Hello 2009!

Happy New Year to one and all!

And forgive me for being absent for such a long time! In my part of the world, the Christmas season is the biggest feast/festival/fiesta (as the Christmas carols playing on the airwaves as early as September would prove), and the number of parties and reunions and out-of-town trips increase tenfold! So yeah, I was pretty much buried under piles of Christmas lists, then Christmas wrappers and tape, then Christmas parties and reunions–and along with that, Christmas food (which is now safely tucked away in my stomach, thank you very much, BURP!)… and whatever time left over that I’ve been able to grab,Β  I’ve spent working on a “couple” of things that have to remain a secret right now but which I’ll definitely share with you come mid-January πŸ˜‰

So… for the meantime, I thought I’d share with you some photographic evidence that I have not been lying around doing nothing but filling my mouth with holiday goodies (uh… more like moving around doing a lot while filling my mouth with holiday goodies, heehee!) πŸ˜†

Wrapping Fury

Quick, answer this question: How many Christmas gifts did you wrap? You know? Well, I salute you! I bow to you! Because I can never count the total number of gifts I wrap each year; all I know is that if I seem to disappear for a few weeks during the holiday season, all anyone needs to do is wade through mounds of wrapper and tape and boxes and voila! You’ll find me buried under them, trying to work my way up. πŸ˜›

This year, I *did* attempt to count the gifts I wrapped…Β  at least the ones for my sons’ teachers. I have to confess, though, that I lost count somewhere between 25 and 40. Multiply 4 kids in 4 different levels in 3 different schools, with a different teacher for each subject, then add the teacher aides and security guards, and you have… how many? See what I mean? πŸ˜†

So here’s the photo of this year’s bunch of teachers’ gifts:

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And because gifts need a home… in comes the tree! πŸ˜€

The Tree Boys

One of the really great things about having five boys is that you eventually get to the point where you can assign certain duties to them, such as putting up the tree! πŸ˜€ Every year, we put up the tree on the weekend of December 8th (Feast of the Immaculate Conception, which also means that most schools give the kids the day off… so in our home, that means the kids have the entire day to hang out and put up the Christmas decorations!)

This year we deliberately kept the home decor simple, since we had men working on the annex that we’re attaching to our home (read: breaking down the wall to connect another unit and completely remodeling said unit). The work isn’t done yet, and I think it’s safe to say it’ll take us about 3-6 months to really fix up the unit (we’re changing all the bathrooms, installing blinds in all the rooms, putting in new furniture, etc. etc. etc.–you get the picture. πŸ™‚ ).

So anyway, that explains why the Main Thing this year was our tree!

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There are few things that beat the joy of watching one’s kids help each other trim a tree, don’t you think?

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My eldest helping my youngest… mmmmm! What a lovely thing to watch! πŸ™‚

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S gets a helping hand from R:

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And my little J gets help from his nanny πŸ˜€

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We have a tradition of getting each child something of his own to hang on the tree each year. Then when they are old enough to have homes of their own, they’ll have a “starter kit” of their very own decorations to hang on their own Christmas tree, gathered from their very first Christmas from the time they were born.

But there’s one item hanging on the tree that has my name on it: this one! (Gotta love my Starbucks coffee! πŸ˜€ )

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So it’s a 16 year old tree, and it’s not 10 feet tall, but it’s been with us from the birth of our eldest son and we love it. πŸ™‚

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The View from the 41st

On my side of the world, the holiday season gives everyone the best excuse to party. It’s a wonderful time because you get to meet up with people you hardly see the rest of the year. Relatives from around the world fly back home to be with family. Office people turn into party animals in a 180ΒΊ transformation that puts the pumpkin-coach metamorphosis in Cinderella to shame. πŸ™‚

My hubby’s office party was held in the 41st floor of a hotel, and as always, I brought along my Nikon D90 with me. His office Christmas parties are always themed, and the different divisions come up with a program of sorts where they compete against each other to win the prize for the best presentation. ‘Course I’d never pass up the chance to take advantage of the photo-ops! πŸ˜€

A couple of photos of that evening:

The theme this year was Asia; this was the winning team’s presentation:

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Awards were given for best costume of the night… these ladies were the nominees:

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(I think Asian costumes are so exotic! πŸ˜€ )

So anyway, when the party was over, I looked out of the floor to ceiling windows down at the city below and decided the view would make a GREAT shot! DH saw me fiddling with my camera (no tripod in tow), and teased me: “There is no way you’re going to get a clear photo of the street from this distance without a tripod and with the complete lack of lights.”

Well. Have I said that deep down inside, I have this little rebellious streak that surfaces when one presents me with a challenge that sounds more like a dare? πŸ˜† So of course, I took a photo of the street from above. Here it is:

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Don’t you just love those Christmas trees made of lights? πŸ™‚

Project 365?

Are you doing this? Project 365, as I understand it (correctly, I hope? πŸ˜› ) involves taking a photo every single day of the year (hence the 365). This was started some years back–the first time I heard about it was on the photojojo blog, with photos being uploaded to flickr. As all good things go, the interest in this project spread, and now some of my Spraground sistas have decided to join this project (boy, do I envy their energy and their ability to do this! I so wish I could, except that I’m also absolutely sure that I’d fail by the first week!)

I love taking photos and I joke that my Nikon is surgically attached to my body, but I’m not sure about whether I’d be able to keep up taking a photo every single day. Now if it were a weekly thing…

So I’m wondering: am I the only one who isn’t brave enough to take on this challenge? πŸ˜† All this wondering led me to more thinking: what other options are there for people like me, who may not be able to keep up with the daily photo-vitamin requirement?

If I am fearful of my ability to tackle a daily thing, what about a weekly thing instead? Documenting a few days a week for 52 weeks in the year… that’s 52 layouts… hmmm! Tempting! *eyebrows going up and down*

What if weekly is still too daunting? What about a monthly thing? Documenting the highlights of each month for 12 months in a year… that’s 12 layouts… certainly do-able! *eyebrows going up and down faster*

Heehee. So you know where all of this is leading to, right? What can I create to share with everyone who wants to play with their cameras, whether on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis?

