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This is the very first first-day-of-school layout I’ve ever made! I guess it’s because it seems like the first day of school is a fairly momentous occasion each year… and I didn’t even tackle her VERY first day of kindergarten…yet. I decided to start with first grade!

This layout is published in the Fall 2021 issue of Scrapbook & Cards Today; you can see it on page 65!

I’ve had this title planned ever since that first day of first grade– “It was awesome!!” was her immediate answer to my “how was your day?” upon getting off the bus that day! In fact, I jotted down a little sketch almost right away, which I’ve saved all these years! The end result is completely different, but that’s ok! (and yes, I finally recycled this scrap of paper as soon as I finished taking this photo!)

As you can see, my original thought was to make this a single page layout, but when I started looking back through the photos, I wanted to include so many more than would comfortably fit (and still be big enough to see well!) on one 12×12. I expanded my design to 2 pages, using nine 3″x2″ photos and one 4″x6″ feature photo.

left side
right side

Even though starting school makes you think of fall, in our area, it is still very much summer weather! I decided to use a color palette that bridges the two seasons– and included a lot of red because our red front door is hard to miss in the pictures!

I arranged the small photos in a grid and filled the spaces with a dark blue patterned paper. I stitched around the perimeter of the blue pieces to add a bit of texture. These blue spaces were also the perfect spots to add embellishment clusters.

I stamped and heat embossed cameras in white on aqua patterned paper and cut them out to be the feature embellishment in each cluster. To bring in more of that fall flavor, I die cut leaves from textured orange cardstock and golden yellow patterned paper to add to each cluster, along with bright yellow puffy stars!

I combined three different alpha sets to make my title and subtitle: I used all capitals for the main title, and lower case alpha for the subtitle, and the tiny letter tiles unify them.

Supply list:
patterned paper: Close to My Heart “Mix In” (Mar-Apr), Close to My Heart “Blue Skies,” Echo Park “Spring” (Journaling Cards –B-side is striped)
cardstock: American Crafts (white textured), The Paper Studio (orange textured)
vellum: The Paper Studio
alphas: Amercian Crafts Thickers (Daiquiri white foam), Close to My Heart (white alphabet foam stickers), Glitz Designs Teeny Alphas (white)
stamps: Shimelle “Head in the Clouds,” Hampton Arts “Vintologie”
puffy stickers: Close to My Heart “So Much Happy”
label: print-and-cut via Silhouette Cameo 3
cut files: SCT Oct 2020 freebie, Kerri Bradford Studio (“Leaves”)
font: Gill Sans Light (bold)
other: machine stitching, craft foam, ATG adhesive, Zing embossing powder (white)

I didn’t take very many photos of the garden in September. I think for most of the month, I was simply in maintenance mode, especially as school started and I got more involved in other activities. I didn’t even go out to water as often as I did during the height of summer.

The cucumbers really started failing this month, with only the Ferry-Morse vine staying alive– I harvested one more good cucumber from it, and at the end of the month noticed two more growing.

The intrepid Ferry-Morse cucumber vine on September 16, 2021
I spotted two cucumbers growing on the vine; September 27, 2021.

We had a fairly steady small harvest of tomatoes every few days, which kept us supplied for our meals. I started harvesting when the fruit was a few days shy of ripe so that I could get it before the bugs did.

one of our September harvests; notice I also cut a dill flower that went to seed so that I can save it for planting next year!

The nasturtiums really perked up this month– the leaves grew lush and full. There were only a few flowers, and I finally gave them and the leaves a taste. Boy, are they peppery!! I don’t know if they’re something I will eat regularly, but I do just love the way the look and smell. I think the flowers smell a bit like roses!

While the nasturtiums were lush, the tomatoes have started to look a bit more tired. Perhaps I should have added more fertilizer, but it seemed more likely that they are just ending their season. The daylight hours were noticeably shorter and the sunshine is coming from a more oblique angle. That being said, there were plenty of green tomatoes on the Best Boy plants at the end of the month– a promise of fresh tomatoes even into October.

Here is a comparison photo for the month of September:

I will have one more monthly update coming for this year’s garden. I have been keeping a spreadsheet of my harvest data, so I’d like to do a wrap up post with that, as well! Stay tuned.

