Monday, December 10, 2012

Card-Making, Tree-Trimming, and Santa! Oh, My!

The Saturday after Thanksgiving, I walked into Michael's for the first time in a very, very long time. (I did mention before that at one time I was quite the crafter/scrapbooker extraordinaire.) The store was in the same strip mall where I happened to be doing some early Christmas shopping. I thought, "Hey, I'll pick up those cross-stitching needles I need." (I'm currently making C-Bear's Very Special Christmas Stocking and the needle that came with the kit was unworthy of me, but I digress.) I'd be in and out in a jiffy, no problem.

 The doors parted for me and all that glorious Christmas stuff was right there before my very eyes. Wouldn't you know that the tapestry needles were in the back of the store? I had to walk past all the wonderful holiday craft stuff--including my personal Kryptonite: paper crafts.

I told myself there was no harm in perusing what was the latest in scrapbooking and card-making. Oh, Michael's knows what its doing, my friends. Buy one, get one free stamps? Ridiculous sales on paper, cardstock, blank cards, everything and anything having to do with any kind of paper craft that could ever be dreamt up in all of humanity? Yes and yes.

I got an idea. I got a wonderful, awful idea. And it didn't have anything to do with stealing Christmas from unwitting little Who's. (Fortunately, my heart had already grown twice its size since re-engaging in this glorious thing called Real Life.)

I decided that not only would we be sending out Christmas cards this year, but that I would make them myself. I designed the card in my mind as I wandered the aisles, not knowing the sort of torture I was about to put myself through. Two very large bags later (and no, I didn't forget those needles), I walked toward the car full of blissful ignorance.

Things I have learned during the several day process of making 50 Christmas cards with a "simple" design:
  • It helps to have a helper. For real. In this case, Banana became my master "stamper." She also helped me cut some of the card stock.
  • Cheaper does not equal better. I bought several inexpensive silver ink pads only to discover that you can't see the silver at all. I ended up having to do a bit of a re-design using silver glitter spray.
  • Silver glitter spray is toxic. Even though I sprayed the cards in the garage, we still had to open the windows in the house in order to breathe.
  • You can't use the standard setting with an inkjet printer when printing on vellum paper. I sadly discovered this after I'd printed everything. It took about 4-5 hours for the ink to dry.
  • If you're going to attach papers with ribbon, do not use stiff ribbon. I did. The stuff I used, though pretty, is not easy to work with. There were moments when I considered scrapping the whole project while doing the ribbon part.
  • You can never have enough permanent double-sided tape. I went through 5 things of the stuff making all 50 cards. I went back to the store twice just for the tape alone.
Will I do it again next year? Most likely. I'm rather pleased with the outcome, despite the challenges--and I've got 12 months to forget the ordeal. I imagine I'll be just as blissfully ignorant next year--especially since I will be coming up with a whole new design.

Here are the cards. (And I have some extras, so if you want one, please e-mail me your address. My e-mail is in my profile blurb on the upper right of the blog.)

Cards drying from the toxic glitter spray. Big E used to do fine-woodworking and even he was knocked out by the fumes.
In the process of putting the cover together. I did each part in shifts--spending a few hours each night to whittle away at the project.
The finished product (the cover). The poem is an original of mine. I used Papyrus for the "A" and "Y" and the rest is in Rage Italic.
The entire design came to me when I saw this Nativity stamp. Banana did all the stamping for me. Didn't she do an amazing job? :)
And here is the inside. (I opted for as much simplicity as possible.)
Now, that same weekend I got the wonderful, awful idea, our family excitedly pulled out our Christmas boxes, ready to put up our tree (we've got a fake one). The kids helped Big E attach the branches to the base of the tree and fluff them out while I began work on the cards. Christmas music blared from our stereo as we happily holiday-ed along.

After the tree was put together, we all gathered around the Christmas boxes with holiday enthusiasm only to discover all of our tree-trimming accessories were missing. All but one: Big E's favorite ornament (which happened to be on his nightstand for some odd reason). No lights, no beaded garland, no string of Norwegian flags (we're rather proud of my husband's heritage), no angel tree-topper, no ornaments (not even the ones from my childhood). We tore apart the garage and various closets where we have boxes stored. Nothing. Not a single sparkly ball.

All I can say is thank you to WalMart and The Dollar Tree. Without their very cheap stuff, we would still be sporting a bare tree save for that one ornament. I hope we find our decorations, but at least we have a proper Christmas tree.

