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Monday, July 21, 2014

A Busy Summer

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Every summer I have visions of taking it easy and concentrating on my gardening, puttering around the house and generally trying to be as free of outside engagements as I can. Every year it seems that the universe conspires against me and places all manner of commitments in my path as if determined to undermine every single relaxed summer thought I had. This summer is no exception.

The busy-ness began in the spring with the preparations for my parent's 60th wedding anniversary. On the heels of that event came Mother's Day, Father's Day, a Memorial Day barbecue, my husband's 60th birthday celebration at the end of June followed by another barbecue the following week. Somewhere in between all this I participated in a Moth Storytelling Workshop which had a culminating recital in mid-June. A week later my flamenco dance class participated in the annual student dance showcase where my classmates and I did a short flamenco number. As if all this wasn't enough, I enrolled in what I thought would be a short sandal making workshop. It took me over two months of Sundays classes to complete a pair of ugly sandals. This weekend my nephew Daniel, who lives in Europe, flew in for the first time in years just in time for his 24th birthday which was celebrated, along with his younger brother's, at my mother's house on Saturday. On Sunday, there was a barbecue at my in-laws to celebrate my mother-in-law's 82nd birthday and to send off my husband's twin nephews to college in Atlanta. I truly have not had a weekend to myself in months.

Well, the birthdays are over until September when my father turns 80 and  my father-in-law turns 87. Then there's a whole spate of family events in October. I'm taking this time to breathe a bit before the next flurry of activity. I'm also posting a photo of my brother and his two handsome sons for whom we celebrated birthdays this weekend. You can tell they're related...they all have the same devilish eyebrows.

I think I need a vacation.

- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

I've Been Published...Sort of.

For the past six weeks, I was a participant in a storytelling workshop for seniors conducted at a local public library by The Moth, an organization dedicated to nurturing and preserving the art of storytelling. (You can learn more about this wonderful organization by visiting this link.) The end of the workshop was marked with an open mike presentation where all the participants told the stories they had honed over the weeks to a live audience. It was an amazing experience made even moreso by the incredible stories we heard from our fellow participants.

Judy Kamilhor, the Coordinator of Older Adult Services for all of Brooklyn Public Library who was responsible for bringing the program to our branch, wanted to post some of our stories on the library webpage and asked if I would be willing to send her my story. I sent her two -- a version of the story I told at the open mike as well as a story that I had written well over twenty years ago. She has graciously placed them on the Words of Wisdom section of the seniors webpage and send me the links which I have pasted below. Please take the time to read them. They're both short but I'm sure you'll be able to relate to at least one of them. After all, it is our experiences, our stories, no matter how different they may be, that teach us how much more we are alike than we are different. Enjoy!

Ballo ergo sum
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Official Start of Summer

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A Black Swallowtail Butterfly blesses my garden with beauty.
My loose leaf lettuces in all their colorful glory.
Memorial Day, the unofficial beginning of summer, has come and gone along with the requisite barbecue celebrations that go with it. We hosted a barbecue that was very well attended by more than 30 family and friends. My son manned the grills, cooking burgers, hot dogs, barbecue and jerk chicken wings, spare ribs and steaks to complement the spicy guacamole and salsa he made from scratch. (Yes, my boy can COOK!!) My contribution to the food was vegetable rice and a big salad fresh from the garden. Not only did I use leaves from the various colorful varieties of lettuce I'm growing, I also added some chickweed, cilantro and mint, also growing in the garden.

Yes, Memorial Day spells summer to some but for me the official start of summer is the arrival of the migratory birds and the butterflies and this year I was not disappointed. I've already seen a bright red male cardinal and heard the call of mourning doves and the neighborhood's resident mocking bird. Although monarchs are usually the first butterflies to visit my garden, this year I was treated to the sight of a gorgeous Black Swallowtail that flitted among my creeping phlox blossoms and sampled the few blooms left on my old azalea bush. The sight of that beautiful creature filled me with more joy than I can describe. This year I planted some milkweed seeds in the hope of growing some milkweed plants to attract more butterflies, particularly the monarchs that I dearly love. Hopefully they will germinate. In the meantime, my garden beckons and I will answer its call with pleasure.

Ballo ergo sum
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Long and Winding Road

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My digital artwork on display above the librar4y stacks.
Sometimes you just don't know when the circumstances of your life will take a turn and lead you in an unexpected direction. A nephew of mine who works for the public library notified me of a storytelling workshop being held at his branch. I agreed to participate in an attempt to get my father, someone who has been writing stories most of his life, to come along. Well, Dad didn't come and I went on my own. At last week's meeting, the staff member who coordinated the storytelling workshop announced the library's first art show and sale taking place this weekend. When I expressed interest in participating but said there was not enough time for me to prepare anything, I was asked if I had any completed work that I could exhibit. Well, heck yeah I've got completed work...lots of it. And so it was that I literally grabbed any work I could lay my hands on and decided what to display at the library.