A dear friend of mine recently celebrated a milestone birthday, and I wanted to make a special card for her. Since books and writing are special passions of hers, I thought this cut file from Paige Evans was perfect!

In my stash of embellishments, I have some really pretty dimensional birthday stickers. I love how dainty they are — and they have a bit of sparkle! I decided to use one on this card and base my color scheme around it.

I got out my watercolors and, carefully holding my cut file above my paper every so often, added dabs of color to abstractly correspond to the flowers and leaves.

After the larger areas of color were dry, I added some tiny splashes of blue and green watercolor to add some texture and mounted the watercolor paper panel to yellow cardstock for a border.

Happy birthday, my friend!

As I went through my photo catalog to put together this August 2021 garden recap, I noticed that I can compare photos from each section of my garden throughout the month, so let’s get started with my cucumbers!

Recall that at the end of July, I added fertilizer to my tomato and cucumber pots. I could see a difference within days! I had such high hopes for these pots of cucumbers. I had nine vines (three in each pot) because I wanted enough to enjoy on salads, etc. but also extra to try some pickling. In the photo below, you can see that at the beginning of August, the cucumbers seemed to get healthier once I’d fertilized them. However, at the end of the month, the vines (mostly the Burpee vines) were diseased and dying. We had just returned from vacation on the 21st, and when I went out on the 22nd to inspect my garden, I had to aggressively prune away all the dead and dying leaves and vines. I was hoping that clearing away the bad stuff would give the new growth room to flourish.

comparison of the cucumbers on August 3 (top left), August 8 (top right), and August 22 (before and after pruning, left and right on the bottom)

I’d say the other big disappointment of August was that my lavender started failing. I don’t exactly know what happened; I think it must have gotten some sort of disease or fungus because it’s so humid here. I was trying to make sure not to overwater. At some point in August, I actually moved this container to another location behind my house, because I’d dreamed of having a bed of lavender in that spot. I tried to trim some of the healthy stems and root them, but all my attempts failed.

Let’s move on to something with positive growth! First up: the nasturtiums. For most of the summer, after a couple (and I actually mean literally two or three total) blooms in June, the nasturtium plants looked to be on death’s door. I wondered if perhaps I’d planted them in containers that are too shallow. During the month of August, they did start perking up a bit and growing new and bigger leaves. I had a brief exchange with a gardener I follow on Instagram, and she suggested that it was perhaps too hot for the plants. I noticed that when the weather was slightly cooler during parts of August, the nasturtium looked happier. I think it was a combination of heat and lack of nutrients. I can’t believe that I didn’t think to add fertilizer to these containers when I fertilized the cucumbers and tomatoes in July! I added some at the end of August, so you’ll see how much improved they became in September.

comparison of the two containers of nasturtium on
August 3 (top photos) and August 22 (bottom photos)

My herbs also kept on flourishing during August.

basil and chives : August 3, 2021 (top) and August 22, 2021 (bottom)

In the background you can see the “miracle” tomato plant. The fertilizer worked wonders for all my tomatoes in August. I think that this was the biggest mistake I made this year: assuming that my potting soil had enough nutrients. I really wish that I had fertilized earlier.

comparison of the cherry tomatoes (orange pots) and the Brad’s Atomic Grape tomatoes (light colored pot) on August 3, 8, and 22 (top to bottom)

You can see in the comparison of the small tomato varieties above and the Best Boy (larger) tomatoes below that once the fertilizer kicked in, the plants grew into a jungle! The difference was especially dramatic for the Best Boys, since those plants were looking so pathetically spindly!

comparison of the Best Boy tomatoes on August 3, 8, and 22 (top to bottom)

In fact, the growth was almost too much! By the end of the month, I decided that a big prune was necessary.

August 30, 2021: before (above) and after (below) a BIG pruning job on my tomatoes

The prune was very necessary. After all that pruning, this was my harvest.

Almost everything I chopped away was leafy growth, and I think the streamlined plants produced better and had better airflow to keep them healthy.

