Thursday, October 8, 2020

Happy Birthday, Mama!


(Me, mama, mama's middle sister/my Auntie Ruth 10/2/2020)

1963 Mama Northeast High School Honor Society and Miss Aries

Mama at 70+ (We look JUST God, would you PLEASE let me age like this????)

(mama, my brother Matt and yours truly)

 "Oh, Carmen...I love your blog!" a new fan...I mean, "subscriber" wrote me. "You're so funny! You should be published. You are simply the best humor writer on this planet, second only to the Goddess who was Erma Bombeck. You MUST be discovered and reign on the Best Seller lists and become wealthy enough to at LEAST get approved for that TJ Maxx card that keeps eluding you."

Or something like that. I paraphrase, naturally.

I'm actually sitting here with a big, goofy grin as I write this, although I'd appreciate all of you thinking I'm typing with a cool, professional and slightly bored detachment. You someone who gets these types of positive reinforcements from people who are neither relatives nor foreigners who think they've landed on a Martha Stewart mirror website. 

Naturally, I wouldn't dare encourage them thinking they had somehow found a Martha Stewart offshoot, but since I'm sure their English may not be very good and I certainly would NOT want to misunderstood, I simply don't answer when they query. I just send them to a link of a pretty fabulous tutorial of mine and that usually occupies them for a couple of months. I also offer them the link to sign up for emails so that they don't miss any said fabulous tutorials. 

Hey...don't judge! If it was up to you, you'd just barge in and embarrass them at the first opportunity and tell them they made a mistake! But I allow them to save face by giving them the chance to improve their English enough to figure out they haven't, indeed, landed on a Martha Stewart mirror site and they could make the choice to leave at that point. 

So, now we see who the real not-so-nice people are, don't we, hmmm?

The past two weeks have been ROUGH. Not only did I come down with a terrible cold, I wasn't able to get ANY rest for it due to everyone from family and friends to the CDC calling daily to analyze my symptoms to determine if it was Covid.

Look...I didn't have a fever. Just a sore throat and sinuses that simply didn't care if someone slapped tape over my mouth in a kidnapping attempt...they were not going to open for any reason. I could taste ice cream and Oreo cookies. Strangely enough, however, I could not taste broccoli, cauliflower, salad, anything low-calorie, low-fat or anything with letters written in pastel colors which as we all know, tend to represent the two, previously mentioned hyphenated words.

That being said, I could've sworn I heard the whir and saw quick flashes of drones outside my windows, checking on me and my progress. 

Of course, the unknown factor is whether they were sent by the CDC (likely) or my mother (even more likely).

See, October 2nd was my mother's 75th birthday. And she was not letting anything get in the way of THAT party. Even if it was a daughter of whom it was 99.999% certain didn't have Covid but that .0009% (or whatever % was math has always been somewhat...hmm...suspect, shall we say?) was enough to still set off alarm bells. 

Fortunately, by the 2nd, I was in good enough shape to attend. I was finally symptom free and while I chalk it up to rest, Afrin and Ibuprofen, I'm sure my mother's hosing me down with with an alcohol/clorox/ammonia based solution didn't hurt.

Oh, forgive me. The alcohol she drank. 

Actually, I write all this in jest. My mother knows she is my world. She is the most lovely, gracious and elegant woman I've ever known. Her talent for design is simply awe-inspiring and I'm so lucky to to have her! She has always encouraged both my brother and me in anything we took interest in while growing up: dancing, acting, children's theatre, singing lessons, swimming or anything else we could dream up. She would make it happen! 

She's the one who encouraged me to read. She would take me to the library in downtown Greensboro, NC in the summer and I would read for hours. Then, I'd check out as many books as I could carry and walk the 8 blocks or so to her office and lay on the gorgeous Art Nouveau couch (that now resides in MY home!) and read until she got off work. She allowed me to take pottery lessons, fostering a love for all art that didn't take root until 6 years ago when I needed it the most. All of this is because of her.

