do they bite off your fingers???  Are their lips like a guillotine?

This is a close-up of yet another Snapping Turtle out of our pond, and look at that mouth.  Scary looking, but no teeth.  But we know they have eaten all the red meat we could throw at them.  Do they just clamp those jaws shut and Voila! cut the meat off?  Snap!  Zzzzttt!  Done.

Here's a shot of the enlarged team -  young son arrived to help out on this particular day.  He and Husband are teasing the above teenage turtle out of the pond...

I'm rather weary of seeing these prehistoric creatures in our yard...I read somewhere that the females lay about 20 eggs a year.  If these are the kids of the Original Pair, we are in for a long war.

I'm praying for cold weather and hibernation time.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Book Binding, Canvas Making, and Oyster Shucking

I've finally got this thing down.  Do it over and over, work out the kinks, get a recipe.  Go Dancing!

My handy little helper, (remember him?) The Cinch Binding Tool, is chugging along with me - not Dancing With The Stars, but he is keeping up!

I'm diving back into shows...I have a booth on October 1 at Sunset Beach, NC in the Sunset At Sunset Arts & Crafts Festival.  

And then, hang on to your britches, I'm about to send in my very late booth reservation for one of the final available booths at The 31st NC Oyster Festival!

See this Blue Arrow?  It's pointing at Husband's Hands...He WON the Oyster Shucking Contest Last Year!   That's his Special Shucking Glove - an old Penn International Reel Cover.

 Since I have to dance 24-7 to make the hundreds of Books, Journals, and Canvases for the shows, I've re-arranged the work table into stations.  Makes it much faster.  The biggest trick is to stay away from the computer, because the designs are just flowing out of my head now, and I want to get them all recorded.  Can't do that and make stuff too, though.  Balance.  Life is all about Balance.

Figuring out to the 1/16th of an inch where I need to cut and punch has really helped me settle in...once I really am In The Groove, I'll write all this down and do a tutorial.

The re-vamped Coral Bouquet Book, with page separators and tabs.

Close-up of Mr. Blowfish on Canvas and Books.
Now back to work I go!

i'm late, i'm late, for a very important date!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Fusion Food Paradise - Buford Hwy Farmer's Market

Sashimi - All that two people could possibly eat...$15.99.

Head's Up.  Man your chopsticks, and crank your stove.  I've discovered Food Nirvana, and it's at The Buford Hwy. Farmer's Market - a short drive from my Atlanta house!  Who knew?

Ikura like rubies - where's my spoon??

Carrots so fresh, you want to call up Bugs Bunny and tell him to Get Over Here!
All my photos were taken with my IPhone - Thanks, Steve Jobs!

Huge baskets of Turmeric.

Garlic Stems - or Garlic bright green, so crisp.  Recipe below.

Garlic Scape Pesto - from Brooklyn Farmhouse

 Here's the Recipe from Brooklyn should go check out their website; it's chock full of good things:

Never have eaten one of these Cactus Pears, but now I'm looking for recipes.
Pompano?  Jack? Okay, it's fish.

Greek Eggplant...mountains of them.

A fish called Pomfret, farm raised in China.  Looks like Pompano.
Tiny little Pepper Jewels.  Can't you just see these poured inside tall glass vases on your table as a centerpiece?  

Sesame Leaves.  Stuff these with any meat mixture, roll up and grill or pan sear.  Serve the little bundles over rice.

Lotus Root - Peel, slice, soak in vinegar water.  Stir fry with sesame, scallion, ginger, garlic and soy sauce.  Yumm.By now,  you should be drooling and adventurous enough to scamper off to your local market for some fresh stuff that you've never cooked before!  Get to cooking!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

My Memories Free Software Winner!

All rightee, then.  We have a winner in the My Memories Software Giveaway!

Rae Hopkins from Mississippi has won a complimentary copy of  My Memories Suite V2:

and is happily building Digital Scrap Books, even as we speak - that is, read!

Thanks to all of you who stopped by to review this powerful little package from My Memories Digital Scrapbooking. 

And, don't forget that you can use this code:  STMMMS97941 when shopping on the My Memories website to get up to $20.00 off at checkout.  Just copy the code and paste it into the coupon block on the checkout page.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Above and Below The Waters -

 Here's what I'm up to in the Studio right now - I'm designing, printing, and assembling a group of Hand-Bound (actually, The Cinch Bound) Journals, with the theme of Above and Below The Waters. 