The surprise hit of the garden for me this summer was the marigold container! I had always been sort of ambivalent toward marigolds, but I hadn’t grown them for years (probably since Sunday school Mother’s Day gifts when I was in elementary school!). I was so thankful for their gorgeous color and the way they attracted butterflies and other pollinators to the garden.

I will definitely plant marigolds again next year– hopefully several containers! (Yes, I’ve been harvesting seeds. ;-))

Speaking of harvesting seeds, I am giving tomato seed saving a try. I went very simple with this first attempt, rinsing and drying seeds from the two heirloom varieties I had in my garden this year.

Overall, August was a good month in my garden! Below is a comparison collage throughout the month.

Comparison of the garden through the month of August (top to bottom): August 8, 13, 22, 30-before pruning, 30-after pruning.

This is another layout I created over the summer for a fall call, but I decided not to share it until it was more seasonally appropriate! We’re in full costume-making mode here now that it is October (we actually got an early start this year! Hooray!), so in the meantime, I’ll be posting a couple projects that I’ve not yet shared.

I love the contrast of light and dark in trick-or-treating photos, and I was so glad that Husband captured these pictures in 2019. I was unable to walk around the neighborhood because I was still in a boot and on crutches, so he took on the photographer duties!

For this layout I combined Shimelle’s “Go Now Go” paper with some newer Close to My Heart papers for accent layers, and then I brought out some really old Little Yellow Bicycle Halloween products, most obviously these journaling circles.

I arranged my photos in a grid that shows the progression of the evening, and I plopped my title right on top!

I combined some delicate outline and solid leaves cut on my Cameo 3 with some detail cut cameras from another “Go Now Go” paper to make clusters around the layout. Layered clusters are my favorite!

Supply list:
patterned paper: Shimelle “Go Now Go” (Park, Action), Close to My Heart “Mix In” (Mar-Apr)
cardstock: Shimelle Sparkle City project pad (navy), The Paper Studio (orange textured)
alphas: American Crafts Thickers (cloud puffy letter stickers)
epoxy stickers: Little Yellow Bicycle “Trick or Treat”
enamel dots: The Paper Studio
journal spots: Little Yellow Bicycle “Trick or Treat” Journal Tablet
labels: print-and-cut via Silhouette Cameo 3
punch: Fiskars “Apron Lace”
cut files: SCT Oct 2020 freebie, Kerri Bradford Studio (“Leaves”)
journaling pen: Spectrum Noir ArtLiner .005other: craft foam, ATG adhesive

Garden 2021: July

Continuing my retrospective garden updates…

At the beginning of July, I discovered that the rightmost (back row) Best Boy was drowning– somehow the drainage of the pot got blocked. I carefully untied the (still spindly) plant from its stake and Husband helped me tip the pot to drain the excess water and pull off the attached saucer. You can see in the photo below that the foliage was yellow and drooping. Thankfully, simply removing the saucer seemed to be enough to fix whatever blockage was happening, and the plant eventually perked up again. (At the end of this year’s growing season, I will remove the rest of the saucers and possibly drill more drainage holes in these pots to prevent future issues like this.)

Best Boy tomatoes on July 4, 2021

July was when I first really started seeing fruits start forming and growing on my tomato and cucumber plants. Mouthwatering potential!! It’s always such a wonder to me, especially when starting a plant from seed: this tiny, tiny thing has grown up and is producing these beautiful fruits.

young fruit in my garden, July 12, 2021
Best Boy tomato, July 21, 2021
heirloom purple cherry tomatoes, July 21, 2021
Brad’s Atomic Grape tomatoes, July 21, 2021
Brad’s Atomic Grape tomato ripening on July 22, 2021

I made some of my first harvests in July! I started keeping a spreadsheet of each variety’s harvest (number and weight) so that I can compile some data at the end of the season.

First, the herbs: We cut small bunches of chives and clipped parsely leaves to put on our suppers. I LOVE having fresh herbs as a finishing touch! Some of my lavender started drying on the plant, so I began cutting those stems off to put into a sachet. The basil grew like crazy, and I cut a whole bouquet for my Husband to make into pesto.