Thank you, mama. Know that you are loved and treasured and that everything you gave me has become my salvation, even though neither of us could've possibly seen how it would manifest. I love you. I hope you're around for another 75. 

Friday, August 7, 2020

Finally...A Rose for Miss.Bea Part 2

Oh, come on now...did you REALLY think this was going to end with me NOT cooking up the most fabulous rose I was capable of making to give to a 99-year-old woman???

Not that you'd be wrong in thinking that I fought starting the whole project tooth and nail. THEN, when it turned out like this, it sat in my studio for 5 days before I sent it! I almost didn't! 

To FULLY understand this post, you must read part 1. Oh. You didn't. Didn't have time, huh? Ok. Well, let me recap part 1 for you so you'll be caught up. 


Miss. Bea
Ma's friend's Ma
Ma says make card
What like
Loves roses
I hate roses
made begonias
sent in time
decide try roses

And we're all caught up!

I went digging for rose punches and dies. I stumbled on Susan's Garden Rose Dies by Sizzix that I'd never used. 

I'll start by saying that while it's not brain surgery, you do have to build it petal by petal. Every petal needs to be shaped and rolled with tools, including tweezers. It takes time and, if you're like me and cuss like a sailor, then you can't work on it on a Sunday. 


I decided to stay with a simple, pink rose. I always use a heavy weight paper for my flowers. SU! 85 lb is a staple. I'll shape the petal, then spray it with water and shape again then let dry. When all the petals are assembled, I go back and shape some more, then I spray them with at least 3-4 coats of acrylic spray (in the garage!!!) that has just a bit of shine to it. Then I shape again and let dry. 

Repeat spray

Let dry

 Laugh at everything due to unintentional inhalant high 

Take nap

Wake up grouchy

Refuse to part with project because it turned out so nicely and dang it! YOU WANT TO HOLD ON TO IT AND SHOW IT TO YOUR MAMA!!!

But never fear, it's now out of my life and into Miss. Bea's. And in a way, I'm kind of glad it's gone. Because I can totally forget I made it and slip back into the default position of "I don't do roses, sorry."

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Stitched Slots-Careful-Don't Say it Fast-Just Don't Say it at ALL

To be fair, I didn't think I was gonna like these little suckers AT ALL.

The very talented and VERY patient Laurie over at VIA sent us these cut outs from the Tim Holtz dies and said "have at it".

Like I said...didn't know what to do with them, ergo, I did not care for them.

After mucking around a bit, it occurred to me to make the piece a "unit" instead of just random stuff stuck in it willy nilly.

I used a very old piece of scrap-close to a century, I'd guess-to form the idea. Which was the roses in the urn. I glued the slot to make it curve just a small amount so I'd be able to put what I wanted within. I used G45 tags, notes and envelopes. I used another tag at the top I covered with G45 (all from Botanical Tea) and left journal spots (not shown)

The butterflies, also a century or more old, are actual Dresden and were stamped from the moulds in Germany. I was given several sets of Butterflies, Eagles and Asian Samurais from a generous friend and try to pass them on when I can.

I think it turned out nicely. Weird how the things you think you like are the things you struggle with the most...but things like this I think on which I'll crash and burn?? Hmmm.

Or maybe it's just medication time. Who knows?

Begonias for Miss. Bea...Part 1

This Begonia card is one I made for a certain Miss. Bea. This lovely lady is the mother of a close friend of MY mother. I've never met Miss. Bea. But when mom asked me to make a card for her birthday, I said okay.

I didn't even get uptight at my mother's standard 2-day notice. LORD that drives me INSANE. 
But there's NO WAY you can get too aggravated when you find out that the card you're making is going to a woman who's turning 99-years-old. 


I can't imagine living that long! 

Think of what all she has lived through! Not to mention how long she's lived with her children!

Sorry. But I'm 52 and my y-chromosomes have already driven me bat sh*t crazy. Living another 47 years with them and I'll be committed before I draw Social Security.

