Saturday, June 20, 2015

Garden Update, Take 2


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For the past couple of weeks I have been on a steady diet of weed. Weeding the garden, that is. We've been experiencing quite a bit of rain which has created an explosion of plant and flower growth but, alas, the weeds also benefit from Nature's largesse. Particularly bothersome are the morning glories. Last year's beautiful abundance of blooms resulted in hundreds upon HUNDREDS of seeds, all of which appear to be germinating simultaneously. Without any exaggeration, I can easily say I have pulled out several hundred seedlings in the past few days alone, only to have a new crop appear again in the same place the very next day. This is in addition to purslane, dandelion, bedstraw, chickweed and all the other usual characters found in the weed pantheon. Nevertheless, I press on, determined to pluck every last one lest they compete with my plants for nutrients.

Speaking of my plants, they are doing quite well although some of them are taking a very long time to germinate. I have quite a collection of flowers growing.
Here are some lovely four foot tall orange daylilies. They sit front and center in my front garden, greeting all passersby. They are so prolific that I've given most of them away and spread them through the garden and I still have a lot.  They tower over their pretty yellow cousins, the Stella D'Oro daylilies. They, too, are quite prolific and would easily take over the garden if given the chance.



 Here are a couple of snap dragons that popped up spontaneously without my help. (
There's a lot of that going on the garden this year.) These two are actually growing under the large leaves of two other plants that have mysteriously sprouted in my garden. You can see them below left, flanked by lavender in the raised bed. I have no idea what they are but they appear to be sunflowers on steroids. The leaves and flower buds are similar but there are differences in the growth habit. They are so thick and stocky, I'm almost afraid I'm cultivating another Audrey 2 (from Little Shop of Horrors fame). The raised bed is surrounded by sweet alyssum that self seeded from last year. They are already releasing their beautifully delicate fragrance and sweetening the air.

In the vegetable department, I've got some bush beans growing in plastic pails along the front of the house, They are joined by the yellow flowers of the cucumbers climbing through my old azalea and some bush variety cherry tomatoes blooming profusely in another pail. My onions, not to be outdone, are also in bloom. If  you've never seen an onion blossom, it looks like a fuzzy ping pong ball at the end of a stick. I'll soon  cut off the blooms and use the stems as scallions for cooking.

For a touch of whimsy I set up my tipsy pot of flowers. Every year it is in a different spot and sports different flowers. This year I decided severely limit my garden expenditures and chose to use whatever was already growing in my garden to fill the tipsy pots. This year it is filled with alyssum and creeping Jenny (moneywort) trailing over its side.

There is so much more going on in the garden but too much for now. Fodder for another post. Until then...


Ballo ergo sum
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Saved by the Bird

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My husband and I had to go to a wedding this week but in the rush-rush of my activities I didn't have a chance to design a card. With only three hours to go before we had to leave, I called my husband at work and asked him to pick up a card on his way home. After I hung up, I decided to see if I could whip up a card really fast. I tend to linger and dawdle over everything I make. Working fast is not my strong suit so I set a deadline. I gave myself one hour to create a card. If I didn't have it finished and in the envelope in an hour or less, I would abandon it and use whatever my husband brought home. That's when inspiration struck.

I love the free cutting files available for download from Birdscard.com and recently used two of her files for the birdhouse birthday card I made for my sister-in-law last week.  As soon as I saw this wedding cake card cutting file, I knew it would be a cinch. I had all the papers and embellishments I wanted to use easily available so cutting and putting the card together was a breeze. My KNK Zing Air cut everything flawlessly.

I followed Bird's lead and used a monochromatic color scheme for the cake, using a special pearlized paper that changes color when you turned it to the light. In the top photo you'll notice the garlands on the cake appear pearly white but in the lower photo you can see that they appear to be a pearly mint green. I had a small piece of floral striped paper in a mint color with rose and glitter accents. The garlands and tiny rose pink flowers play up and coordinate with those colors. Tiny pearls in the center of the flowers complete the embellishments. I called my husband back and told him not to worry about buying a card because I had made something better than he would find in any card store.

Thanks, Bird, for your fabulous files. You saved the day for me.