Spicy Globe basil bouquet, destined for pesto. July 13, 2021

I harvested my first couple of cucumbers (these are from the Ferry-Morse vine).

first cucumbers: July 21, 2021

We also started getting small bowlfuls of purple cherry tomatoes:

I LOVED watching the Brad’s Atomic Grape tomatoes ripen and change color. Since it’s an unusual-looking tomato, I had to really learn when to harvest them. They split very easily (sometimes long before they are fully ripe), so I eventually learned to harvest them a little early so that they could finish ripening on the counter, where if they were split, they wouldn’t rot or attract pests.

first Brad’s Atomic Grape tomato, July 25, 2021

I did have some more hornworm challenges: there was (at least) one plaguing my purple cherry tomato plants, and it wreaked quite a bit of havoc before I managed to find it.

hornworm damage woes, July 24, 2021

I mentioned in the June post my 10th tomato (unknown variety) that had fallen over and gotten quite damaged. I was not sure that it was going to make it, but it turned into a wonderful comeback story. I was so glad to to see it putting out new shoots– and even flowering again!!

July 22, 2021: comeback tomato (unknown variety)

Ending on an artisitc note: mid-month, I participated in a photography challenge within the Simple Scrapper membership to play with macro photography. At first, I didn’t know what I would photograph, but as I was watering my garden one day, I realized that there was such a variety of pollinators visiting my garden! I decided to get out my camera to try and capture some macro photos of them. I used both my kit lens and my zoom lens (some of the insects were too shy to be photographed up close!). These are my favorite shots from that little session:

comparison of the garden on July 12 (left) and July 31 (right)

Throughout the month, although I was beginning to harvest cucumbers and tomatoes, I started noticing that the plants got spindly and increasingly sad looking. I didn’t really figure out what was going on until the very end of the month. I’d been listening to a gardening podcast, and they were discussing garden maintenance, and I realized that my garden might need to be fertilized! My plants needed nutrients!

comparison of the garden on July 12 (top) and July 31 (bottom)

In my previous years’ gardens, I’d used “regular” not-organic potting soil that had added fertilizer, so I’d not come across this obvious lack of nourishment before. This year, I’ve been using Miracle Gro Organic potting soil and I have to say, I haven’t been impressed. I don’t like the texture of it (it seems too dense) and I didn’t expect to have to add fertilizer. (Admittedly, that is probably from inexperience using organic potting soil.) Thankfully I had some fertilizer on hand from several years ago, and I added some to all of my large pots on July 30 (I choose to err on the side of too little, since I was afraid of burning the roots). I definitely saw an improvement quickly at the beginning of August. I’ll write about that in my next update post!

This layout is out of my “style comfort zone!”

I’ve had these photos out on my desk, shuffling them around as I worked on other projects, ever since I made the Dragon Boats layout (another adventure on the same day). When I saw the SCT 2021 Fall Issue recipe challenge (use a journaling card or die cut, patterned paper, an alphabet sticker and any kind of stamp), I knew it would be the perfect motivation to get this layout into my scrapbook.

I started out trying to use my “typical” grid-type arrangement of photos, and it just wasn’t working. I changed gears entirely and decided to use a fish-filled background cut file from Paige Evans, and I used watercolors on the background. This is out of my comfort zone in two ways: I don’t often do mixed media at all, let alone the whole background; also, I don’t often use themed/on-the-nose supplies for my layouts.

I made two little clusters on the page, framed by the fish. At the top, I used my two tiny photos (tiny due to the image quality) on a block of patterned paper and embellished with my stamp “ingredient”– I heat embossed cameras from two different stamp sets with white on a scrap of purple striped paper, then cut them out to add in three places around the layout.

After this particular day of adventuring, I had asked my husband to write a bit of journaling, and I gave him a couple of my leftover Project Life cards so that it would be in his own handwriting. I love that it’s his words telling the story of the fun he had with our children.

I did a bit of tricky work with the title: this is an old set of chipboard Thickers, and I didn’t have enough “A” or “U” letters to spell “aquarium.” I ended up using two “V” alphas to replace them: can you tell? đŸ˜‰ I love this pop of orange as a complement to the blue/purple/teal background. It picks up on my daughter’s dress color, and it ties the color scheme with the companion Dragon Boats page.