Yep! Here it comes! A freebie, finally! (A small one, but one that comes with a lot of affection anyway!)

Here’s a photo tag which you can use to write down the date when the photo was taken and a few notes to record the special moment captured. I’ve included two versions of the tag: one flat and one curled.

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Click on the image above to download. Thank you for the love you leave on my blog as you download πŸ™‚

I’ll be back soon, but for now I need to jump into bed because the sun is about to rise!

Happy New Year (((((hugs))))) to you, my sweeties!

Buzzzzzz!

Yep. Lotsa buzz going on around here. Starting to feel like a real bee (not a queen, though… that’s wishful thinking. I’m more like the worker type or the drone πŸ˜† )

BUT! It’s all good, right? There is always so much to be thankful for! And on that note, before I forget, Happy Thanksgiving to one and all! Hope you had an awesome time celebrating all that’s warm and wonderful in your life (and hope you had a great Black Friday shopping spree, too! πŸ˜€ )

We’ve got a lot to catch up on, so I hope you’ve got your shopping for the day done (at least for today πŸ˜› ). So get comfy, sit back, grab that cold drink (or warm, if the snow outside is starting to freeze you), and put your feet up… and here we go!

The Gift that Lasts Forever

Have you gone Christmas shopping yet? You have? No fair… you can do mine. πŸ™‚

I haven’t done any Christmas shopping, but that’s okay… there’s time to freak. Let’s see… I have exactly 19 days to go on a wild race to the stores. (And believe me, given the Christmas traffic in my part of the world, that’s not a lot of days to shop in. It’s not surprising to spend a quarter of each day sitting in traffic–and that’s if you’re lucky. *sigh* Okay, so maybe I’m exaggerating. It’s just that I like traffic–any kind of traffic, any length of traffic–as much as I like … hmmm… bitter gourd. πŸ˜› Each holiday season, I tell myself I’m going to shop the entire year next year, so that by December I would have no one left to shop for–you know, that dream of sitting contentedly, all gifts wrapped and ready to be delivered way before the 20th day of December–and of course, every year December rolls around and I wonder where that shop-early resolution got shelved during the past 11 months. What can I say? It’s an elusive dream. πŸ˜† )

But hey, guess what? There’s a gift you can give which doesn’t require you to lock arms with the rest of the country as they run around the malls, looking at their lists and checking them twice. Better yet, this gift is truly special, the kind that doesn’t make you fat, that doesn’t collect dust on a shelf, that doesn’t get broken if dropped. This is the gift that lives on, long after the wrapper has been turned into recycled paper… (the season allows me to be cheesy, right?). It’sΒ  gift of learning, of discovery, of creating, of celebrating.

So yeah! Give the gift of digi-goodness to those you love this season! (Yes, that includes you! You can give yourself this gift too!)

There’s a huge, first-time-ever, crazy-generous gift over at our Spraground, and it’s called the Holiday Sale! Jessica has taken the best-selling digital courses and slapped on a huge discount on them, and there are even bundled offers (where you get a really, really great class πŸ˜‰ for free if you take the bundle of 3 courses).

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It’s so awesome that you can even divide the bundle gift between you and your friends! (You can give the entire bundle, lock stock and barrel, to your BFF πŸ˜€ or you can give one or two courses to your friend and keep the third and the free one for yourself. Oooor you can even give the four courses to yourself if you just joined us on our Spraground recently for our super-successful Stories In Hand free course and decided you like our Spraground enough to paint your name on a swing. πŸ˜‰

The sale goes on till Christmas Day, so you can totally do your last-minute shopping on the web as well. You can send the gift either with a print-able card (we’ve got them on the Spraground–you just need to download them and type or write the coupon code before you give them to your loved ones), or you can send the gift via email.Β  See? Isn’t Jes awesome? She thought of everything to make life in the fast-season lane easy for you! πŸ™‚

(Alright, you may run to the Spraground and grab those courses now… I’ll wait right here for you to come back. >heehee< )

(Oh and PS. the image is click-able… it’ll take you right over to our Spraground! πŸ˜‰ )

PAD makes a Comeback

Remember the photo-a-day we had last May, where we took a photo each day of the month, and at the end we have an entire day-by-day account of the extraordinary found in the ordinary days? We have that going on again over at our Spraground, upon the suggestion of one of my dearest friends, Lindsan. We’re taking a photo a day for each day of December (especially tricky, if you’re wrapped up in a million things to do this month, or especially exciting, if you’re one of the more organized people who’ve got their decor up and the gifts all wrapped and are just waiting for the 25th to roll around. If you’re the latter, I wanna be you. πŸ˜€ )

It’s only Day 4 and over at the special December 2008 Photo-A-Day gallery that Jes put up for all those who want to join (yes, that would be you, too, if you haven’t yet joined… COME!), there are soooo many wonderful photos and layouts coming up! I wish I had the time to leave love on all of them (yep, that’s on my to-do list too)… one of these days, I’m going to be successful at catching up with this! (There were 24 pages of photos/layouts last time I checked. )

If you want to take a photo a day and collect warm fuzzies from the awesome folks over at our Spraground but just found out about it now, come and join us anyway! (You can always post the previous days, a few days late! πŸ™‚ )

And in case you’re thinking twice… there’s another special treat that Jes has cooked up to make our Photo-A-Day adventures more fun! Go read about it on her blog HERE.

And just to show you what a win-win situation we have here, at the end of December not only will you have had the chance to win a great prize, not only will you have experienced the special brand of Spraground warmth in our community, not only will you have had something exciting to do with your camera for every single day of an entire month, but–best of all–you’ll have 31 photos worth of wonderful memories, preserved forever either in photographs or in layouts!

How awesome is that?

Totally! Here now are my first four days of December PAD (with stories interspersed):

Day 1: Bread for Breakfast

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A few weeks ago, some close friends of dh and mine invited us to a joint-birthday celebration at this little deli where they sell the yummiest and freshest French bread ever! Since then, I’ve filled our table with all the different types of French bread (and yes, with the cheese and the sausages to go with it! Mmmmm!)