Ballo ergo sum
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Here's One For The Birds

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I've been on a bit of a birdhouse fad lately. In my last post, I wrote about a birthday card I made with an image of a birdhouse on it. Here I'm featuring some wooden birdhouses that I have painted and embellished to use as home decor in my mountain house.

It seems as if I've been seeing birdhouses all over the place. Well, actually I've always seen them but never paid much attention until recently. The birdhouse motif is a frequent sight on the back roads of upstate New York where they decorate mailboxes, front doors and wreaths. I suppose the allure of country living has given me the birdhouse bug.


Here are photos of the birdhouses I have done to date. The blue and green ones in the center photo were painted last year. (Then they just sat on a shelf in my craft room overlooking my work table, whispering that they wanted some company.) The larger of the two is decorated with paper die cuts that were featured in Part II and Part III of my most popular post, the Cuttlebug Filigree Medallion tutorial, By combining the negative cutout pieces, I created the design on the front and back of this birdhouse. On the sides are the pieces from which the negative spaces were cut. The smaller birdhouse is actually made in 1:1 scale for miniature dollhouses. You can get an idea how small it is by comparing it with the size of the dime in front of it. This house was a little to small to embellish with paint or paper cutouts so I used nail art decals instead. They worked like a charm

The black and red birdhouse at the top also features die cut designs from the very same Cuttlebug die as the blue-mint green house. Here only the tiniest of the cut outs were used to create the black design under the tiny red hearts. The hearts themselves were left over from a project I made for my sister and brother in law's 30th anniversary surprise.

The yellow and green house at bottom is not to be outdone. It also sports decorative die cut flowers with rhinestone centers resting on a delicate vine twining around the outside of the house. The flowers were burnished slightly to cup the petals so they would pop up and have some depth. All of the birdhouses were painted with acrylic paints and sealed with Mod Podge before and after painting.

I still have one more wooden birdhouse on my craft table. I don't know what I'll do with that yet but I'll be sure to show it to you when it's done. Until then, keep crafting!

Ballo ergo sum
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Monday, June 8, 2015

Birdhouse Birthday Card

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Birdhouse Birthday card front

The summer is my busiest time of year with birthdays, anniversaries, graduations and the occasional birth. My sister-in -law celebrated her 60th birthday last weekend so I created this card featuring my current fascination with birdhouses and my ever popular butterflies. I created the house file in a drawing progam and cut it with my KNK Zing Air electronic cutter. The grass border was a little piece left over from a previous project. The verse in the center of the birdhouse, a free cutting file I downloaded, appropriately enough, from birdscards.com, as well as the inside verse and image, were drawn with the Zing Air.


Drawn, you say? On a cutting machine? Yes! The Zing Air has an optional pen accessory tool that allows you to insert pens or slim markers in place of the cutting blade. This allows you to draw an image instead of cutting it. (
(I have also used a glue pen in the past and added glitter afterwards...great effect.) Because the Zing Air does not have a fill function, it only draws contours and lines, leaving the centers blank. With the verse on the front of the card, I had to manually fill in the letters with a fine tip marker. The inner verse was done using a hairline font, meaning that the contours of the font are very, very slim so the letters appear to be comprised of simple strokes. After trying out several different hairline fonts that I downloaded free from 1001Fonts.com, I chose the one  you see here. The image is one I composed using graphic files I have had on discs for years. I tweaked the elements a bit until I got something I liked and sent it to cut...err... I mean draw. I used a dark grey gel pen for drawing the poppy and hummingbird and a black one for the verse. I wanted a subtle difference between those two elements so they wouldn't visually compete with one another. My sister-in-law loved her card and showed it off to all her friends at her party.

I definitely see more birdhouses in my future.

Ballo ergo sum
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Garden Update

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A lonely pansy peeks out from among
the sedum. Self seeded from last year.
The weather has been pretty flaky here in Brooklyn, NY these past couple of weeks. May brought us unseasonably warm weather with a couple of days past the 80 degree range but not a lot of rain. June, on the other hand, has brought much needed rain with much cooler temperatures. This has caused much confusion among my plants and they have shown their displeasure in a number of ways. My Alexander Darby rose, which produced some beautiful buds, drooped miserably when the colder weather hit us so the resulting blooms were sad looking. The rain has been a boon for my crops as well as for my weeds. Weeding is my least favorite thing to do and the garden has become a little scruffy looking for lack of diligent weeding.
A white heath aster shows up in one of
my pots. Take a look to the left of the
flower...I caught a bee just about
to land on it

To add to that chore, last year's bountiful morning glories left hundreds of seeds in their wake, all of which appear to be sprouting simultaneously. Seriously, there are parts of the front garden that are blanketed in morning glory seedlings, all of which must be ripped up and thrown out before they begin their insidious twining around the fence.
Lovely lavender survived the winter
to bloom fragrantly this spring.