In all honesty, I’m not loving this page right now. But I am so glad to have this story in my album, and I think it might grow on me with time!

Supplies:
cardstock: American Crafts white textured
patterned paper: Damask Love “Wild Card- Spirit Animal;” bits from my stash
alphas: American Crafts Thickers “Dots” (chipboard), Glitz Designs “Color Me Happy” Teeny Alphas (rainbow)
stamps: Shimelle “Head in the Clouds” acrylic stamps, Hampton Art “Vintologie,”
cut file: Paige Evans “Fish Background”
journal card: Project Life “Jade” edition

wood veneer: Studio Calico
other: watercolor, Liquitex clear matte gesso, print-and-cut labels, Scotch ATG, US ArtQuest PPA Matte adhesive, craft foam, Ranger Big&Bossy embossing ink, Zing embossing powder

Garden 2021: June

June started off with a new tomato plant in my garden plot! This brought the total number to ten, so I was dreaming of all the tomato recipes I’d be able to make later in the summer! A friend gave it to me, and I couldn’t find the variety name anywhere on the tag.

June 1: new tomato plant added to the garden!

Unfortunately, later that week we were out of town overnight. When I got home, the plant had tipped over and had broken in a few places. I should have known better than to leave it in its original pot (much too small, and a wimpy cage). I did some damage control– transplanting it into a bigger pot, trimming off all the broken pieces, and removing many of the green tomatoes (too heavy for the poor thing to support). I staked it and tied it up as best I could.

June 8 – a few days after the rescue attempt. This little plant might make it… but it needs a lot of gentle care!

In June, it became necessary to start pruning and tying up my tomatoes. If you look closely at the photo below, you can see the “t-shirt yarn” (just old t-shirts torn into strips) that I use to tie the tomatoes to their stakes. The containers I bought this year didn’t have a central hole, so the stakes are outside the pot. I’m not sure how much I like that… It makes the plants look sort of strangled right now. I think/hope they will do okay after a few days to reorient themselves. In hindsight, I should have planted them toward the side of the container next to the stake! I’ll have to remember that for next year.

June 4, 2021 – I started pruning and tying up my tomatoes today.

I made a conscious decision this summer to do minimal pruning, after reading and listening to some podcasts that discussed the pros and cons of pruning. With ten tomato plants, I was really hoping for a bountiful harvest, so I wanted my plants to grow as much as possible (without them getting too crowded). I also learned that the trimmed suckers can be rooted in water, so I tried it out!

I was able to share some of these rooted cuttings with friends, and I hope that they grew well in their gardens!

It was so exciting to start seeing blossoms on my tomatoes, specifically the smaller-fruit varieties.

purple cherry tomato blossoms on June 8, 2021
Brad’s Atomic Grape tomato blossoms on June 8, 2021

Even more exciting: to see the fruit forming!

baby purple cherry tomato on June 14, 2021
baby Brad’s Atomic Grape tomatoes, June 20, 2021

On the subject of blooms, I had my first marigold bloom…

marigold flower, June 4, 2021

…and I was delighted to observe nasturtium buds forming– and the first bloom. It was raggedy, but still beautiful!

nasturtium bud on June 14, 2021
first (raggedy) nasturium bloom on June 16, 2021

I was excitedly watching the cucumber plants grow. The warm weather helped!

cucumbers (and nasturtium plants) on June 14, 2021

The lavender grew in leaps and bounds this month, and I was delighted to see the pollinators visiting it, including this white butterfly:

a butterfly visiting my lavender on June 23, 2021

I started trimming some tiny bouquets of lavender (I’d read that it was best to cut it when the buds were not quite open) so that I can dry it for sachets. I tied it up with some crochet thread and hung it to dry in my craft room.

June 23 bouquet of lavender

Speaking of herbs, the spicy globe basil has taken off!!