Warm bread and Christmas warmth… it’s a perfect fit!

Day2:Β  Igloo, Southeast-Asian Style

When I was a kid, I wanted to have my own playhouse. I had a nipa hut in our backyard, complete with ladder and windows that you kept open with sticks (authentic!), but I didn’t really like spending time in there because it was hot and it made me itchy (and between me and the teddy bear family I kept in it, there just wasn’t enough space). And to my little mind, it wasn’t cool. hehe. What was cool for me and my brother, 2 years older, was having our own treehouse. There was just one tiny problem: though our backyard was full of trees, they weren’t members of the treehouse-strong-branch family. The closest we ever got to making our treehouse back then was hanging a floral blanket over the branch of the aratilis* tree. It probably looked pathetic to the adults, but for us, it was treehouse-teepee heaven. πŸ˜€

(*aratilis – For those with green thumbs: I did a google search for aratilis, and found out that it belongs to the genus Muntingia, and is a close relative of the Jamaican cherry. It’s tinier than the first joint of your pinky finger; it’s green and hard when it isn’t ripe, and red and squishy when it’s ripe. Never enjoyed eating it, though my sister loved it. πŸ˜† )

So… this yearning for a playhouse–is it genetic, you think? Is it something that all kids pass through? Because all my kids passed through a stage of trying to build their own playhouses (never mind that there are Little Tykes ready-built playhouses; there must be a primal urge to build a cave with one’s own hands).

My fifth son just built his a few days ago. Right in the comfort of our living room.

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Yep. I knew those huge floor throw pillows had to be good for sumthin’. πŸ˜†

Day3: Oh Happy Day!

Oh happy day! Oh happy day! My package finally came in! My long-awaited Bind-It-All, accessories, space bar, acrylic and chipboard covers, and o-rings, finally in my home! Yabba-yabba-yeah-YEAH!

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Okay, so maybe I kind of went overboard with all those o-rings… shhhhh. ( Wouldn’t you, if it took about a month for the supplies to get to you? πŸ˜† Yeah, yeah, I know, I’m justifying it. heehee).

Of course, since I happen to be a gadget queen, it should come as no surprise that I totally love this tool?

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A corner rounder that can cut through chipboard and other thick stuff! Mmmmm! It’s like a long-lost relative of my beloved Cropadile! πŸ˜†

Now, all I have to do is learn how to use these. Unlock the Power of the Tools! Indulge in the Gadget Love Affair! Let the hybrid games begin! bahahahaha!

Oh! Along with the BIA, I also got a bunch of books (to read during the Christmas break–yay!), ordered from both Amazon and ideabooks4u.

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Love these two stores, amazon & ideabooks4u. The best part? Great customer service. I ran into a snag with Amazon (Ali’s book was listed as available, and then not), and they fixed it up as best as they could. Gotta love that. This was the first time I ordered from ideabooks4u (to get that Ali book which wasn’t available in Amazon), and they did an awesome job of delivering quickly and shipping the items wonderfully.

I am a sucker for great customer service. The product, whatever it is, has to be fabulous–of course, or else, why buy it, right? But even if I’ve got an excellent product staring me in my face, if it isn’t accompanied by excellent customer service, I can easily turn around and march right out, empty-handed and wallet-full, without an iota of regret.

Let me digress a bit and mention that (based on my experience) all digi shoppes are awesome and I have not yet met a designer who wasn’t a really, really nice, generous, sweet person. But I need to give a shout-out to my friend, Becky, who handles customer service at Scrapbook-Graphics.com. Each and every time I have run to her for help, whether it’s a tiny issue or a huge concern, she has always treated my pleas for help with much gentleness, concern, kindness, and immediate action. If there was an award given for excellent customer service in a digi shoppe, I’d vote for Becky any day. She’s definitely one of the reasons why SBG is among my favorite digi-shoppes! πŸ™‚

I think it’s totally great to take an ordinary day and make it special by celebrating people who do their jobs with much heart and dedication. Just appreciating them is enough to put a smile of gratitude and quiet contentment on my face! (Among these people would be the three security guards who serve at my sons’ school. They are such a joy to meet every morning! Everyday when I take my kids to school, I’m greeted with big smiles and warm “Good morning!” greetings… every. single. day. Rain or shine. No fail. I love that, you know? That cheerfulness in the morning that lasts all the way till later on in the day when I come over to pick up my kids–it’s so precious! They’re definitely one of the best things I love about my sons’ school! πŸ™‚ What about you–whom would you like to celebrate today? πŸ˜‰

Day4: Belen on a Deadline

Ever tried crafting on a deadline?

Last Wednesday afternoon, my son R came home with news:

“Mom, my teacher wants me to submit a belen for extra credit.”

Belen is the Filipino term for the nativity scene, which can be found at Christmastime in every Filipino home (that, and the ubiquitous parol, or Christmas star). πŸ˜€

I noted the information and… promptly forgot about it, thinking there’d be the weekend to deal with it.

Well. Yesterday afternoon, R came home with news again: “The belen is due tomorrow.”

And: “It has to be artistic.”

Whaaaaa? You need this is less than 24 hours?

Zoom. Off we rushed to the malls to look for a nativity scene that could be bought off the shelves. Shouldn’t be a problem, right? After all, this is standard Christmas decor fare.

Wrong. Six stores and two pairs of tired legs after, I decided to buy a nativity scene figure and some raw materials and c.r.e.a.t.e. the nativity scene. I had absolutely no idea how it would come out; I only knew that it was our only option, since the bookstores we went to had absolutely no books with a nativity scene of the paper-doll kind; and none of the toy stores had any toy nativity scenes.