The display cabinet containing my custom cards.
Remember I said this was a show and sale. There was no way I had the time to set up in the morning, break down at night, repeat the process the following day while manning a vendor table for six hours. That's when I was told that there was a lockable showcase available where I could set up a display for viewing. Okay, I thought, this is a sign that I'm supposed to be here and now it's up to me to take advantage of the opportunity. I set up a quick and dirty display of my cards and ATCs in the showcase and was also granted wall space to exhibit some of my framed digital graphics work.

The display case from another angle.
It is a two day show so I expected to have to pick up my goods sometime on Saturday to clear our the space. Again Providence intervened and I was told that I could leave my cards and digital art work on display until the end of June if I so desired. Wow. Can't get any easier than that. Set up the display and just let it stay for six weeks. But it gets even better. The library staff person coordinating the show asked about one of my cards and I explained it was from a project I created for the senior center for which I used to volunteer. When she heard that, she wondered if such a class could be offered at the library and told me to think about it.

So the workshop I had hoped to get my father interested put me in a place that offered me the opportunity to show my work and possibly start a class in card making. Not too shabby. Now let's see if the exposure leads to anything. Hey, ya never know.

Ballo ergo sum
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Creating Memories

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My parents flanked by my brothers
This past weekend I had the great privilege and honor of seeing my parents renew their wedding vows in celebration of their 60th wedding anniversary. Given the divorce-riddled society we live in nowadays, such a milestone is rarely achieved. Such an occasion deserved nothing less than a tremendous effort on my part and I'm happy to say I delivered.

I chose a theme of butterflies and flowers in spring colors of
Matchbook favors in spring colors.
peach, blue and green and carried this theme throughout all the items. The favors, in spite of being the smallest of these items, turned out to be the most intricate and labor-intensive. Each matchbook was comprised of 15 individual pieces, all of which had to be cut one at a time. The butterfly alone is made up of four separate pieces. Although there were only 22 matchbooks, it took over a week of creating a prototype, tweaking it, then going into production. Once they were complete, I needed a means to carry them so they wouldn't be crushed or soiled. For this I used a bakery box and
A peek inside the favors
decorated the top to match the predetermined theme.

A decorated bakery box to hold the
There was one other thing I had to do last minute and that was to arrange and decorate my mother's bouquet. She didn't want to go through the expense of buying an expensive floral arrangement from a florist so she chose to purchase a dozen roses and some baby's breath from a local supermarket flower shop and handed them to me. She also gave me some silvery ribbon from which to fashion a bow. Inasmuch as I'm not a floral arranger, this prospect had me a little nervous but I'm happy to say that turned out beautifully as well. Unfortunately I neglected to photograph the finished bouquet, with its full, silvery bow, long sheer streamers and tissue paper wrapping hand stamped with watermarked images of hearts and butterflies.

The card I made to present
to my folks.
I then had to make a card for the occasion because, let's face it, Hallmark just wasn't going to cut it. Since I couldn't do any work on this project during the day, everything had to be done at night. I lost many hours of sleep but managed to finished everything in time AND managed to get some shut-eye before the big event.

Here are some of the materials I used to create the projects you see here. If you have any questions about how any of these was made, feel free to send me an email at 
  • Bazzill Basics cardstock - Glass Slipper
  • Colorbok Glitter Paper Pack - White
  • Michael Miller Memories Fabric Paper (discontinued)
  • Cutting Dies: 
    • Paper Artist - Viney Swirl; 
    • Spellbinders Nestabilities - Floral Ovals; 
    • Spellbinders Borderabilities - A2 Scalloped Borders One
    • Spellbinders Borderabilities - A2 Curved Borders One
    • Spellbinder Shapeabilities - Butterflies Two
    • Memory Box - Vivienne Butterfly (for butterfly body)
  • Embossing folders:
    • ProvoCraft Cuttlebug - Swiss Dots
    • Sizzix Textured Impressions - Elegant Lines
  • Distress Stickles (Ranger Industries) - Stormy Sky, Wild Honey
  • Inkssentials (Ranger Industries) - Glossy Accents
  • Aleene's Fast Grab Tacky Glue
  • Miracle Tape (double-sided super sticky tape) - various widths
  • Martha Stewart scoring board
  • Fiskars 12" SureCut Deluxe Craft Paper Trimmer
  • Assorted scissors and craft knives
  • Assorted bling and fabric flowers from my stash
This is by no means a comprehensive list but it does represent most of the materials I used for these projects. The length of the materials list alone should be an indication of how much work went into these items. Nevertheless I would do it all again in a heartbeat. For my mom and dad, anything.