There are Blowfish:

And Octopusses...

You've already seen the Coral Bouquet, under construction:

And I couldn't resist pushing the Coral Branch design on out -

A flotilla of Sailboats:

More sailboats to come, but now I have to go to work!

I'll show you The Cinch Bookbinding Tool in action later on today - I'm off to the studio!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

My Memories Software Giveaway No. 2

As promised, here is one more post on My Memories Digital Scrapbooking, Version 2 - and a reminder that I'm giving one FREE copy of this software to one of my readers!  To enter, just leave me a comment.  More details at the bottom of the page...

I wanted to show you how easy it is to lay out a custom album with this software, so I quickly pulled together a catalog from some of my stationery designs:

And here is how it did it, in less than 30 minutes, using the software in the Custom Mode:

Choosing the Custom Mode from the opening page, through choosing the background for the front cover, took less than two minutes...

Now, on to the layout.

 I went to my Art Files, and chose one of my Stationery Frames and an image for the Cover:

Then just clicked on the "Add T" button for text, picked the font and size, and then the Paint Bucket button to pick my own font's a screen shot of me doing that on the second page:

You can pick one of their offered colors, and then get REALLY custom by going to their RGB tab.  See the little sliders?  When you slide them left or right, your color changes, and you can see the resulting hue right underneath in the Sample Text area.  If you love what you've created, click Add To Favorites so you can go back to it, over and over.

Then I just kept adding images and moving them around until I liked the layout.  Added text boxes, edited those a few times, and Boom!  I had a catalog!

This is now ready to go to the printer, or I can print it here in my studio, or upload it to My Memories  for them to print and bind.  How Super Easy is That for pulling together a catalog of your work??

To enter the giveaway for the free software, just leave me a comment.  And be sure to go over to the
My Memories website to browse through their products.

You can use this code at Checkout to get up to $20.00 off your order:  STMMMS97941


Saturday, September 10, 2011

September 11, War, and Remembrance

I've been thinking about this anniversary for awhile.  Seeing that day - September 11, 2001 - is just like seeing a page in a diary - lined with faint blue lines, the date in the upper right-hand corner, and all the images tumbling down the page and spilling over onto all the pages remaining in my life.  Opening the diary to September 11, 2001 brings back every moment  in high resolution...where I was, what I heard, what I saw and how it clear, even ten years later.
Photo by Lia Chang.

The primary memory of that day is the way we all instantly became a Pack of Americans. Not any one party or race, or other classifying factors - just Americans.  Incredulous, angry, and ready to do whatever it took to right this huge wrong that had been done.  For the first time since World War II, the American Pack became bigger than the individual American.  A very odd feeling - my generation had never experienced that.  Within a couple of hours, we were no longer the Center of Our Universe anymore.  We became acutely aware that we were just single threads in an enormous fabric - one which wrapped around our lives and draped the landscape of a very different future than the one we had envisioned on the evening of September 10, 2001.

I'm a Baby Boomer - I grew up in a household that had the shadow of WWII hanging over it.  My brothers and I knew our Dad had been in the war, and that it was better not to ask him anything about it.   We had a pictorial history of WWII in four Leather Bound Navy Blue books that my Mother bought shortly after the war ended, and we kids pored over those books until the pages got dog-earred. For children, they were mind-boggling:  faded black and white photos of people being hung, close-ups of people being shot, men covered in snow with rifles sticking out, and piles of skeleton-looking people in open ditches...along with dozens of pictures of bombed-out buildings, and families trundling their whole households away on wagons and wheelbarrows.  We had a million questions.  We needed to know how our lives were connected to those pictures, but when Dad pulled up in the driveway, Phhhtt!  The Books went back on the shelf.

Years later, on D-Day, I point blank asked my Dad to tell me about landing on Omaha Beach.  That I needed to know what happened to him over there.  He swallowed, looked at the floor, out the door, and then started in fits and spurts to tell me.  The fits and spurts became a flow, and then a torrent.  Hours later, with maps of Europe spread out on the dining room table,  I knew why he had never talked about it before...

