craft verb \'kraft\ to create with care, skill and intention

Sunday, May 29, 2011

My Perfect Date Night!

My mom had the kids over to spend the night yesterday which means that The Hubs and I got to enjoy some much-needed alone time. A couple of weeks ago the kids went to my in-laws' house for the night and I was so tired that I fell asleep on the couch at 6:00 while watching a movie and slept until 9:00 the next morning. Yeah, I am one hot date :) But last night we had a perfect date night.

Before kids, The Hubs and I had evenings like this all the time. This wouldn't have been anything special, it would have been, like, a Tuesday night or something. Now that we have kids, a lot has changed. Of course I love my kids, but I sometimes often long for that feeling of The Years Before Kids. So last night, we had dinner at the best place in town.

We had drinks and appetizers. We spoke in full sentences with NO rhyming words whatsoever.

We got to hand-pick our steaks (rib-eye for me and KC strip for The Hubs).

They were cooked to perfection by the resident Grill Master.

Meanwhile, in the kitchen, someone slaved to prepare the perfect side dishes.

You know what? Before kids, the Caesar salad would have been dressed with homemade dressing and the fries hand-cut from actual whole potatoes. The appetizer would have been homemade hummus and pita chips or bruschetta with toasted baguette slices (and the baguette would possibly have been homemade as well) instead of store-bought 7-layer dip and a bag of tortilla chips. But I didn't want to spend time in the kitchen, I wanted to spend time with The Hubs!

But when you sit down with your favoritest person in the whole world to a dinner that looks like this, it's hard to find much to complain about! There was a time when I thought that having EVERY single part of the meal be made from scratch was paramount to having a great dinner. I now know that the company is a much more important factor! I am so blessed to be married to someone who, after all these years (8 adventure-filled ones), is still the person I most want to hang out with! 

Of course, a perfectly cooked steak doesn't hurt either :)

And finally, because one of the benefits of dining in is that man's best friend can join you:

This is Max. He's been feeling a little neglected since the cat has had so much more blog exposure than him. But Max just doesn't provide me with as many bloggable moments as Lucky does. Max always looks pretty much like this. He's a real good dog. He's sweet and loyal, a lap-dog in a 110 pound body, not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but he is definitely a very good dog.

Ooh - ooh - ooh! In these pics is a sneak peek at a fun project I hope to complete and share with you in just a few days. I hope you are all having a great weekend. Try to work in a date night if you can :) You deserve it!


Sunday, May 22, 2011

Mod Podge Transfers...

...or as I like to call it: The. Coolest. Thing. EVER! I know, I know, I say that a lot. But sometimes you stumble onto something that opens up a whole world of possibilities, something that takes your creativity to a new level. That is what Mod Podge transfers have done for me, so I want to share them with you. Maybe you won't find this technique as life-changing as I have, but if you try it out I promise you will at least find that it is very, very fun!

It all started one day in April as I was lurking around Full of Great Ideas. She has so many fun ideas over there that I can't even remember what I was originally looking at when I stumbled across this project. I was immediately lured in by the idea of subway art (which I have fallen in love with) that doesn't use a vinyl cutting machine (which I don't have...yet). As I read through Stephanie's post I was completely, COMPLETELY, completely amazed. I had never heard of such a thing! How could I have never even heard of something like this that is just pure, unadulterated awesomeness?!

Stephanie's step-by-step tutorial is superb, so I'm not even going to try to make a tutorial on this, but I will share some tips and tricks that I have learned along the way. Some of them are mentioned in Stephanie's tutorial but are so helpful that they bear repeating. Some of them are just things I have learned the hard way. So check out some of the fun things I have been able to make since my miraculous discovery :)

For Mother's Day, I asked each of the kids to tell me 3 things that they love about each of their grandmothers.
I started with blank 8x10 canvasses and painted each one in a shade appropriate for its recipient. I made up the artwork in Word using lots of different fonts (tip: use a different text box for each word/phrase so you can edit and move the text independently from the other words/phrases) then printed it out in a mirror image (under print properties on the print menu). Since I don't have a laser printer, I copied each page on a copier. After applying the paper to the canvas with MP, I think it works best to let it dry completely before removing the, overnight if you can stand to wait that long.