Here’s what the preliminary stages of the nativity-scene-creative process looked like:

The bare naked facts:

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The backside:
(jumble of rice lights peeping on the right side)
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The front:
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And let’s not forget the recipe:

Ingredients:

extra thick chipboard, leftover unused chopsticks from Japanese-food takeout, some strapping tape, glue sticks, PVC glue, brown crepe paper, glittery fronds, a set of tiny rice lights, leftover animal toys borrowed from children’s toy box, and one store-bought Holy Family figure

Tools Needed:

glue gun, cutter, cutting mat, and yer good old trusty Cropadile πŸ˜‰

Procedure:

Mix together, pulling cobwebby strands of glue from the glue gun (which manage to find their way all over the stuff). Cut some, measure some, laugh a lot. Plug in the lights when done, and voila!

The finished product, and my Day 4 Photo-a-Day accomplished as well! πŸ˜†

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Freebie Mini

And since you made it this far, I thought it would be really nice if I could reward you with a little freebie, right?

This is just a tiny one… I have found that if I wait till I’ve got a fuller set to give away, I end up not blogging for days while working away on my designs. Then I end up torturing you with these long, long, looooong posts! πŸ˜†

So I decided to try a different route and give off little freebies now and then… that way I get to see you more often, and you get to download more (albeit smaller) freebies! Does that work for you? πŸ™‚

So here’s what we have for today:

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This is a 6×6 chipboard journaling block… just type (or write, if you’re doing hybrid πŸ˜‰ ) your journaling on the lines, and voila!

Click on the image to download the journaling block (or should I say journaling circle?) πŸ˜€

PS. 4shared no longer allows comments on the download page unless you have an account with them and are logged in… so I would totally embrace you if you took the time to leave love on my blog as you download. πŸ™‚

And before I go (it’s mid-dawn once again!), I have a little riddle for you:

Question: What could a 14-year-old teenage girl and her middle-aged aunt possibly have in common?

Answer: A love for Jason Mraz! Well… more specifically, absolute adoration for the boy by the teenage girl, and absolute love for the music (not the boy, LOL) by the aunt.

And because my niece is in Paris, this one is especially for her, in hopes that she manages to bump into the boy of her dreams while he walks along the streets again, someday in the future. πŸ™‚

Enjoy, and I’ll see you soon, my sweeties!

PS. I can’t believe the guy just chased those pigeons down! Ooogy! I remember the first time I was in Paris, and dh wanted to take a photo with all the pigeons on the street… and I love birds. NOT. I think you can tell from my hunched up shoulders and the body-tilt (away from the birds, far far away) in the photo below. bwahahaha! πŸ˜†

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Resurfacing…

… after being buried under tons of paperscrapping tools and paper and eyelets and chipboard and more paper!

We are having the grandest time at my friend Jessica’s Stories in Hand course ( and I wouldn’t be surprised if you’re in it too! πŸ˜† )! It’s so incredibly awesome to see so much creativity and so much storytelling coming together in one Spraground from all ends of the world! The course gallery is filled with wonderful works of art and the forums are overflowing with great reminiscing, and–best of all–friendships are in the process of developing or strengthening on the Spraground!

I am in a bit of a euphoric state (hehe) because I’ve finally finished my Stories in Hand binder, which houses the amazing system that Jes has designed for gathering and telling stories. Part of the happiness comes from finally, finally, finally getting to use all these tools in my scrapping drawers and shelves that have heretofore been referred to only as The Hoard. πŸ˜† Can you spell g.u.i.l.t.-f.r.e.e.? I used to bite my knuckles every time someone mentions “paperscrapping materials” because I know I have a ton of unused stuff. Not anymore! YEAH! πŸ˜›

Before I put up the evidence of hands at work at more than a keyboard, here’s a little story:

When the course started, dh came home to a room filled with papers, eyelets, punchers, glue sticks and glue rollers, a brayer and a Cropadile… and said, “What is going on? What is all this?”

See, he’s used to coming home and seeing me create on my beloved Wilson compy. I don’t think he has ever seen me get messy (or mess up our room) with paperscrapping stuff.

So I answered him, with a quick glance up from punching tabs with my corner puncher, “Oh, just Jessica’s new course that we’re having on the Spraground…”

Well. I have to say, my hubby is one amazing man. Since that fateful day, he comes home and doesn’t ask about the metal ruler and the cutter and the strips of paper lying about. In fact, he accepts them as the most natural thing in the world. πŸ˜†

So. Here’s what he had to put up with while I wasn’t done with the binder:

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(And nope, I’m not showing you what our floor looked like. This is embarrassing enough! hahaha!)

And here’s the final product:

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The binder on the left is what contains the meat of the system and the little notebook on the right plays a supporting role. πŸ™‚

Here are the front and back views of the binder:

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Psst. Let’s pretend you don’t see that the stitching is crooked, okay? πŸ˜‰

And here’s what the binder looks like inside! Open sesame! πŸ˜€

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(I made the envelope and quote strips to go behind the three main sections–Roots, Family, and Self–because I wanted an excuse to use raffia. πŸ˜† Just kidding… I love quotes and often I’ll find one and scribble it on a piece of paper… and when the time comes that I need it, more often than not, I’ll forget where that little piece of paper is. So I thought, hey, why not make some little strips that look nicer than those hastily-torn scraps and have them all in this neat little binder, so I never have to look for them again? Hence the quote envelopes and strips were born. πŸ™‚ )

Here’s a closer look at the prompts (color-coded according to the tab they fall under–Red for Roots, Green for Family, Blue for Self)… and the inside prompt-pages that contain Jessica’s Stories in Hand magic!

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The Family tab page, front and back:

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And the Self page, which I renamed “Me” πŸ˜€ :

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A few more pages from inside, including some additions I made to personalize the pages:

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(I cut little slits where the photo corner diagonals are, and then printed each photo on regular photo paper. Then I inserted it into the slits. This way, if I ever feel the need to change the photos, I can easily slip these existing ones out and re-insert the updated photos in the slits. πŸ˜€ )

And the little jotter, of course!

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And now that the binder and the notebook are all ready, let the story-gathering and story-telling begin! YAY!

On other fronts…

Thank you sooo much for all your kind wishes and your precious prayers during the rough month of sickies that my three kids were going through. I think it’s pretty safe to say they’ve finally scaled the walls and are now on the way to getting much better.