The hardest thing to find was a proper topper. (Oy, alliteration.) The Dollar Tree had a few but they were too whimsical for our decorations. WalMart had only one (one!) and while the design was fine, the colors would have clashed with the ornaments that we had purchased already. Luckily, because of the silver ink pad debacle with my card-making, I had to head back to Michael's for the toxic glitter spray. They had the topper we needed. Yay.

Because we had to buy the supplies, however, it was a week before we were able to trim the tree. Fortunately the kids were still just as thrilled to do it.

Banana took charge of the trimming event. She's very artistic and did a good job of directing her siblings so that we didn't have too many ornament clumps. (Big E took care of the lights, and both he and I hung the garland.)
Can you guess which kid turns into a little ham when Mommy breaks out the camera? If you guessed C-Bear, you would be correct.
Princess can ham it up, too. Apparently she used all her happy for this photo, because when Mommy wanted to take a photo with all the children and the finished tree... Well, you'll see.
Big E put on the angel. Note that he is standing on the arms of our couch and loveseat. (Both our living and family rooms are a little small, so we had to improvise the best place to put the tree. Interestingly enough, the upstairs is very spacious--we would have had more than enough room to put the tree in our bedroom! Ha!)
The finished masterpiece.
The aforementioned sole-surviving ornament from our original decorations. (Ever see the film "Fever Pitch"? This is my life married to Big E, only instead of an obsession with an MLB team, he's all about college football. Go Ducks!)
And here is the photo where everyone but Princess was pleased. (I can't remember why she was cranky.) Back row (from left to right): Little E, Banana, Lee-Lee. Front row (from left to right): G-man, Princess, C-Bear
The above photo is going out with the cards, by the way. Somehow, when she's older, I think Princess will probably be even less pleased that I sent this photo to all of our friends and family. My response will be thus: MWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!

Because Mommy has a wicked sense of humor.

Finally, last weekend we attended the annual work Christmas Party. It wasn't as swanky as last year's (where there were dozens of activities for the kids as well as photos with Santa and plenty of seating for meal-time). In fact, we were all crammed into a DFAC (for you non-military folks, that's the "Dining Facility" which is a cafeteria--and this one was not particularly big). But we couldn't complain since the special events center was being used this year for soldiers and their families to be reunited after deployment. Who cares if we had to eat standing up while the kids were squished in a booth, right? Families were getting Daddies and Mommies, husbands and wives back after a long separation.

Kind of puts things into perspective, doesn't it?

Besides, the food was still good and Santa still came. The kids may not have gotten face-painting and crafts, but they got a big bag of candy and a beanie-baby from Jolly Old Saint Nick. A good time was had, even if it wasn't quite as good as last year.

Little E was the only one of our kids who opted out of the picture with Santa. There's no surprise there. He didn't want to do it last year. He's rather leery of strangers, especially when they are dressed-up in costumes. (I'm reminded of the time he met Elmo when he was about 6 or 7 years old. I had to physically hold him in the picture.)

The other five monkeys were quite excited to see the man in red--even my oh-so-mature 12 and 14-year-olds. In fact, Lee-Lee had quite the conversation with Santa about the spirit of Christmas.

Princess, C-Bear and Banana with Santa. I wasn't there for this photo, but Banana tells me C-Bear was rather nervous about sitting on the big man's lap and squeezed big sister's hand very, very hard. Hey, at least she smiled for the photo!
G-man and Lee-Lee take their turn. (And yes, that's a Twilight shirt Lee-Lee is wearing. What's funny, though, is Banana is a far bigger fan of the series than Lee-Lee.)
There you have it, folks, the latest in the House of Crazies. The Christmas shopping is nearly done and the baking is about to begin.

Happy Holidays!

1 comment:

  1. I wouldn't have the patience to make a load of cards, but I've never really had an affinity for the sort of thing you like, but then people are different, but as you say you found something that was addictive before and could have gripped you again, but it seems like you managed to control the emotional effects of the crafting experience pretty well.

    I'm sure you'll have a great Christmas. You deserve it. You've given so much to your family and had to endure a lot, not least moving frequently because of your husbands work, but you've contributed greatly, to a really brilliant family unit and you and yours deserve a brilliant Christmas.

    GOOD LUCK with it all and have a great time. You are one amazing Lady Randi. WELL DONE.

    :-) :-).