By choice. But enough of that nightmare, already.

I told mi mamacita I'd make the flower card. I asked Ma what Miss. Bea's favorite flower was and mom said "She loves roses!"

I said, "Great! I'll get started on the Begonias right away!"

Look. It's NOT personal...I swear! It's just that every single time I've attempted a rose, be it via punches or dies-especially those little spiral rose dies-there seems to be a conspiracy against me. I've never...and you can check this blog from start to finish (oh, please don't do that. I created this blog and the thought of doing that makes me want to cry with sheer hopelessness. Seriously.) and you won't see a rose worth its' salt. 

But I knew I could knock out some pretty good begonias with my McGill punches, right? I hand colored and shaped each petal, the leaves have the right shape and shine, the colors will never fade, the sentiment is right, I mean, this is a really good card! One that I'm sure she and my mom's friend will love! I know this with all my heart.

But she wanted a rose. And this isn't a rose. While this will reach her on her birthday, shouldn't I try just once more? As if in answer, I was organizing my dies and stumbled across a forgotten about die from Susan's Garden. I have quite a few from her that I've used many times. Except this one. And yes. It's a rose.

Let's see if I can make this a part 2, shall we?

Sunday, August 2, 2020

ATC Coin “Road Trip” (Imagined) for VIA

Vintage imagery ATC, my swap group over at, came up with a Road Trip coin swap. ATC coins are 2.5 inches and they've been very popular lately.

I want to start by saying that my family never, ever went on road trips when I was young. In fact, the longest car trip we ever took was a designated point A to point B one. Point A being our front door and Point B being Anna Maria Island, Florida. Which, I might add, couldn't be reached by I-95 back in those days. It took 2 hours longer to reach, as we had to make the trip on I-75. 

That trip was also made in a two-door, sub-compact Toyota Corolla, with 4 people and no air- conditioning. As this was a yearly trip that my father insisted on making in one fell swoop, I, always the little wordsmith, quickly mastered the pronunciation and definitions of "patricide" and "matricide", along with figuring out whether or not I could actually be charged as a minor.

Ok. I'm just kidding. I just fantasized about throwing a tantrum and forcing them to buy me a Barbie and Ken Swimming Pool to play with on the way down. At least there'd be someone finding relief from the misery.

So I have to say that I’m grateful the whole road trip idea never occurred to my parents. Since they both worked, I’m not really sure how it would have worked anyway. But good Lord I’m sure glad it didn’t. 

Back to the Road Trip thing...I DID say this whole thing was imagined, right? 

I decided to work with the states in which my swap partners were located. First, there was Texas. I found a background using an old vintage whimsical map and enlarged Texas. I printed it twice and cut the Alamo Route 66 image to pop up over the original. I printed the Texas state flag and, using flower soft, made a poor man’s copy of the Texas bluebell which is the state flower. I used a soft leather around the sides and, taking a long horn pendant I found in my stash, used it to act as a hanger.

For Iowa, I cut the harvester and popped it up. I printed an image of the state flag and some corn, for obvious reasons, and re-created a miniature prairie rose, the Iowa State flower, using my McGill punches. The Asian emblem at the top signifies the numerous Asian sister cities that Iowa shares with many different Asian countries. Last but not least, Iowa's state stone is the geode. 

Now, many of you may be looking at one another and saying, “But, that looks like anything but a geode!”.

This would not be a very nice thing to say. So take it back. Right now. Because after searching Michaels and Hobby Lobby (to include their Clearance sections and you KNOW how long that takes!) for all intents and purposes this is a #*%^*}% geode. 

Forgive me for zooming off into that good ol' worn out section of left hand field again, but every time I look at that Iowa State flag I keep seeing a face and it drives me a little crazy. ER. Sorry. Let’s move on. 

Actually, there’s nowhere to move!! I actually have more art than posts. Can you believe it? I  have at least THREE COMPLETED ART PROJECTS just sitting here waiting for me to post them! Will wonders never cease? Will these miracles continue to happen? When did my meds decide to wake up and actually go to work instead of lying around on their asses all day watching Netflix? 