And my tomatoes! Oh dear, what a predicament that is. I think I must have thrown tomatoes into the compost at some point without removing the seeds. So, of course, when I used my compost for planting my containers, the result has been dozens and dozens of tomato plants sprouting in every conceivable nook and cranny where they were not deliberately planted. I really don't know where I'm going to put them all but I hate the thought of throwing them out.


A mysterious plant (weed?) showed up
in the garden. Planted by a bird perhaps.
In spite of my garden woes, it continues to surprise me in many ways with blooms and plants in unexpected places. I have more than a few plants that I didn't plant but just showed up spontaneously. Last year's sweet allysum reseeded itself and is blooming beautifully with tiny white flowers floating over fluffy masses of greenery. A lonely pansy showed up in the middle of my sedum and a white heath aster has bloomed its daisy-like head in between some other plants. Then there are these two plants with large leaves that appear as if they will bloom into the second coming of Audrey II (from Little Shop of Horrors). I don't know what they are or where they came from but they're getting so big so fast I'm concerned about my lavender plant which is immediately next to it. In about a week I should know if it's a winner or bound for the trash bin.

I'll keep you posted.


Ballo ergo sum
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Ah, Spring!

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Unidentified flower in my garden.
I don't know what it is but I like it.
King Alfred Daffodils. These bulbs have been
blooming and propagating for over 20 years.
After a long and very cruel winter, spring has finally arrived with all its glory. The mulch has been pulled back from the gardens revealing all the new green growth that was stirring underneath. In my garden the crocuses and daffodils have been having a party. Daylilies, hostas, black-eyed Susans, sedum and more are beginning to poke through the ground. There is a very healthy crop of cilantro and even some lettuce that survived the winter under my hoop house. Along with the beauties come the beasts and I've been ripping up weeds all over the place but that is to be expected. But some of my plants, like my 15 year old strawberries, did not survive. It is yet to be determined what else may have fallen victim to winter's icy blast.

Orange Daylilies preparing for
their turn on the garden stage.
Still have lots more work to do. These pots
await their turn for spring prep.
I tend to want to grow everything I see and invariably will end up with so many plants that I don't know what to do with them all at the end of the season. This year I think I'll be taking a more measured approach. I'm going to concentrate on those plants and seeds that I already have on hand and limit getting new ones. I am also going to limit what edibles I grow to those that I can easily preserve and consume during the off-season.  I have been blessed with a dehydrator and a stand-alone freezer which allow me to preserve my own food for future use. One of my greatest joys is cooking with the herbs and vegetables that I grew and dehydrated during the summer and fall. There's nothing like crumbling fragrant cilantro or basil into the food as it's cooking or making an omelet with my own veggies.

The growing season is here and I'm ready. Bring it on!!

Ballo ergo sum
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Time Marches On

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Alyssa with her brother and cousin.
Nothing reminds you of the relentless march of time like watching children grow up. You remember the tiny baby, the boisterous toddler, the grade schooler. But somewhere along the way something mysterious happens to these little people, something that we adults apparently miss or overlook until it suddenly hits us square in the face...they grow up. I don't just mean they become taller or more filled out. I mean they aren't children anymore, they are young adults. There is something about the celebrations that mark these milestone moments in a young person's life that makes the rest of us wonder where the time went as we gaze upon this freshly minted young adult in wonder and awe.

This past weekend I attended the Sweet 16 birthday celebration of my husband's beautiful great niece, Alyssa. I am amazed to think of her as a great niece. I'm still trying to wrap my head around the fact that her father is in his 30's now. I met him when he was in grade school and his younger brother had just been born. In my mind's eye I still see them romping around, playing with my own children yet they are both grown men with families of their own. Cliche as it may be, time truly does fly.