On this one for Mimi, I used a metallic champagne color for the background. It's pretty, but I won't use metallic paint as the background for a transfer again. If there are any places where you leave even an infinitesimally thin film of your paper when you rub most of the paper off, those places will not have a metallic luster and it looks a little splotchy. Honestly it probably wouldn't be noticeable to anyone except the crafter, but still, you know how those little things can drive a girl crazy!

Wrapped up with tulle bows and ready to present! A couple more tips before we move on: First, choose your fonts wisely. It's hard to tell in these photos, but see that font at the bottom ("creative" and "fantastic")? Inside the letters is all of this really neat filigree-type design work. The problem with using this in a transfer is that all of those teeny tiny fine lines are very delicate and rub off pretty easily. Second, if you do happen to rub off some parts of your image, do as Stephanie says in her tutorial and touch it up with a black Sharpie. The black won't match exactly at first, but once you put a top coat of MP on it will look perfectly perfect.

Used here to personalize a decoupage frame.

I found a similar quote online, credited to "author unknown," changed the wording in a couple of places and made this little cutie for Little CC's ballet teacher.

Sorry for the glare. This one shows the color a little better. In real life, it's not quite so pea-soup-y. I made this one with an unused canvas that I found tucked into the back of my closet. I couldn't remember what I had originally planned for the canvas, so I used it for this project (doesn't that make it "free?") I ended up with more room at the bottom than I had planned/anticipated so I just added a little stamp with black acrylic paint.

Another dark photo, but here you can see that I stapled a ribbon to the back so it can be hung on the wall. You can't see it, but I also glued a ribbon all along the edge to give it a little more of a finished look. If any of you have a dancer in your life and you would like to make her a little somethin'-somethin' just let me know in the comments and I'll email you the PDF for the wording.

Can you tell that I am having soooo much fun with this?! In her post, Stephanie links to a project she found on The Cre8tive Outlet that will totally knock your socks off with its uber-awesomeness. (Yeah, I know. I used "awesomeness" twice in a single post and that's 2 times too many. I'm just so excited about this I can't help it!) I am getting ready to undertake a similar project using this photo:

The Hubs found this picture in the Wikimedia Commons. It's the New River Gorge Bridge in West Virginia and it is about to adorn my dining room wall. We have a wall in our dining room that is huge. The fact that the ceiling in that room is vaulted contributes to the feeling of hugeness of this wall that has been big and blank since we moved in (5 years ago). Even fairly large objects end up looking like a postage stamp when we hang them on this wall. No more, my friends! I'm going to make a seriously big - about 7' long by 3.5' tall - piece of art to (finally) decorate that space. Yippee! Of course I will share the details of that project once I get it finished :)

I hope I haven't bored you to tears with my new favorite craft. If I have, well you can take comfort in knowing that I will have a new favorite craft in about 3 days or so. Until then, I have transfers to make so I've got to dash! I hope you had a great weekend!

Beth's having a party at A 2 Z. All the cool kids will be there :) Come check it out!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

How to Make Decoupage Frames

Several weeks ago I was cruising around Tip Junkie's site as I so often do. I was looking through her teacher appreciation gift ideas and stumbled upon a beautiful decoupage frame by Jessica of Craftily Ever After. It is really the bee's knees and I fell in love with it immediately. Since then, I have made MANY of these frames. Let's see...teacher appreciation gifts, a gift for a friend, gifts for Little CC and her  ballet classmates to celebrate their recital, a gift for My Girl to celebrate her first Karate tournament, a baby shower gift, and the list goes on and on. I just can't get enough of them! They are easy to do and just so stinking cute that you can hardly believe you made it yourself! Here are some pics so you can see for yourself:

Gifts for Baby K's teachers

By the way, that vase is a Crystal Light container wrapped with jute twine and tied
with a  pretty ribbon. Added some roses from my garden and - presto! - a
lovely gift for a couple of lovely ladies!

A gift for a friend who loves the color green.