Before these past few weeks, I used to think that pneumonia was something someone got if they didn’t take care of a cough or a cold, or if you let a wet t-shirt dry on your back (yep, that’s totally unscientific, and Amy, Shell, and my other awesome doctor-friends, don’t you worry–I’m aware these are probably old wives’ tales that my nanny told me when I was a kid πŸ˜› ). Well, this whole bout with the double-whammy pneumonia of my three babes began with a cough on the first day, a fever on the next, and by the 3rd day when I was at the pedia, it was pneumonia. (Sound byte from me to doctor: “In two days? Two days and it’s pneumonia? Pneumonia?”

It’s a good thing my kids’ pedia did not stick her face up mine and say, “Read my lips: P.N.E.U.M.O.N.I.A.” πŸ˜†

And I call it a double-whammy, because after 10 days, they did get well. But then in the evening of that very same day that the pedia announced that they were clear (they were feverless, after all), my youngest suddenly had high fever, and we were in the boxing ring for Round Two! *sigh* I think I’ve made friends for life with the salesgirl at the drugstore, from the sheer amount of medicines I bought and trips I made to her little medicine kingdom. πŸ™‚

So I’ve taken that Excel file and dumped it in the trashcan (with relish! Aah! The end of all those medications! The kids are well!) and now this is the only thing that will remain on my bathroom counter for the next few days:

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Halloween Hangover

So… since the kids were on medical “house arrest” during Halloween, they unfortunately didn’t get to go trick-or-treating. But they’re great kids–they watched the other kids go trick-or-treating from their bedroom window, clapped their hands as the parade and band marched around the streets, and… more than a week after, transformed themselves into…

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PS. Yes, those are Spiderman figures they’re holding, and yes, they were watching a Spiderman vid. πŸ™‚

I have *not* forgotten…

…the last set of my friend Lynne’s and my Fall into Fall freebie collab! Here, finally, are the elements that go with Set 4 (and coordinate with the first three sets that we released).

Because this is the last set of elements, we’ve filled it up with loads of stuff!

Here’s what you’ll find in the Fall Into Fall Set 4 Elements pack:

Fall into Fall Elements - Set 4

Fall into Fall Elements - Set 4

What is in this pack: 17 realistic elements (18 if you count the glass frame which comes in shadowed and no-shadows versions).

Click HERE to download the freebie! And thank you for the love you leave in my blog as you download. πŸ™‚
Alrighty! Now on to the other stuff that fills my to-do list! Will be back soon, I promise!

In the meantime, huge (((((((hugs))))))) to you, my sweeties!

Wait! One last thing! πŸ˜€

PS. I just discovered a little button on my dashboard that says “Poll”… hmmm. So I wanted to play around with it and try it out. Will you join me?

See, on this Stories in Hand venture, I discovered that I enjoy scrapping with real stuff and playing around with my hands (I used to do a lot of crafty stuff in my former life, after all πŸ˜› ) but I’ve also discovered that I really am a digital girl at heart. I love hybrid because there are just some things that can’t be done in digi (say, have tabs that really stick out of pages, or have real holes where eyelets have been pushed through the cardstock), but then I really, really love brushes and layers and the magic that is possible in digi… plus I really like definitely love that Delete key! πŸ˜†

So… let’s try out PollDaddy and you tell me: are you a paperlovin’ scrapper, a digiscrapper hopelessly hooked to the Dark Side, or are you right there in the middle-hybrid?

Celebrating the Chaos

Ever tried climbing the walls lately? I think the past weeks have made me an expert.

But I like to call it celebrating the chaos. It sounds so much nicer than freaking out does, doesn’t it? πŸ˜†


It’s been a very demanding 3-4 weeks, what with three of my babies sick with pneumonia. Endless trips to the doctor, nebulizing round the clock, too many meds to keep count of… (yep, I totally needed to create an Excel file to keep track of what to give whom when, and here’s proof):

meds1

Ahem… it’s also proof of how awful and messy my chicken-scratch penmanship is… so thank goodness for Photoshop Blur! πŸ˜†

So I’m so sorry, my friends, if I’ve been missing in action lately. I’ve been missing you too! But you know what happens when real life takes you by the collar, right? You stop whatever it is you’re playing with and you come running. (Ha! Lots of climbing and running, wish it had effects on my body! ROFL).

But I’m back! My boys are on the mend (for good, with no more relapses, I hope!), thanks to all the prayers of all my wonderful friends worldwide. Like I always say, how can heaven not listen when there are pleas from all ends of the earth? πŸ˜‰

A friend of mine told me something the other day. She said, God’s weakness is in prayer and our strength is in prayer.

I think that’s totally beautiful. God grows all soft when we pray to Him, and we on the other hand gather strength from Him when we pray.

Awesome.

So. I’ve been trying to get back into the swing of things… and I know that I owe you the last set of my friend Lynne’s and my Fall Into Fall freebie collab!

I also know that DSD has come and gone and I totally missed giving out DSD gifts (awwww 😦 ) and to make it up to you, I’ve come up with not one but TWO final parts for the Fall Into Fall freebie! (About time too, as the seasons are quickly changing and Christmas lights are starting to blink all around! πŸ˜† )

So here we go: Fall Into Fall Set 4, the Paper Pack!

folder

These papers coordinate perfectly with the other papers from the previous Fall Into Fall sets. There’s one patterned paper here, and the rest are solids–all highly-textured and grunged a bit. I hope you like them!

Click on the image to download. And thank you so much for the love you leave on my blog!

Now I’m off to bundle up the rest of the elements so I can get them up here too! (PS. Lynne has three more awesome elements to share with you!)

I’ll be back soon, so don’t forget to come back for the elements in this last set of the Fall into Fall Collab freebie!

Have a happy day, my sweeties! πŸ˜€

Are you the invisible (wo)man?

Have you ever felt invisible?

I am in the middle of a hefty load of work, but I just had to stop and run to share this with all of you, my dearest blog porch friends, because it is incredibly awesome. My sister passed it on to us, her three other sisters (and we don’t normally pass emails on)–and I’m glad she took this exception because it is just an incredible read.