Back of purse card
Front of purse card.
I could not let this auspicious occasion pass without creating a special card for this special young lady. The theme of her party was loosely based on Alice in Wonderland. The invited guests wore black and white and the Guest of Honor wore red since for this evening she was the Queen of Hearts. Using a template created by Penny Wessenauer, I made a purse card in Alyssa's favorite color, red, and also incorporated the black, white and hearts motif that marked her celebration. Using my KNK Zing Air cutter, I created the greeting on the flap of the purse by placing a glue pen in my pen tool holder. I wrote out the greeting in glue, cut around greeting with the standard blade tool, then dipped it in fine black glitter to reveal the text. The incredible precision of this machine made doing this a breeze. All the other elements of the card were already on hand in my RTU (Ready To Use) stash. I didn't think to take a photo of the card from an angle so you could see how it stands up like a purse. Inside the card were greetings and good wishes written by my family and me for Alyssa and, of course, a purse isn't really a purse unless there's some money in it . I used two small magnets for the closure and a narrow black satin ribbon as the purse strap.

No doubt there will be more family events in the not too distant future. More celebrations, more milestones, more cards. I'll be there, taking pictures and sharing my creations with you. I hope you'll come along for the ride.


Ballo ergo sum
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

A Surprise and The Reveal.

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Commemorative banner
My sister and brother-in-law celebrated their 30th anniversary on April 4th and we weren't going to let this benchmark occasion go by without all due recognition and celebration. When my nephew approached saying that he wanted to do something for his folks but had no idea where to start, my mother and I jumped on it. Surprise and subterfuge are my calling cards.

Keeping a surprise from my sister is no easy task and it required constant monitoring of my nephews actions to make sure neither of them did or said anything to give it away. This covert operation was stewing for over two weeks and I'm happy to say it was a complete success. Neither my sister nor her husband was the wiser and we caught them totally off guard in their own home!

Supersized envelope front
Photo star decorations
Needless to say I was busy creating gifts and decorations for the event that kept me up until the wee hours for more nights than I care to admit but it was all worth it.
Here you see some of the goodies I conjured out of paper for my favorite couple. A three foot banner featuring a photo of the couple on their wedding day spanned the doorway between the living and dining rooms. A cascade of gold and silver stars frames the banner on either side.

The "award" poster measures about 12" x 17".  It was the first piece I made and established the decorative theme of the party in precious metal tones of silver and gold, a golden yellow color and a star motif. It wasn't until I had completed the poster that I realized I had nothing suitable in which to present it so I had to create an envelope to fit. Fortunately I had sufficient quantities of this beautiful, large format silver paper to create a custom envelope complete with faux postage and a faux cancellation stamp. The back of the envelope sports three heart cut outs and two elastic closures. I also made star decorations featuring photos of the couple over the past 30 years on one side and the details of the celebration on the other. These photo decorations were casually placed all around the room and were given as favors for the guest to take home. There was also a heart shaped favor basket with a heart studded gold and silver bow filled with little pillow boxes containing chocolate truffles. The pillow boxes had custom belly bands that touted the couple and the occasion that was being celebrated.

Pillow box favors
Heart shaped favor basket & bow
For their greeting card I made one that emulated an arched window with a trellis and a window box filled with greenery and a climbing flowering vine. A close look at the window reveals tiered molding set against a brown background embossed to look like brick work. The leaves hanging over the edge of the window box reveals the tiniest of leaf vein details. Paper spike plants, one of my sister's favorites, line the inside of the window box while the tiniest of yellow blossoms with orange pearl centers dot the climbing vine. A few rhinestone flowers and a glittery butterfly (my trademark symbol) complete the vignette.

Window box greeting card
The event was a big success. My sister and her husband were completely surprised, their sons were pleased as punch to have been able to pull it off without anyone suspecting and the rest of us were just happy to be there in each other's company celebrating our family.

In addition, I learned a great deal about the capabilities of my new cutting machine and was able to come up with designs that I had never attempted before. Every project brings me a step closer to my ultimate goal of architectural paper sculpture. If I've learned nothing else, I have learned that if I can dream it, I can do it.


Onward and upward.