Ballo ergo sum
 - Gitana, the Creative Diva

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Making The Time To Play

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As I mentioned in my last post, I was under the weather and feeling really bad but started feeling a bit better once I made the effort to be a little creative. I decided to take some more of the same medicine and made another card and, by george, it worked again! There were a few scraps and things lying around on my craft table leftover from a recent OSA Crane Swap I entered. After staring at them for what seemed like an eternity, I ran with a simple idea and created this card. It's really very simple compared to the anniversary card I made last week. Strong, contrasting colors and simple clean lines are what this card is about.

The first thing that draws the eye is the ornate border element on the left, cut with Spellbinders Persian Accents die set. Some of the open spaces in the motif were accented with red card stock creating a bold color statement. The left edge of the design was also built up with the edge of the black card stock leftover from cutting the border design. I simply cut a very thin strip from this waste paper, matched its cut edge to the border motif and left a narrow space between them. A narrow strip of red card stock highlights the open spaces in the design as well as the narrow gap. The red accents in the rest of the design were created by punching red circles and red tear drops with a hand held punch and gluing them behind the openings. This was the fussiest part of creating this card yet it was the part I enjoyed most. The crane and verse stamps came from the Birds of the Orient 2014 clear stamp set from Mark's Finest Papers and Stamps.

To accomplish the text in different colors, I inked the stamp in Versafine Onyx Black ink, wiped off the ink from the word I wanted to highlight with a cotton swab, then colored the word with a Dee Gruenig brush marker and stamped. Please note: although the verse is seen in two parts on this card, it is actually one stamp. I masked out the part I didn't want to stamp, inked it up, removed the mask and stamped. In this way I was able to get double duty out of one stamp.

Guess I'll have to keep taking doses of creativity to stay healthy. I can do that. :)

Ballo ergo sum
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Monday, April 7, 2014

Creating heals. Sorta...

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So I've been sick for the last four days with what is either a very bad cold or a very mild flu. It isn't bad enough to keep me totally bedridden but it's annoying enough to leave me without much energy. I had to forgo my dance class today, something I really didn't want to do, which underscores the level to which I am sick. Next to nothing keeps me from a dance class. Thankfully I have been lucid enough at times to venture into my craft workshop and make up a couple of cards.

"Celebrate You" was created in honor of my sister and brother-in-law's 29th wedding anniversary. It was made in shades of white and iridescent ivory and accented with tiny bits of black and gold bling. Materials used were: Spellbinders Borderabilities A2 Curved Borders One die, Memory Box Vivienne Butterfly die (style #98265), Stampin' Up Elegant Lines Embossing Folder (retired), Celebrate You stamp by Stampin' Up (retired). Flowers, pearls and mini bling from my stash.

"Center Your Heart" was created for the Oriental Stamp Art (OSA) Yahoo Group's weekly layout challenge. The challenge for this week was to create a card similar to this one that also adhered to the basic rules for the weekly challenge, those being that the card must be Oriental in nature and must contain at least one stamped image. This was my best attempt. Actually it was my only attempt. I was lightheaded and fatigued as a result of my not-quite-the-flu symptoms but I liked the challenge so much that I muddled through until I finished it. I'm so glad I did. Creating a card, however simple, gives me a satisfying feeling of accomplishment. It goes a long way to combating the feelings of uselessness I get from spending a day slopping about in pajamas and generally feeling!

Yeah, okay. It's time for me to crawl back into bed again.

Ballo ergo sum
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Saturday, March 29, 2014

OSA Swaps and Challenges

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OSA Crane Swap 2014
OSA Layout Challenge #263
One of the challenges of working from home is the lack of interaction with other like-minded individuals from whom you can learn and draw inspiration, as well as share ideas, news and techniques. Years ago, in an effort to combat this artistic isolation, I became a member of Oriental Stamp Arts Yahoo Group, a wonderful of people who share a love of rubberstamping, card making and Oriental motifs. These people are wonderfully supportive and welcoming to everyone, no matter what their level of expertise, something I sorely needed when I was a newbie to the world of rubber stamping techniques. 

One of the great things about the group is the card swaps and layout challenges that are held on a weekly and monthly basis. This gives those of us who wish to participate the opportunity to practice our craft and share our work with others of our ilk. Recently I have tried to participate as much as I can in order to get my idle hands back into the rhythm of papercrafting and you can see those efforts in my previous posts here and here. Above are photos of my most recent cards. The green crane card was made for a swap in which I had to make four identical cards with a crane motif and send them to the swap hostess. In return I will receive crane cards from four other artists participating in the swap. In this manner we are able to physically exchange,or swap, our work. It's a great way to compare your work against that of others and see what techniques others use to create their cards.