I don’t know where this email originated, but in case she (her name is Charlotte) comes across this humble blog post of mine, here’s what I have to say to her: Know, my friend, that you have reached a million souls–and even if it was just one soul instead of a million, your message is so powerful that it would’ve been, and it is, all worth it. Thank you from one such soul.

So here I am, passing it on to you πŸ™‚ :

Invisible Mom

It all began to make sense, the blank stares, the lack of response, the way one of the kids will walk into the room while I’m on the phone and ask to be taken to the store. Inside I’m thinking, ‘Can’t youΒ see I’m on the phone?’

Obviously not; no one can see if I’m on theΒ phone, or cooking, or sweeping the floor, or even standing on my head in the corner, because no one can see me at all. I’m invisible. The invisibleΒ Mom.

Some days I am only a pair of hands, nothing more: Can you fix this? Can you tie this? Can you open this?

Some days I’m not a pair of hands; I’m not even a human being. I’m a clock to ask, ‘What time isΒ it?’ I’m a TV Guide to answer, ‘What number is theΒ Disney Channel?’ I’m a car to order, ‘Pick me upΒ right around 5:30 , please.’

I was certain that these were the hands that once held books and the eyes that studied history and the mind that graduated summa cum laude – but now they had disappeared into the peanut butter, never to be seen again. She’s going, she’s going,Β she’s gone!

One night, a group of us were having dinner, celebrating the return of a friend from England . Janice had just gotten back from a fabulous trip, and she was going on and on about the hotel she stayed in. I was sitting there, looking around at the others all put together so well. It was hard not to compare and feel sorry for myself. I was feeling pretty pathetic, when Janice turned to me with a beautifully wrapped package, and said, ‘I brought you this.’

It was a book on the great cathedrals of Europe. I wasn’t exactly sure why she’d given it to meΒ until I read her inscription: ‘To Charlotte , with admiration for the greatness of what you are building when no one sees.’

In the days ahead I would read – no, devour – the book. And I would discover what would become for me, four life-changing truths, after which I could pattern my work: No one can say who built the great cathedrals – we have no record of their names. These builders gave their whole lives for a work they would never see finished. They made great sacrifices and expected no credit.

The passion of their building was fueled by their faith that the eyes of God saw everything.

A legendary story in the book told of a rich man who came to visit the cathedral while it was being built, and he saw a workman carving a tiny bird on the inside of a beam. He was puzzled and asked the man, ‘Why are you spending so much time carvingΒ that bird into a beam that will be covered by the roof?

No one will ever see it.’ And the workman replied, ‘Because God sees everything.’

I closed the book, feeling the missing piece fall into place. It was almost as if I heard God whispering to me, ‘I see you, Charlotte. I see the sacrifices you make every day, even when no one around you does. No act of kindness you’ve done, noΒ sequin you’ve sewn on, no cupcake you’ve baked, is Β too small for me to notice and smile over.

You areΒ building a great cathedral, but you can’t see rightΒ now what it will become.’

At times, my invisibility feels like an affliction. But it is not a disease that is erasing my life. It is the cure for the disease of my own self-centeredness. It is the antidote to my strong, stubborn pride.

I keep the right perspective when I see myself as a great builder. As one of the people who show up at a job that they will never see finished, to work on something that their name will never be on. The writer of the book went so far as to say that no cathedrals could ever be built in our lifetime because there are so few people willing to sacrifice to that degree.

When I really think about it, I don’t want myΒ son to tell the friend he’s bringing home from college for Thanksgiving, ‘My Mom gets up at 4 in the morning and bakes homemade pies, and then she hand-bastes a turkey for three hours and presses all the linens for the table.’ That would mean I’dΒ built a shrine or a monument to myself. I just want him to want to come home. And then, if there is anything more to say to his friend, to add, ‘You’reΒ gonna love it there.’

As mothers, we are building great cathedrals. We cannot be seen if we’re doing it right. And oneΒ day, it is very possible that the world will marvel, not only at what we have built, but at the beauty that has been added to the world by the sacrifices of invisible women.

Great Job, MOM!!!!!

The Will of God will never take you where the Grace of God will not protect.

Share this with all the Invisible Moms you know… I just did.

Remember: I don’t write these words of wisdom, I just pass them on down the line.

πŸ˜‰

It’s here! It’s here!

Finally, it’s here!

After spending the last few days and nights (and dawns) working on this project in secret, I am incredibly excited to share with you the very first collab kit that I have ever made with a friend!

But first, a bit about her: my friend Lynne is a Spraground sis and one of the sweetest, kindest people I have ever known. I have loved watching her grow and experiment and play with Photoshop from our very first days on the Spraground, and I love how she just takes an idea and runs with it. Lynne is such a natural at playing with Photoshop. But even with all these great qualities, what I love best of all about her is her gentle humility and selfless generosity. In this day and age where these are rare commodities, finding them in one person is truly a treasure.

Here are Lynne and me when we were kids (we still are, in a way–we love playing with Photoshop! πŸ˜† )

Aaaand here’s the first part of our collab kit, Fall Into Fall:

Our first set contains five highly-textured papers in yummy autumn colors and eight real nature elements (3 flowers, 1 flower with stem, 2 autumn leaves, 2 wood leaves) which you can arrange together to form clusters, if you wish.

Click HERE to download the papers.

NOTE: If you’ve tried unsuccessfully to download the papers in the past few days, that’s because the original link gave up πŸ˜† I’ve reuploaded and changed the link, so you can go ahead and download again now (thanks dj for letting me know! )

Click HERE to download the elements.

Thank you for the love you leave (for Lynne too!) in my blog and in the 4shared links. I’m sure Lynne would love to get warm fuzzies from you as well (and these days, she’s sitting on my blog porch with me so your warm fuzzies will sit nice and comfy in her arms!).

