Monday, March 7, 2011

On friendship... and a very special album

Last post I mentioned an album that I made for a very dear friend of mine. And while I promised him there wouldn't be a lot of personal details, there are some things I want to say to help you understand the process behind making this album, and why I made it in the first place. (This will be a rather long post, but I did not want to split it up, so.. deal. :)  )

When I was a kid, my father was in the Air Force. The best thing about that was being able to see a lot of the country. The worst thing? The constant moving. The longest we stayed in one place was three years. The shortest was 6 months. Doesn't make it easy to keep friends for any length of time. Add into that a divorce and moving to yet another part of the country - only this time to a place where everyone else has been together since kindergarten.. well, kids can be mean to new people. When you move around a lot as a kid, one of two things will happen - you will either learn to make friends easily, and lots of them - or you will become shyer and hold back - because you know it won't last. People won't write you back once you leave, and a lot of times the kid that moves away is easily forgotten. I think it is easier on the bases - because at least all the kids understand about the moving around. In the real world, this is not the case.

I definitely fit into the latter group. More of the shy non-popular type than the outgoing sports type, it was harder to make good friends than not. Add into that that I was very focused on what I wanted to do with my life, and I wasn't much into partying and drinking.. well. I was "different". Even now, when I have been working at the same place for 12 years... it is so hard for me to believe that I have known a couple of the people I work with for that long. With my current situation though, I work the 5 to midnight shift... which is great for my family situation, but which makes it really hard to have a good friend relationship with people that work normal hours. Lately it seems I have more friends in other countries than I do here.. because they are the ones that tend to be awake when I am.

A little over a year ago, I started playing a Facebook game called Ghost Trappers (GT for short). Have met some really nice people through the game, mostly through the GT chat services - started going in to get advice about the game.. kept going because the people I found there were (mostly) just great people. One of them was Heath, who is pretty much the best friend I have right now, and has been for the last 8 months. Because of this, I wanted to do something nice for him for Christmas, and I thought an album using the fishing pictures he had shown me would be a great idea. I have done some neat things with fishing pages before.. using little hooks and line on them.. only problem with that is he lives in Australia.. so who knows what customs will let through and what they won't. Since I would have to download his pictures, I asked if he was ok with the gift before starting it, and showed him some of the other things I had made. He thought it would be a cool gift, so I started gathering supplies.

Most of the supplies came from my stash - I think it is fun to mix things from different sources and suppliers. I started with an 8x8 acrylic tabbed album from Clear Scraps - left over from my design team days, and the perfect size for a gift. Enough room to DO something with the page, but not a full sized album. I wanted to add chipboard pages in between, and found some pre-cut 8x8 chipboard pages (both kraft and white). Wanted to experiment a little bit with some of the pictures, so they were printed on other materials besides photo papers - will go over that more with each page. The album ended up way thicker than I originally intended though, because I kept finding pictures I couldn't leave out, so I also added several  6x6 chipboard and acrylic pages as well. I eventually ended up with 3 rough divisions - family photos, fishing photos.. and fun ones. I say rough divisions because since I started with a smaller album, then added more pages after I had already scrapped some.. well you'll see. All the pictures in the album were provided by Heath, unless otherwise noted.

Papers are from My Mind's Eye (29th Street Market, and Breaking Free) and DCWV (the Immortal stack, and cardstock.) I used Zip Dry adhesive almost exclusively - I wanted to make sure nothing would fall apart in transit. The only other adhesives I used were glue dots and foam tape/pop dots. Almost all the pages are distressed, using either StazOn Black (on the acrylic pages) or Tim's Vintage Photo Distress Ink (pretty much everything else). I'm an edger too, so most of the cardstock and stickers have distressed edges. I'll try to list supplies as the pages go, if I remember them :p No promises there, since a lot of my stuff is stored out of package since I don't submit anything anymore. I tried to avoid a lot of metal (a personal difficulty), and natural materials since it would have to go through customs. And, needless to say, it did not get there in time for Christmas.. but it made a nice only-slightly-late birthday present :)

I am proud of this album for several reasons - It is the largest "mini album" project I have done.. and the first I have done after a lengthy no-mojo non-scrappy break. And judging from his response, right on with the quotes and things. (My favorite part about giving albums to people is seeing their response when they see the pages, and Heath was gracious enough to skype me so I could watch him open it up.) But I do apologize in advance, I have been having some trouble with the autofocus on my lens, so some of the pictures are not as clear as I would like them to be. As always, click on the pictures if you need to see a larger version. 