War isn't human.  Not what we were intended for.  Our skin is too easily punctured by metal, and once that happens, life pours out, and ends.  Dad's life hadn't ended, which meant he had to continue on, even with all he'd seen and experienced.  He had to get up every day and continue life with the hand he'd been dealt.

After that War talk, Dad and I were in a new, easy place together.  I finally knew where that Dark side of him came from, and I think he found a certain comfort in knowing that I knew.  Talking about his most intimate emotions during the War and how he reacted to them had somehow loosened the knot.  Funny thing, Remembrance and talking about what you thought was your own private horror can do that.

We were in Florida on September 10, 2001, winding up a trip to help my Mother-in-Law Vera finish the sale of my Father-in-Law's condo.  He had died of throat cancer in April, and once the cleaning and renovation of his little homestead was finished, an offer to buy came pretty quickly.  The real estate closing had already taken place, and it was time to turn the keys over.  We walked out, brushed our hands over the resident Orange Tree one more time, and turned away.

That night, we toyed with the idea of flying home on an earlier flight the next day, September 11.  There wasn't really a reason to stay until the afternoon flight, our job of support and the tug to say goodbye to the little condo was over, and it was time to go home.  But for some reason, at the last minute before we went to bed, we decided to stick to our original flight time.  We slept good that night, and awoke early.

As usual, we were up before Vera, and since she had fixed up the coffee pot the night before, we only had to turn it on.  We were surprised when she got up a few minutes later, moving into the kitchen to wait for the coffee, unfold the newspaper that had been retrieved from outside her condo door, and turn on the TV.  That was her routine...but she was hard of hearing, and the volume was always much too loud for us at that early hour.  I remember my husband grousing at his Mom about the TV being on so early, and so loud...reaching over and flipping the volume down.  I moved into the living room so that I could have my coffee out of earshot.

Suddenly Husband called out from the kitchen..."Linda, come look!  C'mere!  The World Trade Center's on fire!"  I heard the volume coming back up, and Vera's soft murmur that "...that's why I keep the news on in the morning - so I don't miss anything". 

When I stepped into the kitchen nook, I could see the CNN banner on the screen of the little TV, and the World Trade Center, with dense black smoke billowing out of it.  My husband said, "They say a plane hit it...a small plane...?"  I moved toward the screen, with a faint memory jiggling around in my mind.  Couldn't pinpoint it yet, but there was something struggling forward in my mind.

I remember saying, "But there's no flight pattern that would take a plane NEAR those buildings...what would a plane be doing there??"  And still, the jiggling memory that wouldn't take shape.  I traced my finger across the screen, across the hole in the building.  "That isn't a small plane, that's a real plane, not a small plane!  Look at that wing span!"  Husband and Vera were silent, lost in the struggle to figure out what was really going on.

And then, remembering the restaurant, Windows On The World, and the observation platform on top of the building, Husband and I started talking over each other: "They'll have to take them off the roof, right?  Yeah, they'll have to take them off the roof."

We had visited the WTC a couple years before, and I remember looking DOWN on a helicopter from the observation platform.  Not natural, not at all good.  I remember not liking where I was, that I couldn't enjoy the view;  just wanted to get back on the ground.  Standing there, looking at the burning building, I was re-tracing the way down; remembering how you had to switch elevator banks somewhere around the 75th floor, and how long that had taken.  Just a handful of people, and it had taken forever, which underscored the unnatural height we were at.

The announcers on CNN sounded bewildered.  They were debating on what size plane it had been, why it was in the area of the WTC.  They talked about sight-seeing planes, just grasping at straws.  It was obvious that no one knew what was going on.  Yet.

There was a larger TV in the living room, and I moved out of the breakfast nook to turn that one on so I could see what the other news channels were saying.  I was sitting on Vera's big white ottoman, coffee cup clutched in one hand, working the remote with the other, when I heard my husband shout, "Look, Look, Look!  Linda, come Look!"

I raced to the kitchen...and saw an enormous black cloud rolling up from the OTHER Tower.  In a flash, the jiggling memory sharpened into focus.  Instantly.  I remember saying half out loud, "He did it.  He did what he said he would do".  They half turned to me, faces still to the TV,  but they weren't really listening.  Over and over, the plane punched into the building.

