Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Chilly, Sheldon and 65

Ok!  Raise your hand if you're not sorry to see the end of the 2013!  Raise your other hand if you're hoping that 2014 has more ups and fewer downs.  Yep.  Me too.  Now put your hands down.  You look silly.   :P

I thought I'd sneak in one last post for the year, and it's a two-fer.  Because I was over taken by some nasty malware (which I'm not thoroughly convinced is gone.  If you have a suggestion for an ass-kicking malware detector, by all means, pass it on in the comment section!) -- anyway, because of malware, I was rescheduled on the Silhouette blog and by some fluke I was on both yesterday and today. It feels like all-Caroline-all-the-time over there right now. :P

First up, Chilly:

As is so often the case: I like this in real life more.  IRL it doesn't appear so lopsided - that element at the top looks like it was cut off in the scan here, but it looks more purposeful in person.  That said, I don't love this layout. However, there is one detail that I do swoon over:

I love the way the circles cut from the vellum look.  It reminds me of the snow in the Charlie Brown Christmas special, when all the kids are outside skating.  It just makes me happy.  It didn't show up well in the whole-page shot, but you can see it better in person. And here. ;)

Next up, a goofy layout featuring Sheldon, from The Big Bang Theory:

I realize this looks silly and made up, but I promise, this is a memory for us.  Kerig spent a couple of hours shooting our "tree" (really a spider plant with a silver silver ball hanging from it), the Christmas presents, the Christmas lights and other assorted shots with christmas light bokeh as the background.  I will look at this shot and remember him laying on the ground, fussing with his tripod, breaking out different lenses for different effects.

And I love my CAMEO:

There's something about that crisp, clean cut, the red against the white that makes my heart sing a little.  Can you imagine trying to hunt down a store bought title for this goofy picture? I think not.

So there it is.  This is my 65th post this year.  I had sent a pie-in-the-sky goal of 76 (twice what I did in 2012 and 2011) and I honestly didn't think I'd come this close.  Thank you for stopping by.  I hope that your 2014 is your best year yet!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

I had a photographic a-ha! moment today

And I thought I'd share.

I think snow is beautiful.  Now that I don't have to drive Cleveland's scariest highways, my attitude towards snow is: Bring it on. Only, I've never been able to take a decent picture of snow falling.  Now matter how hard it's coming down, how big and fat the flakes are, it just never really translates.

It's Christmas Eve today and snowing big, fat, snowy snowflakes and I can't help being happier because of it.  I wanted to take a picture, but the pessimist in me said "Why bother? It won't show up anyway. :("

And then it dawned on me:



Have you ever seen a picture of an airport that looks deserted, even if you know that place is usually packed?  The photographer used a tripod and a slow shutter speed to make all the people "disappear."  The long exposure means that only the parts that stay constant have a chance to burn in - everything else just fades away.

The same premise is true for falling snow.  Only in this case, the falling snow is like the people who fade away.  Because it's generally a little darker when it's snowing, the camera compensates by holding the shutter open for a longer time.  This allows more light to seep into the camera and get you a proper exposure.  When the shutter stays open for a longer time, anything that's moving shows up as blur.  If there's enough disparity between the shutter speed and the moving object, the object can disappear completely.  That's not usually the case with snow, but it blurs enough to just barely show up.

In order to get the snow to show up, then, we need to dial in a shutter speed that's fast enough to "freeze" the action.  In these examples I jacked the shutter speed all the way up to 1/1250.  That's probably way higher than it needed to be. And to get a decent exposure on this very grey, snowy day I had to up my ISO to 12800.  I was shooting in shutter priority, and the camera dialed in an aperture of f/13 - so obviously I could have brought down the ISO and still had a very workable image.  But it was cold and I'm at work, so I wasn't going to be fussing around too much. ;)

Bottom line: this settings are probably way more drastic than they need to be, but the premise is the same: If you take a snowy day picture and the flakes aren't showing up, you'll want to up your shutter speed (and probably your ISO).  Start by doubling your current shutter speed - if you were shooting at 1/60th, try 1/125th and keep playing until you get where you're going.

I was only about 15 feet away from this wreath when I took it.  The snow shows up, but there's only about 15 feet's worth of snow.  On the other hand, I was across the street from this clock tower:

So there was LOTS of snow between me and my subject and even more behind it.  The cumulative affect is so exciting!  To me anyway.  It might take more to get you excited.  I get it.  To each her own. ;)

Merry Christmas!
And if you don't celebrate: Happy Random Wednesday Off!

Monday, December 23, 2013

One last one...