One of the frames for Little CC's classmates. I added each girl's name
by doing a Mod Podge transfer. That is a subject for another post, but
if you don't already know how to do that you are in for serious fun!
 Okay, are you dying to know how to do this yet?! First, a caveat - if you have not worked with Mod Podge before I would HIGHLY recommend that you hop over to Mod Podge Rocks and watch Amy's video on how to start out with Mod Podge. Just to give you an idea about how helpful her video is, I bought a rather small jar of MP several years ago because I kept seeing cool decoupage projects in blog land. A few weeks ago when I started these projects (and some transfer projects that I will share with you soon), I still had that same jar - mostly full - because I never could get it to work right. So, I watched the video and ~surprise, surprise~ all of my troubles were due to user errors. I promptly polished off that jar, knocked out another jar, and I'm now half-way through yet another jar. Don't do what I did, friends. Watch the video and you will be quickly on your way to enjoying MP without all of the frustration I needlessly inflicted on myself!

Start with an unfinished wood frame from the craft store. They come in all kinds of fun shapes and sizes. I got these at Michael's for $1 a piece. Give the frame a quick rub down with some 200 grit sandpaper to smooth it out and prevent splinters. Wipe the frame down with a soft cloth to remove any sawdust.

Trace around the outside edge and the inside opening of the frame onto scrapbook paper. I like to do this on the right side of the paper so I can center the frame on the pattern of the paper. Save yourself some heartache down the road and pay attention to the pattern on the paper. Even a random-looking polka dot pattern like this one looks better if it is centered on your frame. Ask me how I know :) Cut out your paper and lay it out on your frame to check it out and make any needed adjustments.

Before you apply your paper, use acrylic craft paint to paint around the edges that will be exposed. You can use a color that matches the background color of your paper like I did here, or you can pick a coordinating color from the design on your paper like I did on the pink and white damask frame. Whatever floats your boat. Remember that this is your show! There are no rules! Have fun!

Once the paint has dried, apply a light-to-moderate coat of Mod Podge to the face of your frame. You'll want to work pretty quickly because MP dries quickly. Before this set of frames I used a foam brush to apply the MP and that worked fine too. I found that I preferred the brush (large flat nylon brush) because I felt I had better control and there seemed to be less waste of the MP because the foam brush absorbs and holds so much. Again, just do what works for you.

Apply your paper to the frame and smooth, smooth, smooth. Work from the inside toward the outside, wiping away any excess MP with a brush or cloth. If you have a brayer, now would be a great time to use it. I did not have one when I made these because I refused to pay the $12-20 for brayers at the craft store. But ya know what? The other day I picked up a very similar product at Lowe's for $6. It's designed for helping to smooth out wallpaper and I think it will work great for crafts too! Anyhoo, do whatever you need to do to get it nice and smooth and then walk away. Walk. Away. Seriously people, the urge to start slathering on MP at this point is strong but you must resist or you will ruin your project. So just walk away.

Let your frame dry for 20-30 minutes before adding a topcoat of MP. Don't freak out because the MP is milky - it dries crystal clear. Don't freak out if you see little wrinkles pop up in your paper - leave them alone and they will smooth right back out as it dries.

If you want, you can call it a finished project at this point. They're already so cute! MP is available in gloss, satin and matte, so keep in mind your preferred finish when you pick up your MP at the store. I prefer to do a "built-up" finish so I apply at least 4 more coats of MP, allowing 20 minutes of drying time between coats. Then I let it dry overnight. The next day I wet sand the frame with 400 grit sandpaper to smooth out the brushstrokes. Wipe it with a dry cloth and apply a couple of coats of clear acrylic spray paint. (Tip: some people find that MP can leave a tacky finish even when dry. If you have trouble with that, a quick coat of acrylic spray paint will solve that problem.) Keep in mind that if you are going to finish it with acrylic spray then the finish of your MP is not important (gloss, satin, or matte), but the finish of your spray is, so choose accordingly.

I like to embellish the frames by hot gluing a flower onto a corner. The frames come with a peg to prop the frame up for use on a desk or a shelf or you can staple a ribbon to the back of the frame to hang it on the wall. I know it seems like there are a lot of steps here, but each step is quick and easy. Total cost for this project is around $2, which makes it affordable to make a very nice custom gift. Have fun!
Ta Ta For Now,

Linking up to Beth's party at A 2 Z. Lots of great ideas over there - check it out!