What I was thinking of was the man behind the 1993 bombing of the WTC, and how he'd said they would be back to finish the job.  Right then, watching that oily black smoke boiling out of the South Tower, I believed he was the man behind what was unfolding on the TV screen.  I had no clue the turn all our lives was about to take;  I was just heartsick about the people in the buildings and on the planes.  No clue how broad the loss would get.

Habit gets you through the surreal times in life.  Habit guided us to prepare toast, boil some eggs.  No one ate.  Husband headed to the shower, right on schedule.  While he was in the shower, I was glued to the TV in the living room, flipping back and forth between stations.  Suddenly, what looked like another explosion went off around street level of the South Tower.  Thick, dirty white clouds spewed out of the street level doors, and then in slow motion, the building melted and crumbled straight down.  It took forever.

The newscasters spoke in jerky sentences..."What was that?  Was that another explosion?  I think... Another explosion?"  Then stunned silence.  While I was still trying to grasp what I had just seen, the man said, "I can't see the building.  I think it's gone."

Our airspace was shut down...all the planes had to land, immediately.  For the first time in our lives, no planes would be in the sky!  Which led to wondering how we were going to get back to Atlanta.  I thought about calling for a rental car, but just couldn't do anything that mundane at that moment...the Pentagon had been hit, there were rumors of hijacked planes heading to Chicago, Los Angeles...and then news came of the plane down in Shanksville.  

When the North Tower fell we had to get outside.  We took off walking around Vera's complex of buildings, on a sidewalk that marked where water met land.  It was so quiet.  The only sound we could hear was a car radio, echoing underneath one of the buildings in the parking garage; it sounded like a news feed or talk show host.  That was the only sound we heard. The only sound, except for our own footfalls on the cement.

Walking in clumsy silence, trying to identify our Selves in this new world, we occasionally asked each other questions:  What happens now?  How are we going to get home?  Will the boys go to War?  The youngest was still in college and had already called us, looking for the answer to the question everyone was already asking - "Why?"  We argued about what I was convinced was a bomb that had gone off near street level in the South Tower right before it collapsed, and what that meant about the depth of a conspiracy to attack America within our own borders.  That walk was exhausting, never-ending.

We went to lunch at Piccadilly; what could be more American and comforting than that?  The restaurant was open, but seemed dark and deserted.  Vera seemed to be handling everything better than we were; she wasn't babbling on, or asking questions that couldn't be answered yet.  She didn't have much to say, even when we directed conversation to her.  She looked deeply offended.  

That afternoon, I went down to the deserted pool and let myself in the gate.  It was a beautiful day, gorgeous blue sky, light winds.  I slipped into the water, and floated out to the center.  And just laid there, face to the blue, silent sky, for the longest time.  I will never forget how that felt - floating in silent water, in a silent residential high-rise development, under a silent sky with the sun on my face - while the world was coming to an end for so many people.

My Dad finally answered his phone...he had been on his Mountain Top all day, puttering around in his garden and in his hunting cabin, oblivious to the horrific events of the day.  When I reached him, he was subdued, low voiced, and not happy that he hadn't been aware of anything until he came home.  I think he felt like he had somehow copped out of the worst day in our history.  We didn't talk long, he was too upset and needed to just let everything gel.  He, like Vera, didn't have much to say.

There was a curious, metallic and empty edge to the evening.  We went out to dinner - Vera stayed home to watch the coverage.  Again, food just didn't taste right, and we scooted back to the condo. CNN was interviewing people who had flocked to Lower Manhattan to look for loved ones.  I remember a young man who was standing on what looked like an ordinary front porch, holding a photo of a beautiful young woman - his sister.  He was saying, "This is my sister, she works for......"  You could tell by his face and demeanor that he already knew the answer.

The interviewer moved across the street to a gang of people behind a barricade.  There was a hefty woman there, strawberry blonde and exuberant about her partner, who was missing in the rubble.  She said, "(Name)'s a really strong person, she can do anything!  If anybody can get out, she will!  We're going to Hawaii in December..."  And the young reporter from CNN lost her composure.  She'd already accepted the fact that no one was coming out of that chaos alive.  The anchors back in the studio coached her through it, on Live TV.  "I want you to take a deep breath, and count to 10, okay?".