We're here! Right in the final stretch!  I have 2 more days of work, Maggie comes home from RIT tomorrow today ☺, I'm almost finished shopping, and I'm almost finished wrapping.  One day I dream of having all my ducks in row way earlier, but this year? This year I'm grateful for where I am.

I don't do a lot of baking at holiday time.  I only have two coworkers, and none of us (my coworkers, Kerig, my kids and I included) really need the extra temptation.  But it can't be a week before Christmas and not make some fun treats, right?  

Bring on the Candy Cane Rice Krispie Treats:

I love Rice Krispie treats. Seriously. 
But a doctored RKT can really make me happy.  

I found a recipe online (yes, I'm looking at you, Pintrest) but it wasn't realistic for me. It called for things I couldn't find, like peppermint marshmallows and peppermint Hershey's Kisses.  These things may exist, but not anywhere I'm shopping.  So I reworked the recipe to make it work for me.  And I thought I'd put my tried (twice!) and true recipe here.  Mostly so I can find it again next year, but if you'd like to try, hey, more power to you!

Candy Cane Rice Krispie Treats
1 stick of butter
2 10 oz bags of miniature marshmallows
1½ t. Peppermint Extract
9 cups Rice Krispie cereal
1½ cups white chocolate chips
½ t. vegetable oil
5 candy canes (full size)

In large pot over low heat, melt butter and two bags of marshmallows until soft and lump-free. Stir frequently.  Stir in peppermint extract. Stir in cereal.  When cereal is fully coated with marshmallow, pour into a greased 9x13 pan.  Press down to make flat and even.  Let cool for a half hour or more.

Put candy canes in Ziploc bag and crush with rolling pin (or can of soup, or whatever's handy) until you have small chunks.  (But don't crush too much, because the red stripes get lost, and I like them)

Once the treats are cool, cut into even squares.  Microwave white chocolate chips and vegetable in a microwave safe bowl for 40 seconds.  Stir. Microwave at 50% power in 15 second intervals until smooth, stirring after each time. 

Drizzle squares with melted chocolate and sprinkle with candy cane crumbs while hot. Let cool.  Enjoy.  Come back here and tell me what a genius I am. 


Okay, that's it for me. I'm tapping out until after Christmas.
Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Ho Ho Ho!

Yesterday was my day up on the Silhouette blog, which means that I'm free to share here. Whoopee!

I bought the Peace Love and Joy paper pack from Lawn Fawn to use on my Advent calendar.  Truth be told, I ordered two of those paper packs, just to be safe.  Turns out one has yet to be touched. Oops.  But I did use more of the paper here.  Because why search through my enormous stash of papers, when I can pick up the pad that never got put away?  The little sequins and plastic snowflakes? They're from an embellishment pack, also Lawn Fawn's Peace Love and Joy collection, purchased for use on the Advent calendar.  And, yep: same reasoning: they were still sitting on the desk.

And it's sort of funny how things unfold in scrapbooking.  I love the background paper.  It's from Elle's Studio and I couldn't wait to get my hands on it.  It sort of reminds me of a prisoner's jumpsuit, but I'm willing to overlook that because color on gray is my favorite right now.  It did have two sayings typed on it.  And they were very drippy love related.  Nothing that I wanted associated to some random old guy dressed up as Santa. So I'm glad that the piece of washi tape that says "♥ Merry" covers up the saying without looking too out of place.

I love (love, love) the way the huge scroll-y snowflake looks.  I'm not taking credit - I didn't do anything other than pay for it and cut it out big.  Well, that and spend TWENTY FREAKING MINUTES CAREFULLY PRYING IT OFF THE CUTTING MAT.  Which makes me a crafting genius. :P  But that tool in the picture?  That's the Silhouette spatula that I've been raving about.  And this project (done a while ago) is why I'm now totally sold on this tool.  There's no way that I would have gotten that snowflake off the mat in one piece without it.

Now, that said: I do not like Silhouette scrapper. And I feel compelled to say this so that you understand that when I like something I really, genuinely like it. I'm not just a puppet-for-hire. This blog has been rah-rah-Silhouette loooong before they even had a design team, so yes, I'm prone to loving their stuff, but I'm also prone to not holding in my true opinion.

Okay, so that whole paragraph wasn't to bash the scrapper, it's to say this: when I cut something that has lots of negative bits that are left behind I use an old plastic gift or credit card to scrape them off.  At the right angle those little bits pop right off the mat.  It works best if the mat is laying flat - and that's the hardest part.  Frequently I have to take it to the kitchen table to do it because even though I run a tight scrapping ship, in the middle of a project my desk is still a mess.

I hope that your December is filled with joy and merriment, food, laughter, family and love.  I feel so schmaltzy for saying that, but I mean it.