More than anything else, this kit we’ve been working on is a celebration of friendship! So come with us and celebrate friendship–yours, ours, and the ties that bind us all over the world! (And maybe share your story of a friendship you’ve formed on a playground too! πŸ˜‰ )

Oh, and PS. if you’ll notice, this is Set 1… that can only mean that there must be more coming, right? So hang on and check back soon–we’ll have more fall goodies for you to (hopefully) fall in love with!

Have a happy day, my dear friends!

CREDITS: Katie Pertiet – Stacked Vintage Frames 2, Tailed Journalers

Something strange happened…

…to me yesterday.

While chatting with my sister (and multi-tasking by doing retail therapy in Jen Wilson’s shoppe), my F key on keyboard just stopped functioning! Can you imagine that? “I’m going to look _or a _un thing to do _or now. Have a _ine day!”

No matter what I did, and believe me, I tried it all: pressing down on it gently and slowly, pressing it forcefully repeatedly, turning my keyboard upside down, cleaning my keyboard, turning off my compy and letting it rest, unplugging the keyboard and connecting it to the front port,… nada.

Good thing my husband had a new keyboard waiting for him to connect to his compy. Good thing that keyboard is an exact replica of mine, so I didn’t have to bother with installing drivers all over again. Good thing my hubby loves me enough to let me use it first and to order another one for him. πŸ˜†

So that’s the keyboard I’m using now. Oh, and of course my favorite part of the keyboard got transferred along with it (and yep, it comes in real handy at certain times):

PS. I googled my keyboard, and apparently, quite a number of people around the world have also had certain keys go wonky on them without explanation. As of now, they–and I–haven’t found any fix for it, other than just replacing the keyboard altogether. How’s that for having a new keyboard every now and then, huh? πŸ˜† (I’d much rather have one grow old with me, though). πŸ˜‰

I caved!

Yes, I did. This beauty is on its way to me in a month or so. It does have to travel over the oceans and continents… but it’s on its way, and that’s a good thing! :mrgreen:

Thank you so much to all who gave glowing reviews about the Bind-it-all… you’ve been dream enablers, and I can’t wait to get my little itchy hands on this beauty!

Oh, what’s a gadget-lover to do while waiting! (heehee)

Do you do a good job of waiting? And if you do, how do you do it? How do you keep yourself from hopping on one foot and then the other while anxiously marking the dates on the calendar till D Day comes?

More to Hop About

Three really exciting things!

First: we have a new challenge at our Spraground. It’s a really exciting one, led by our guest challenge leader, Lindsan. In case you’ve stumbled upon my blog porch by accident, you might want to check out our challenges at the Spraground… we post them weekly on the General Forum Spotlight area, and anyone and everyone can come and join the challenges. (All you have to do is get yourself registered at our Spraground… oh, and did I mention registration is free? πŸ˜€ )

Second: there’s a HUGE secret waiting to burst forth on our Spraground… a new course, delish and fun and exciting! Jessica, our Spraground mama, has planned a really cool course and it’s open to all! Yep, that means every single person who wants to indulge in some creative fun! Are you a digi scrapper? Come and join! Are you a paper-scrapper? Come and join! Are you in between digi and paper–are you a hybrid scrapper? Come and join! Not a scrapper at all? COME AND JOIN too! See? It’s a great thing for every single one of you! Come and join us!

The big teaser will be out on October 10th… I hope to see you passing by our Spraground then! (In fact, you can start hanging around now, if you haven’t grabbed a swing or seesaw seat yet. πŸ˜€ )

Third: I have a huge secret kit that’s in the works, and it’s awesome! The most awesome part of it? It’s a collab with a very talented, very good friend of mine who’s dipping her toes in the designing waters. Don’t go snooping around, cos I’m not telling! hehehe. That’s part of the excitement! I’m just sayin’ that it’s been really, really exciting working with my good friend on this! So that’s one more thing to look forward to!

The Turtle Comes Out of His Shell

Last Saturday, my 4-year-old son S had his first stage performance. It was a school event dedicated to the mothers, where each of the preschool levels presented a class dance. The whole familyΒ  was extremely excited to see S perform, because for the most part of his 4 years of life, he’s been the really silent one, content to whisper or just speak to his mama, papa, and brothers. Lately, dh and I have been thoroughly thrilled since our dear S seems to have unleashed the energy of his tongue overnight, and now he talks so much, he’s practically hoarse (lol. It’s like he just discovered the power of his voice).

So there we were, our entire family in attendance. It’s incredibly hard to coax my eldest son to come to these kinds of events, but even he made it a point to come and watch (sweet!).

You know, working in a school for 17 years and teaming up with the principal for 15 of those years in managing and choreographing the performances of the children (from preschool to high school) teaches one a few things. I’ve learned that preschool children are, at best, iffy when it comes to performance day. Most will perform consistently on the day itself as on practice days. But it’s not surprising to have one child who performs perfectly every practice day, then freezes on the day itself, like a frightened deer caught in the stage spotlights. It’s also not surprising to find the flip side–that’s the child who doesn’t move a single extremity during the practice days, and then, stirred and excited by the lights and audience, magically transforms into the Energizer Bunny on the day itself.

So. I was curious to see which my own flesh and blood would be: the deer or the bunny?

Well. It’s hard to say which one he was. Maybe he was a hybrid. πŸ˜›

He froze, that’s for sure. He didn’t move a bit during the class performance… but I’m not sure it’s because he had stage fright (which I have). See, he had this twinkle in his eye, the kind that seems to say, “Are you kidding me? Are you kidding me? Me? Dance in front of all these people? What? Are you kidding me? Nooooo way!” Bwahaha.

Here’s photographic evidence:

My little turtle is the one on the rightmost side of the stage. Notice him surveying the audience.

“Are you kidding me? Move? Me? Are you kidding me?”

“Uhm. I don’t think so… I think I’ll pass…”

“Bwahahaha! Look at that! Funny moves! Funny, funny dance moves!”