The photo on the cover was printed on a very light pink piece of Bazzill cardstock. I really like the texture, and I thought it would hold up better on the front than a regular photo would.  (This is also one of my favorite photos in the whole album.) I found the metal letters at Hobby Lobby in the framing shop - they are self adhesive and made by Amanda Blu (who, incidentally is who makes the 12x12 page protectors I use - they are slightly larger, and much better for the super dimensional pages I make).  The friend quote was sent as a RAK from a friend, a long time ago..  and I think it's from K & Co. The green strips are also Bazzill. Fish sticker was edged and placed up on a  pop dot. (Quote reads: A friend is someone who reaches for your hand and touches your heart.)

I tried really hard not to include flowers... LOL. But.. ah well. Letter and flourish stickers are from EK Success. Flowers and screw brad are from the Paper Studio, photo corners from 3L, and the "Live out loud" sticker is 7 gypsies. (I love their 97% Complete sticker sets - awesome for themed projects)

This is one of the photos that insisted on being in the album. Lol. Why? Just because he is being silly. The B letter sticker is from Tim's Idea-ology set and is set up on a popdot. The "9/5" is making memories rubons, and the rest of the pieces are from various ephemera packs.

 Every November, Heath helps with a fundraiser to help support research and raise awareness for prostate cancer and men's depression. (If you want to learn more about Movember, check out their website HERE.) The "Movember thanks you" and "touch of class" were printed from their website. The edges of this page were inked, painted and distressed, and the rubons are from basic gray. The "touch of class" strip is on pop dots, and the metal "brads" are actually just metal dot stickers.

The note paper  journal spot is actually a page from a Jenni Bowlin mini album - I left it blank for Heath to fill in the details. Had to make him do a little work on the album ;) The Relaxing sticker is from Pebble's Inc. Music tape and book plate are from Tim's Idea-ology collection. I have a love/hate relationship with Tim's tape... it does not like to stick well to textured cardstock, although to be fair (being the perfectionist I am...) I repositioned it a couple of times. But it is easy to use, and let me add musical bits to this page. The other guy in the picture is Scott, he is part of an Aussie band called Tripod - they are freakin' awesome! They are a great musical comedy group, check them out HERE and HERE and HERE. (I suppose I should say, that while Heath and I find them very funny, people that are very easily offended may not... The first link is a very funny song, the other two are information only.)

This is one of the pages that made the album late - I wasn't happy with the original  and had to redo it. That will teach me to try to scrap when I'm tired and not really in a scrappy mood lol.  MUCH happier with the redo.. The music paper is from the DCWV Immortal stack. Dream ticket from Tim's collection. Wish Tip sticker is 7 Gypsies and the other stickers are from.. erm.. somewhere lol. Picked them up at Hobby Lobby - They are fabulous raised metallic stickers.

LOL these pictures don't really fit here, but I couldn't leave the pups out.. The brindle one is Molly, and the little one is Rocky. They are awesome little creatures. The title spot came in a pack. Spoiled sticker from the Paper Studio.

Molly again, wearing Heath's headphones. LOL. The sticker at the top is 7 gypsies, and reads "Life is too important to be taken seriously. The "like owner" sticker is a clear one that I put on cardstock just so it could be seen better and came from the same set as the spoiled sticker on the previous page.

The other major redo page. Took FOREVER to get the paper off so I could redo it.. that is one of the things about Zip Dry.. better make sure you have stuff where you want it, otherwise it will be STUCK. Music Maker and note stickers and flower from the Paper Studio. Music paper from the Immortal stack. Gem swirls from Prima. Ticket from Tim. The rubon border is from (I think) Basic Grey.

This picture is one of the reasons we started talking about things other than just the game. One of those fluke pictures you don't realize you got until you develop the pictures - he managed to catch a shooting star (the little tiny white line in the picture lol). The quote sticker is another clear one, so I put it on paper to pop out the dark letters. It says: "Be glad of life because it gives you the chance to love, and to work, and to play, and to look up at the stars." The flourish and edges are were done with paint.

This is Heath with his best friend - so a "must be included" photo. A really simple page - just the photo and the sticker (from Deja Views). Edges are inked with StazOn.

Another super simple one - the rubons are from Making Memories. 

Another fun picture.. I printed it out on canvas which I think made it look even cooler. The urban legend sticker is 7 Gypsies. Don't remember who made the other one. (I know, I really should keep track of these things better...) It reads: In the true man there is a child concealed who wants to play.