Who cares?!?  I'm just gonna run with it.

Well, at least walk a little faster than usual. You know, the one where your entire foot leaves the ground with each step?

Talk about a Road Trip waiting to happen, huh?

(In terms of the most awful ending lines I've ever written, this one takes first prize. So, enjoy it. Savor it. Embrace it. Pet and stroke it and...hmmm...that's completely awkward. Just appreciate it, why don't you?)

Saturday, July 4, 2020

The 4th: A Time for Celebration, Smuggling Contraband and the ER

Technique Junkies July New Release "Burst"

BEFORE I even START on the 4th of July, I want to stress you have FOUR DAYS LEFT to take advantage of Technique Junkies July New Release 15% off. AND, if you make it to the end of this post, you'll find you can take another 10% off if you type the winning phrase, which consists of my name and some mystical letters and numbers.


So get your hiney in gear and get to shopping.

NOW...let's talk the 4th of July.

(I reprint this story every year. The original can be found here on my blog. The original post contains quite a bit more of my unmedicated rambling  childhood reminiscences, so if you can make it, great. If not, I completely understand. I tend to wear people out.)

The 4th of July. As a holiday, it's incredibly important to me. But it's also my least favorite. That's right....I said it. Out loud. Sort of. On this blog. Where I can always claim it was hacked, if necessary, by anti-4th of July progressives, who are Communists. Or al quida. is al queda? HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO KNOW HOW TO SPELL THE NAME OF A TERRORIST ORGANIZATION?

 Look, I am properly reverent, appreciative and proud of this day. I honestly am. I'm an ardent supporter of our troops throughout the year and am a consistent donor to various troop-related charities, such as Wounded Warrior Project  and Fisher House-both of which are very dear to me. (links provided in case you want to throw a little money love their way!!)

My attitude has to do with my actual dislike of the month, itself. July. It's miserably hot and I can't see the proverbial summer "light at the end of the tunnel". 

"Light" meaning "School", mind you. There's also too much humidity and too many kids for me to properly appreciate what this day should represent. Besides, as far as commercialized holidays go, I find this one the most expensive. Not merely in terms of money, but also in terms of my mental health.

The insanity begins the instant July 1st comes around. That's when the Marital Unit, along with the three y-chromosomes, break out a map and begin planning their smuggling route for all the illegal fireworks they plan to buy, just across the state line. 

You see, North Carolina has pretty strident laws regarding the regulation of fireworks. This results in very limited choices of "toys" containing gunpowder. Meaning, the 4th is great here if your expectations don't exceed 40 boxes of Snap and Pops, or those infinitesimal sparklers that cause 3rd degree burns if the stick touches you after the sparks stop. Never mind what heinous injuries they can cause if you forget where, in the dark, you've stuck the things in the ground and step on those &%^$ suckers.

Any self-respecting North Carolinian knows that if you want decent fireworks, you have no choice but to make the trek to the state that gives us everything from the historic Charleston Battery to the flying roaches they have the audacity to call "Palmetto Bugs". That's right; I'm talking about South Carolina.

(Author's Note: I'm not entirely sure that the flying roaches are a byproduct of South Carolina. But at 2-4 inches and solid enough that you can hear them scurrying across hard surfaces, well, all I know is that someone has to take the blame.)

So, the Marital Unit et al spend hours pouring over every highway route to the border and speculating at which major road arteries the North Carolina Highway Patrol will be stationed; presumably to search any and all vehicles for this highly illegal exploding contraband. The discussion then turns to whether they should modify one of our cars to hide the ill-gotten gains. Naturally, it's MY car they want to modify. Even though, they agree, they are sure to be on the watch list of the ATF, FBI (and any other lettered agency unlucky enough to be dragged into this post) so it will be difficult for them to hide. As if a beat-up Volvo station wagon would be lucky enough to generate an APB for suspected smuggling of Black Cats and Bottle Rockets. 