The butterfly card was made for a weekly challenge in which we had to create a card that conformed to a layout selected by the challenge hostess. These challenges involve photographing our work and posting them on the OSA Yahoo group site for all to see and comment. No physical swapping of cards occurs. It never ceases to amaze me how many different interpretations people can come up with, some of which would never occur to me. It's a great way to learn new things.

I hope to participate in more swaps and challenges as time permits and I will post those images here. If you have any questions about the materials or techniques I used to create a card, please feel free to send me a message and I'll be happy to answer your questions. 

Until then, happy crafting. 

Ballo ergo sum
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Saturday, March 15, 2014

OSA Crane Swap – 2014

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As I said in one of my recent posts, I'm making an effort to create more cards through the OSA weekly layout challenge. (Click here to read that post.) Each week a winner is randomly chosen from the participants in that week's challenge to win a small prize. My card at right featuring the Asian fans was chosen as a winner and my prize was a set of acrylic stamps from Mark's Finest Papers and Stamps (Birds of the Orient 2014) that featured cranes and Asian kanji symbols. Inasmuch as I only had one crane stamp that had already gotten quite a bit of use, I was thrilled to receive some more cranes. In order to put some mileage on my new stamps, I was invited to join OSA's Crane Swap 2014 by its hostess, Margo Seegrist.  Below is the card I created for this swap. This card also gave me the opportunity to work with a wonderful new cutting die I recently purchased. The details on all the materials used in this card are below. 

Please feel free to comment below if you have any questions on how either of these cards was created. I love getting feedback. 

OSA Crane Swap – 2014

  Crane, kanji: Birds of the Orient 2014, Mark’s Finest Papers & Stamps
  Bamboo:  Asian Influences, Inkadinkado #97616
  Versafine Onyx Black
  Whispers Apple Green
  Versamark Dazzle Champagne
Flourish die cut: Viney Swirl, Hot Off The Press #5319
Polka Dot Background: Michael Miller Memories Fabric Paper (discontinued)
Base Card: Die Cuts With A View Street Lace Box of Cards

Self Adhesive rhinestones in various sizes

Ballo ergo sum
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Monday, March 3, 2014

Pinterest Ne'er Do Wells

Are you a "Person of Pinterest"? I definitely am. If you're unfamiliar with Pinterest, here is the Wikipedia definition of it:

Pinterest is a visual discovery tool that people use to collect ideas for their different projects and interests. People create and share collections (called “boards”) of visual bookmarks (called “Pins”) that they use to do things like plan trips and projects, organize events or save articles and recipes... Pinterest allows users to save images and categorize them on different boards. They can follow other users' boards if they have similar tastes. The most popular categories, as of March 2012, were home, arts and crafts, style/fashion, and food

I love having a place where I can place and categorize all those interesting links I find online and where I know I can go back to find them. It's also such a nice place to "hang out" and peruse what other people are "pinning" and perhaps share those pins also. Pinterest is one of my happy places.

Recently I received a message from Pinterest that gave me cause for concern. It warned me that suspicious activity appeared to be taking place on my account. It went on to say that as a safety precaution, the account was locked and I would have to re-establish a new password and a link was provided for my convenience. Inasmuch as I am suspicious of unsolicited links, I went directly to the Pinterest site to log in but was unable to. To make a long story short, it turns out that the email from Pinterest was legitimate and I did have to change my password. A few days to a week later I again received the "suspicious activity" email and was requested to change my password. An email to Pinterest after the first episode asking what type of activity occurred was never answered so I never really knew what they considered suspicious activity. That is, not until today.

While checking my boards, I noticed one that I had not created, one that had a link to some unknown site. Then when I was updating my profile, I noticed that some of my profile information had been changed, also linking to this unknown site. In all cases, I deleted it and replaced it with the correct information. Now I know what Pinterest referred to as "suspicious activity". Some miscreant had hacked my account and was using it to try and redirect people to another website.

Moral of the story: If you're a Person of Pinterest and receive an email claiming suspicious activity similar to the one I received, do the following:

  1. go directly to the Pinterest site (don't click on any links in emails), 
  2. change your password, 
  3. check your boards for any that you did not create. (I found  mine at the very end of my board list.)
  4. check your profile settings and check that all information is correct, particularly where it asks for your website address (if you have one). Copy then delete any incorrect information and replace it or leave it blank.
  5. Optional: send a message to Pinterest and provide the suspicious web address (that you copied before deleting). This step never occurred to me before deleting so I was unable to follow through with this one.
  6. Pin this post to one of your Pinterest Boards and let your People of Pinterest know about this. Wish someone would have done this for me.
Thanks for reading. Happy Pinning!

Ballo ergo sum
- Gitana, the Creative Diva