“Awww shucks. Fine. Fine. I’ll dance. Geez louise. (nervous giggle)”

“Heehee. I still think this is incredibly funny…”

So. At least in the last minute of the performance, he decided to join the dance. To be completely honest, I wasn’t sure if I’d be the anxious mom silently whispering under her breath, “Come on, sweetie, join the dance; let’s see you groove!” or if I’d be the silly mom who just laughs her heart out and says, “Oh well, that’s life! I totally get you, bud!”

You probably know by now what choice I made (hehe… laughter is always the best way out).

So… the other levels had their own performances, and then the finale came. Well, whaddayaknow? My little turtle decided to throw his shell aside and perform with gusto!

The finale wasn’t a dance; it was a song (wonder if that had anything to do with his willingness to perform… though at home he sings and dances with equal wild abandon).

And you know what? Deer or bunny, I loved watching him both ways.

As I sit here trying to remember what song it was, the only thing that comes back to me is that it was a song dedicated to the moms. I guess I was too busy being enthralled by the sight of my little one actually singing with that sincere expression on his face that the whole world went silent and for those 4 minutes or so, there was just this beautiful sight of my son and my motherly pride and affection… nightingales could have been singing or wolves could’ve been howling–all I knew is that I was caught up in the rapture of seeing my little boy’s intensely expressive face!

One more time, this sweetie’s face:

Now, ahem. I think there was someone less than thrilled by the performance…

Heehee. And on this funny note, here I am, signing off for now! πŸ˜†

Have a happy, funny, totally thrilling day!

CREDITS: Old Frames by O.N. designs

The Fork in the Road

I have to say that one of the (many) reasons I can talk with my dearest friend Jessica for hours on end (aside from the fact that our chats often involve a bit of drooling over stuff, whether it’s typography images or delish-shoes that call our names) is this:

We can talk about anything under the sun and get each other completely. We talk, and it’s light and it’s deep. It’s funny and it’s heart-rending. We get equal servings of silent bow-your-head thought-provoking moments and boisterous throw-your-head-back silly laughter. Oxymorons, these? Nah. Just a description of the precious connection of friendship.

We had extra servings of all that during the two weeks of our Type+Writer course. And a big bulk of it was filled with awe, wonder, gratitude, and appreciation for all the courage and honesty and heart-baring that our Type+writer students were sharing with us through the amazing stories they were telling on their layouts. (I’m still going through our class gallery savoring every layout that’s there).

So. The Type+Writer journey we took together was awesome beyond words. (hmmm… sounds familiar. Haven’t I mentioned that somewhere before?Β Β  πŸ˜†Β  ) And as awesome moments go, hearts are moved and brain gears start whirling. Deep desires make themselves felt, and the vision becomes clearer.Β  I think this has been true for every single one of us who participated in the Type+Writer course: outside, things may look pretty much the same, but inside things are different.

I think this has been true, at one point or another, for you too. Have you ever been at that point in your life? That life-changing, rearranging point? Ever felt excitement and maybe even a bit of trepidation mixed in the salad bowl of your life?

As we all know (especially my dear sis who’s starting to carve a new life in Paris), sometimes changes can be a bit unsettling, maybe even a bit scary. It has a lot to do, I think, with the uncertainty that comes with change. It’s like riding in the same jalopy year after year, and suddenly you’re sitting behind the wheel of a flashy red ferrari. You’re happy, you’re excited, you can’t wait to feel the wind slap against your face as you speed down the road, but at the back of your mind, you’re thinking: Can I really do this? (Absolutely). Will I hit humps on the road? (You might, but if you do, you’ll survive and be better for it). Is this the right thing to do? (Search your heart: if your heart says yes, there’s no other way to go).

My friend Jes has decided to incorporate some changes in the little home she has shared with us, our Spraground. Wonderful changes. Beautiful ones. We’re at a fork in the road, and it’s the same road, it’s the same path, but suddenly we look up and see how beautiful the rays of sunlight are as they filter through the leaves in the trees, and we look down and we see how the path under our feet has pebbles of every size and shape and color. It’s an amazing sight. And we walk together, linking arms like little girls, because we know this is a great road to take.

So here’s one for my dear friend Jes, and for all my sweeties whose lives and loves and hearts I am honored to have been afforded a glimpse of these past two TW weeks, and all my friends from around the world whose lives have touched mine because of this wondrous thing called the internet, and YOU; this one is for you:

DST September Newsletter Out!

Zooming right onto my blog porch to deliver the news!

The September edition of the Digishoptalk newsletter is out! My friend Kel, who is the newest editor-in-chief of the newsletter, came out with a super-fabulous issue of Firsts! I love the look of the newsletter, love the editorial piece of Kel, love the theme, love the inside look at designers’ first kits redone… in fact, I don’t think I’ve enjoyed a DST newsletter as much as I have this one! AWESOME job, kel!

Oh, and here’s a little whispered tidbit: I have a little article there too, if you’re interested in reading it. πŸ˜† The newsletter is free, but you have to be registered at DST (also free)… if you are one of the few who aren’t yet registered, go run and get yourself counted among the minions! πŸ˜†
Here’s a screenshot of the first page of my … uh, rather lengthy but (I hope πŸ˜› ) inspiration-filled… article on Recording Firsts:

First Love Article

DigiShopTalk September Newsletter: First Love Article

And with great apologies for putting this up here a bit late (was totally consumed by working on the Type+Writer course, so my memory bank went pffft for a little while), here’s the freebie with items I created especially for layout that I made for the DST article:

LivEdesigns First Love - DST September Newsletter Freebie

LivEdesigns First Love - DST September Newsletter Freebie

Click on the image to download.

Thank you for the love you leave in my blog as you download! I love reading your comments, and am always grateful that you take the time to leave some warm fuzzies.

One little thing I wanted to point out: please note that the papers in the preview are not included in the freebie download (because in the article I had written that I would release as freebies some of the stuff that I created in making my layout that appeared in the newsletter, and I did not use these papers on my layout). BUT I will be putting these papers–and MORE– as free downloads within the next day or two, so if you want them, be sure to come back and grab them! πŸ˜€
All right, my workload is calling my name once again, so it’s back to the saltmines for me! I hope to see you soon again!

Huge hugs to you, my sweeties!