Not to mention what my house full of y-chromosomes MEAN when they start talking "modifications". Dummy gas tanks and tire wheel wells always lead the discussion. About the time they get to convertible conversions and nitrous oxide injectors, is when I step in and have to redirect the conversation. And by "redirect", I mean "threaten to Facebook every nudie baby pic I've kept secreted away for moments such as this, along with the Marital Unit's portrait at the tender age of 19, in which his then-girlfriend snapped him staring stoically off into the distance. Shirtless. With poufy hair. 

At this point, having been forcefully reined in, they move to the next phase of the smuggling operation, in which they begin taking practice dry-runs using my car. This is fine by me because this normally entails a half-hour of taking corners hard enough to see if the the tires will make squealing noises. It also means leaving black tire marks in the parking lot of the local Wal-Mart in order to perfect spin-outs, doughnuts and the rest of the driving techniques the Unit acquired from watching The Dukes of Hazzard. 

Thus, having assured themselves of their vehicular mastery, they move to the final-and most crucial-part of the whole project. This is where they each rehearse what they'll say to police if they're caught and taken into custody.

It's agreed that they will probably be interrogated separately, so they must have similar stories. They swear to never betray one another and make a pact that they'll never fall for the old 'Law & Order' trick of being told that one ratted out the others. This part is pretty harmless, although I DO have to stress they will NOT follow through with selling out the 8-year-old due to the fact he can't be prosecuted due to his age.

With everything in order, they get up early on July third and dress in solid black. This year will be the first that face masks are optional. The Unit confided the decision was heat-related, but I'm pretty sure it was due to the fact he hates messing up his pouf of hair.

Then, they'll pile in the car and swear to abstain from all food and drink (ostensibly negating the need to stop) and off they go, each sitting stiffly and staring straight ahead. They only talking in which they will indulge is out of the sides of their mouth and is merely to congratulate the other on how natural they look. 

The drive is grueling; an hour and forty-five minutes on...well...the interstate. At 70 mph. Until they cross the state line into South Carolina, where there are fireworks stands every seven and a half feet until you hit the Georgia state line.

They'll drive past 7 or 8 of these tented retail establishments before stopping. They all agree this is smart because they're sure NC State Troopers will be watching for the smuggling novices who are idiot enough to stop at the first stand or two they encounter. At the 17th or 18th stand (or, about a mile into South Carolina) they'll load up the car with several hundred dollars worth of fireworks and begin their return home. It's slow-going for a bit because they're usually behind a bevy of NC State Patrol cars, who have ALSO loaded up with the same fireworks and are trying to get home to drop them off. 

When mine arrive, they celebrate their successful mission by lighting all of the Black Snakes on the driveway, which serves as a yearly reminder for me to schedule a power wash. I do this immediately, all the while pondering why they're called Black Snakes when they actually look more like poop when all is said and done. I'm asking asking the question of how both snakes and poop would appeal to a bunch of boys. Then, having solved this conundrum, I feel stupid and go to bed.

The next day, July 4th, as the y-chromosomes are counting down to sunset, I shower and go ahead and get dressed. Past experience dictates that after sunset, when it's almost fully dark, I usually have about an hour or so before the single firecracker explosions become the sound of entire packs at once. Here, I make sure the keys and my purse are in reach and I have my iPad, phone and power cord in my tote bag. Then I sit down at the kitchen table, as I do every year, and ponder why I

A: Never think to buy M&M's for a portable snack 
B: Why did I eat the M&M's I purchased to take as a portable snack.

Right around this time, the menfolk are so deaf from blowing up entire packs of  M-80's that when they decide it's more fun to hold Roman Candles and fire them at selected targets (mostly each other) no one can hear the yells of "Fore!" or whatever the safe word is these clowns have instituted. And since those things are little more than firecracker handguns, I'm off to the emergency room, once again. 