I couldn't watch anymore, and went to bed.

We finally rented a car and drove home from Florida.  The rest stops were jammed with people doing the same thing we were doing.  And it was still so quiet.  When we got to the Atlanta airport to turn the car in and find our way to the lot where we'd left our car, the silence felt so wrong.  Airports are supposed to be noisy places...the only sound here was the murmur of people talking, car doors slamming, and the little wheels on the sidewalks from the carry-on suitcases. 

People say that life was never the same after September 11.  When I hear that, I think to myself, "Of course not."  Life is fluid.  Tilt the jar, life moves in one direction.  Spill it out, it's something entirely different.  It evaporates, goes up in the sky, and rains back down in a whole new place.  Not the same, but still life.  What Remembrance of September 11, 2001 should be is that life is a gift.  A gift.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

My Memories Suite - A Software Giveaway!

A couple of weeks ago, right in the middle of Hurricane Irene, I got an email from Liz Gardner at My Memories - a Digital Scrapbooking website.  She'd seen my Blog, and wanted to send me a complimentary copy of their software to review.

Always a knock-over for Free Software...

When you think about it, all Bloggers make Digital Scrap Books.  We select information bits and photos that are of interest to us, write about it, edit everything a couple of times, and publish a Blog Post.

Memory Makers does something similar for folks who don't have a Blog, or who don't have or want to use Photoshop or Photoshop Elements to lay out their Scrapbooks.  Memory Makers' Digital Scrapbook templates already have it laid out...all you do is pop in the photos and text.  It's easy, and not expensive.

So, I figured I had nothing to lose - and I love new toys!  After downloading my complimentary software, I started rummaging through it to see if I should just toss it - or not.  Well.  This is a pretty amazing package for the price they are charging at full retail - about $40.00.  It's easy to install, and here's how it works:

When you open My Memories from your desktop, you're given the option to create a custom book, or you can use one of their free templates - I chose one of their templates to begin with:

This My Memories template is called "A Day in The Life", and has its own graphic design color style, and page layout.  As I quickly learned, you don't have to keep that complete can customize all their templates.

Once I had selected this template, it presented me with a "suggested" Book - with multiple pages, each one already laid out and waiting for me to just upload photos and write my text.  This is what it looked like straight out of the box:

This is the first page...obviously screaming for your own personal touch.

These are my pages after just a few minutes of messing around:

You can see that I deleted some of the pre-packaged elements, and added new ones.

I couldn't resist customizing one of their standard frames with my Coral repeat...I'll show you how to do this in the next post.  I also completely removed their Polka Dot background and put in solid color - two quick clicks!
This is a screen shot of the next can see all the options on the right-hand side of the page.

There were several more pages available in their "package", but once I had played around with these pages, I was comfortable moving on to putting the program through the hoops.  What I discovered was a pretty powerful little tool.

Even if you aren't a Scrap Booker, any Artist or Designer has tons of digital files - photos, custom designs, and things we've snipped off the internet that could use Digital Organizing. This software can lay all that out Really Fast - into one cohesive Journal - without having to build Text Boxes, Layers, and Backgrounds.  It's all already there.  Just click.

It's easy to add Video, Music, or Audio - it's all already programmed into the software  - just click the button, and off you go!

If you like, you can also upload your project to Memory Makers, have it printed and bound starting at $10.00, plus shipping.  A custom library to flip through!  Liz tells me that it takes about 5 business days to print up, and then a couple of days or so for shipping.  I'm envisioning my own shelf of books...

For previewing their software, My Memories gave me one free copy of their software to give away -  

Here's how to enter to win the free copy of Memory Makers Suite V2:

~ Leave me a comment - be sure that your email address is on whichever account you use to comment with so that I can contact you.  Be sure to visit the  My Memories Website and let me know what you think about their software.  I'll pick a winner out of the comments and announce the winner on Monday!

~ Also, My Memories gave me a coupon code for any of my readers to get $10.00 off the purchase of the My Memories Software, PLUS $10.00 off anything purchased at the My Memories Store - $20.00 total, back in your pocket!

Copy and paste this code at checkout to get the discount:  STMMMS97941.

That's it!  Next post, I'll show you how to use your own artwork to create frames and gadgets to add to your My Memories Digital Scrapbook/Journal.


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