Thanks for stopping by.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Kicking and screaming towards the holidays...

I don't mind hearing Christmas music at the grocery store.
I don't care if you put up your tree the weekend before Thanksgiving.
When someone says "I'm finished my Christmas shopping" I'm happy for them and more than a little bit envious.

But, for the most part, I'm not one who gets into the spirit.  I'm not cranky or bah-humbug, I just...I just like routine, and Christmas (holidays in general, in fact) really messes with that.

So you can imagine my reaction when I found out that I had to create a Christmas decoration using Silhouette's Advent Calendar.  I was centered somewhere between a knot of dread in my stomach and full on panic.  And that lasted for days.  Every moment in the shower, driving to work, loading the dishwasher and folding laundry was spent wondering how I was going to pull this off.  Surely, I thought, my Christmas non-spirit would show through, and everyone would know I was a big, fat phony when it comes to Christmas cheer.

And maybe that was true in the beginning.  Maybe I was faking-it-til-you-make-it, but just as that implies, somewhere along the way a switch got flipped, and I started to have fun. Then I started glittering stuff and then I started having a LOT of fun.  And then I noticed glitter in Kerig's beard and, well, you just can't get any more fun than that!

Maybe you're asking yourself "So what did you do with it??"  Or not.  But let's proceed like you were actually curious, shall we?

After all the thinking about how I was going to do this, I finally came up with the idea of combining two of my favorite childhood Christmas traditions.  Our family didn't decorate the tree until Christmas Eve (I know, right?  Ridiculous!) so we didn't have the same level of daily anticipation that "kids these days" have. We did get the cardboard Advent Calendars, and the best part of them was hunting for the day.  What was behind the door was never really all that great, but there was something about looking at all the numbers and finding the right one - that was the exciting part to me.  The other thing that I liked was this thing that my aunt made for us.  It's too hard to explain, but it suffices to say that it had 25 peppermint candies tied to it and every night after dinner we got to untie one and have our mint.  Twofold greatness: candy AND getting to watch the line of mints get shorter every day!

So my thought for this was to combine the two elements I liked best - the hunt for the right day and candy.  On December 1st, this will be nothing but rows of numbered bags. On the first day, we'll find the number 1 bag, and have the Hershey's Nuggets that are inside, and then rehang the bag with the decoration side out.  Every day we'll repeat this process, and as Christmas approaches, it will go from boring rows of numbers to lots and lots of sparkling Christmas and winter scenes.

 Here's a couple of the decorated sides:

Ok. I'm not going to pretend that I don't have favorites.  And this snowman and that penguin? They're the favorites.  You can't tell in the picture, I don't think, but the snowman's eyes and coal buttons are actually black glitter.  Who knew there was an actual use for black glitter??  Well. Now you know! Adorable.  (That is so not humble. But I'm just so pleased with them!)

These are distant runners-up in the favorites category, but it doesn't matter, because the cumulative effect of all these little boxes is sheer Christmasy goodness.  This is going to stay on the shelf behind the sofa, where it'll get seen a lot and is easily accessible to for bag-flipping-and-candy-retrieving.

Be sure to stop by the Silhouette blog to see the other girls' ideas for the Advent Calendar.

And if you're wondering about supplies:
Simple Stories Snowflake-Chevron paper (for the bag)(I *love* this paper and wish I had some left over.  the black/grey chevron is fantastic)
Lawn Fawn Peace Joy Love 6x6 paper pad (for the little patterned bits)(except the snowman's and penguin's nose - that's a scrap of BoBunny paper.)
Lawn Fawn Peace Joy Love Mixed Sequins  and Lawn Fawn Peace Joy Love Snowflake Sequins are the random bits here and there.
The glitter could be from Silhouette or Martha Stewart, and the penguin's hat is glittered using Doodlebug's Sugar Coatin Chunky Glitter
All the shapes except the bag are from the Silhouette online store.  You can see the Silhouette blog post for clickable links for those.
The bag itself is something I made so it would fit perfectly within the structure of the advent calendar and be wide enough to hold a couple of Hershey's Nuggets.  If you're interested, ask for it in the comment section and I'll send it your way.
And, ohmygoodness, is that another aflairforbuttons flair? Why, yes. Yes it is.  And I'll tell you another thing: that link takes you to the set of flair that has the one I used, but I didn't buy that.  I actually did the 12 custom buttons option.  I just didn't have a need for 8 (eight!!) Christmas themed buttons.  So I picked a couple of Christmasy flair and then mixed in some more Caroline-friendly themes.  ;)  (No. I'm not in the aflairforbutton lady's back pocket.  I just love these flair pieces.)

Thanks (as always) for stopping by! I hope your December is off to a great start!