Fortunately, our local hospital has instituted call-ahead reservations, so I only have to wait an hour or two to get my idiot seen instead of pulling the obligatory all-nighter's in the waiting room, as is the norm. When we get home, everyone else is watching TV, having put the rest of the fireworks away for fear my rage would be such I would shove bottle rockets in orifices that would make even South Carolina consider banning them. There, in the garage, the fireworks will join other fireworks from years past, waiting for either dry rot or a lightning strike to occur.

I hope this sheds a little light on why the 4th simply doesn't hold a dear place in the line-up of overly- commercialized holidays for me. At some point, we all have to take a step back and really think on the importance of this holiday. This should be a celebratory time, of course, but one that has more of an emphasis on giving thanks to the men and women who have fought for U, to include their families, who ALSO make their own sacrifices for this great nation. It's also a time to pay our respect to those who have made the ultimate sacrifices for our freedom.

I'll also insist the boys-including the one I stay married to (if only to punish him), stop the madness of this month. Granted, I swear to do this every year, but it's hard to get them to quiet down and focus, so that they can listen to these ideas. There's a sweet spot in which I can deliver this speech (usually between returning from the ER and when the painkillers kick in) where it'll have the most impact. Every year, I seem to miss it.

But at some point during all this, we will come together as a family and voice our appreciation. We will realize fireworks aren't needed (especially when we can go have a beer at a local Highway Patrolman's house and play around with their SC fireworks) and we can give this holiday the respectability it deserves. Only at that point, will we finally be able to celebrate the 4th in the way I feel it should be celebrated.

In the air conditioning.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Technique Junkies JULY New RELEASES! And an "Oldie but a Goodie"!

TJ July New Release "Wish Upon a Starfish"

 I swear on all that is holy, my friends, that it seems I JUST DID THIS FIRST OF THE MONTH NEW RELEASE THING YESTERDAY.

Actually, I DID do this yesterday.

But that's not the point.

I meant this blog hop thing.

It seems that it has only been a few days since I stressed out trying to do all of this at the last minute. How many of you can truly relate to the stress of barely sliding under the wire to finish things I had plenty of time to do, yet managed to not do them?

And please don't mention the "P" word. This isn't procrastination. Procrastinators are merely "wannabes" to those of us who have elevated being "late" into an art form. You see, procrastinators simply sit around and think about the things they should be doing and consciously putting off.

Professionals, such as myself, don't think about what we should be doing AT ALL. Then, as the clock winds down, an internal alarm goes off and we rush to finish whatever it is that needs finishing.

Then while procrastinators sit around feeling guilty because they're late, my people sit around and feel insanely aggravated we had to do it in the first place.

That's why, I'm one of the elite: An Overachieving Underachiever.

And before you get your hopes up, know that many will want to emulate my success and few will succeed. So, you keep not-trying as hard as you can and one'll might not make it.

I was at Hobby Lobby when I saw this cute chest and figured it would be perfect for a little box in which to keep sea shells or other treasures. I covered it with design paper and Dresden scrap, then stamped and embossed the sentiment in white, glossy powder on a piece of adhesive cork paper. I also used splotches of gold embossing powder on the edges of the cork and sides, at random.

I found a small closure and used a small piece of brass I had that was an anchor that I used on the front. This can be a little tricky, but if you use brads to hold your hinges in the back and clasp in the front you'll have some wiggle room...literally!

This project took me less time than most every card I made during this 'seaside' theme. Oh! And I made sure to use 2 coats of white gesso before I even began. And that's how easy it is!

Now, enough of my silly rambling!! It's time for the Technique Junkies JULY RELEASE BLOG HOP! 

You should know the deal by now, but just in case your attention span is like that of a gnat (such as yours truly) I'll remind you:

From now until the 8th, ALL new releases are 15% off. And if you use my discount-TJ10Carmen-you'll get an additional 10% off!

While you're at it, stop by and see my hard-working homies! We LOVE it when you stop by!