Spicy Globe basil, June 23, 2021

The month was not without some problems in the garden. First, I started noticing blossom-end rot on some of my Brad’s Atomic Grape tomatoes. I cut those fruits off the vine and tried to keep my watering more regular. After this time, I thankfully only saw a couple other fruit in the garden that were affected by this particular malady.

blossom-end rot on my Brad’s Atomic Grape tomatoes. June 23, 2021

The grossest issue for me was when I spotted this devastation to one of my Best Boy plants. They’d already been fairly spindly looking, but this was adding insult to injury! Especially since this plant was the smallest of them all! The cuprit: Tobacco Hornworms.

hornworm damage to one of my Best Boy tomato plants, June 28, 2021

I found five more that day, and many more in subsequent days. I hadn’t really ever had an issue with hornworms in previous years, so I was pretty horrified. The best way to deal with them is to pull them off the plant (yes, with your fingers) and squash them. They are BIG. They are SQUISHY. And they often have surprisingly good grips on the plants! UGH!!

tobacco hornworm–note the red “horn”. June 28, 2021

Despite the few issues that came up, June saw a LOT of growth in my garden, and it was so exciting! Here’s a side-by-side collage of the garden throughout the first half of the month (June 1, 4, 8, and 14). I guess I forgot to take whole-garden photos for the rest of the month!

The garden from the right-hand end: June 1, 4, 8, and 14.

Our son loves Minecraft.

A lot.

So it was not a surprise that he asked for a Minecraft-themed cake for his birthday. Note: his birthday was during the summer; I’m just now getting my act together to post about this cake. It came out so well that I definitely still want to share it!

When we asked him what sort of Minecraft cake, I was expecting him to ask for a scene or a creeper (or both). Instead, he asked for a grass block! He wanted the brown parts to be chocolate and the green to be mint. Challenge accepted.

I baked the cakes and mixed up frosting– I baked two square chocolate cakes, which we trimmed down so that we could make four layers. The top and bottom layers are solid squares; the middle two layers are made from the offcuts stacked perpendicular to each other. We used chocolate frosting between the layers.

Husband did all of the outside work! Of course, we waited until late at night to begin the frosting process, and I was so wiped out that all I could do was offer some suggestions. Husband did an absolutely amazing job. He figured out that he could cut a cardstock template for the grass detail on the sides of the block.

Husband took it one step further and did some sugar work to create the new growth that would occur if the block is sprinkled with bonemeal in the game. I really think this is such a showstopper!

It was so fun to see how completely delighted our son was about his cake! (and it tasted pretty delicious, too!)

Garden 2021: May

I dropped the ball on updating throughout the summer about my garden here on the blog. I’ve been doing little updates on my Instagram stories all along, but considering this blog started as a gardening record, I do want to gather all those details (and maybe a few more) here. It’s a daunting task to cover the whole season in one post, so I’ve decided to go month by month to catch up.

Last we left off, I’d just planted out the garden! I’d done the final transplant of my tomatoes into their large pots and direct-sowed cucumber and nasturtium seeds.

About a week later, I spotted nasturtium sprouts!

May 12 – nasturtium sprouts!

However, just over two weeks after I’d sown the seeds, I wasn’t seeing anything in the cucumber pots. Like an impatient little kid, I decided to dibble around in the pots to see if anything was actually sprouting. Out of the 12 seeds I’d put in, only one of them was germinating. I was really disappointed, because I’d deliberately planted extra this year so that I’d have enough to pickle! Therefore, I decided to plant more seeds, this time from the Burpee packet I had leftover from 2015.

May 19- the lone Ferry-Morse cucumber sprout.

I adore lavender, so I decided to buy this little seedling to add to my garden. It’s my dream to have a big patch of it somewhere on my property (or at least several containers’-worth!)

May 19 – new addition to my garden plot: lavender!!

I was delighted to start seeing cucumber sprouts within 5 days of planting the “new” (but really actually old) seeds. By a week later, almost all of them had sprouted!

May 26 – baby nasturtium plants and cucumber sprouts! Hooray!

Throughout May, I was so happy to add some more types of herbs to my garden, thanks to my local Buy-Nothing group. In addition to the spicy globe basil I’d gotten at the end of April, I also was gifted dill, chives, and three marigold plants.


It was so amazing to watch my garden grow (both individual plants and by adding even more containers of plants!) this month. Here’s a little collage showing its progress:

My garden in May 2021– left to right: May 4, May 19, and May 26

Stay tuned for the June update!