Ballo ergo sum
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Persistence of Nature

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I don't have to tell you about the seriously ravaging weather we experienced this winter. It was brutal. Fortunately in the fall I had prepared some of my plants to survive the onslaught of the frigid temps and today I got a peek at some of the fruits of my labor. When the weather gets a little nippy, I place the plants I want to protect in my backyard shed which acts like a makeshift greenhouse. In addition, I place several plants on a rolling chrome cart that I cover over with bubble wrap to create an insulating cocoon. This way they are not only protected from the wind, they are just a little warmer than the air outside their "tent". Today I removed the plastic wrap to find...GREEN. My tiny tea roses are green and showing many new leaf buds. The garlic bulbs that had begun to sprout in October are still green and growing and my old vinca (really, it's gotta be at least five years old) is going like a champ. Some of the other plants in the "greenhouse" that did not benefit from the plastic cocoon are also showing signs life like the planter below right that contains a spike plant and some trailing ivy.


My backyard garden is not to be left behind. My faithful daffodils (which were planted over 20 years ago) are pushing up through what was permafrost just two weeks ago and some of my ferns never lost their green color in spite of the sub-arctic temperatures this winter brought.



Last fall I also took the precaution of adding a ridge pole to the hoop house in the front garden that I had erected over the raised bed I built two years ago. It had been blown over that first year by a nor'easter and was in serious need of stabilizing to prevent knock down. It was also draped in heavy plastic to insulate the plants inside. Frankly I didn't think it would hold up especially given the amount of snow we got this year but believe it or not it did. I can't wait to take a look underneath the plastic to see how my cilantro and garlic are doing.

Looks like spring is going all gang busters this year. Bring it on!

Ballo ergo sum
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Monday, March 16, 2015

At Long Last, Success!

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Some detail cuts made with
the KNK Zing Air. The spiky plant in
the corner is my attempt at creating
a spider plant.
Way back in January I wrote about the arrival of my new KNK Zing Air electronic cutter. I was excited with the new options this machine would make available to me especially since my first few cuts were nothing short of awesome. Unfortunately my joy was short lived. It was weeks before I was able to get a decent cut from the machine no matter how hard I tried, cried, ranted or raved. Untold reams of card stock and paper were shredded in the process. Finally I threw my hands and wanted to return it but the time period for returns had expired so I was stuck and unhappy with the machine. Resigned to living with an expensive paper weight, I organized my thoughts and set about deliberately and carefully working through the settings in an attempt to figure out the beast. I can now happily say that I have made my peace with the machine and have been able to get some pretty amazing detailed cuts out of it in the process. At top left you'll see some of the leaf cutting files I have created (with the exception of the pink vines at bottom. Below that are a couple of more detailed free cutting files you can find at BirdsCards.com. The detail on that Valentine's heart is amazing and it cut out like butter.

Special Thank You Card
Having a precision cutter at my beck and call opens up a whole world of possibilities and I couldn't wait to try my hand at something with a little more meat than some of my past projects. I needed a special Thank You card for someone so this was a great opportunity to dabble in 3-D paper crafting. At right you see the result. It is a composite of commercial cutting files, files created by me and die cuts. The close up shots show the details that I was able to achieve. The finished card dimensions are 4.25" x 5.50 inches so you get an idea of how small those little leaves and tiny flowers are. Click on the photos to view a larger image.

Look at the precision cuts on
those little leaves.
I must say I am very happy with the result considering it was a first try and, bolstered by the success I have had, I'm going to explore more 3-D crafting possibilities. It is something I have wanted to do for some time but really did not want to spend my time meticulously cutting out every little piece by hand. My new Zing will take the drudgery out of it and allow me more artistic freedom. I can't wait to put it through some more paces. I'll keep you informed of my progress.
This angle shows the depth of
 the 3-D elements of the card.
Those leaves and flowers
are popped out.
Check out the double lattice: pink
on top, gold beneath peeking out
around the edges.

NOTA BENE: For any of you who may be contemplating purchasing a KNK Zing Air, I highly recommend you purchase directly from the manufacturer, KNKusa.com. I purchased mine through Amazon and went through a litany of customer service issues that added to my initial displeasure with the machine. If I had to do it all over again, I would purchase from the source, not from a vendor.


Ballo ergo sum
- Gitana, the Creative Diva