Stamps and key plate are from Tim's collection - the man with umbrella stamp is one of my favorites. I used Tsukineko Brilliance black ink - has just a bit of a shimmer to it. Stickers from the Paper Studio and Pebble's Inc. The corrugated strips were actually cut from some packaging from some chipboard letters. The wildlife sticker made us both laugh. 

The next two pages are picture-less because he didn't get me pictures of his mom and sister. So.. in an effort to not get in trouble with his mom for not including her ;) I made the pages and told him he had to add the pictures later.  The squares with the roses are really old - they look dimensional but they aren't - but it lets me get the look of dried roses without the mess. 

I like the layered look, and tucking things beneath photo mats is a great way to do that. The flourished piece at the top is just a small piece cut from a frame - I like cutting them up because then I can stretch them farther, especially since I don't use frames often, and it keeps the pages from getting TOO thick. I added the black gems - they were cut from the same Prima flourish as the bits by the flower. Flower and gem from the Paper Studio.

One of the acrylic divider pages. Quote is from a vellum pack and reads "It is the sweet simple things of life which are the real ones after all." (Laura Ingalls Wilder). The flourishes are also from Tim's collection and were stamped in the Brilliance ink. Letter stickers are Thickers. The flourish behind the letter stickers was a printed acetate piece that I cut in half, and placed part on each side of the acrylic tab. 

More flowers - sorry, I tried. lol. Rubon is from Basic Grey - an older one, so it didn't transfer well, but sometimes I like when that happens, I think it adds to the distressed look. The grids are another of Tim's stamps. Letter stickers from Making Memories (they say "drinky drinky"). The one in the upper corner of the photo is another 7 Gypsies one and says "It seemed like such a good idea at the time."

The stickers on this page were all from the 7 Gypsies collection. The strips say "Part of being sane is being a little crazy. Janet Long". The book page cracked me up - I found it in an ephemera pack. Just one of those great finds, it was perfect for these pictures. 

A fun page - and an awesome theme for a party! The cards paper came from the ephemera pack and was originally from a Bridge pad. Another Basic Grey rubon, Deja Views "fun" sticker, 7 Gypsies "silly" sticker. The heart is made from grungeboard and covered with paper from the Immortal stack, which is where the checkered paper came from too. Letters are the Heidi rubons from Making Memories. 

One of my favorite pictures :) Heath made the catepillar costume - rather clever, I think. Another piece of the flouish, a card from a RAK, a bit of mulberry paper, and more 7 Gypsies stickers. Used paint on this one as well. The quote is George Carlin (RIP) "Those who dance are considered insane by those who cannot hear the music."

More Bridge paper, 7 Gypsies stickers and PLAY ticket from Tim. The hand is a chipboard sticker from a Basic Grey pack. Quote " What makes life worth living? to be born with the gift of laughter & sense that the world is mad." Fitting for a March Hare. 

The "fun" tab page. Would have been earlier in the book, but it was done before more pages were added. Love the Peekaboo Effect on this one.. makes you want to turn the page and see what's next. The rubon is from Basic Grey. 

The pictures on the next few pages are another reason this isn't just a fish album. Heath was lucky enough to see Metallica in Adelaide, and I couldn't leave that out. The words were cut from a transparency frame  - they didn't quite set in the right place as the whole frame. But again, totally perfect for the pictures. 

This page was originally supposed to show more of the background, but.. oh well. I used a large music stamp and paint to make the background page. The blank spot is for his ticket. He suggested scanning in the ticket so I could print it out instead. (chuckle) I said no, just put the ticket there. Another effort to make him scrapbook lol. I thought if he didn't want to place the ticket there, he could journal about the concert instead.

One of my favorite pages. I went to Metallica's website hoping to find a logo to print out. I not only found the Death Magnetic logo - I found the set list for the show he went to. How awesome is that? The picture of the drummer is one that Heath took - all I did was paint the edges to set it apart from the other picture. Letter stickers are Thickers, with a bit of paint over the top. 

Another simple page, but the photos speak for themselves. The Metallica logo was printed from the Metallica website. 

The next few pages really show why I like working with acrylic. Clock face and arrow are from Tim's Idea-ology collection. Canvas piece and the sticker from my stash. I didn't want to use a lot of ribbon in the album (too girly) but this strip is hiding a distressing technique that I tried.. and really didn't like.  

Fish acrylic tab page. The compass acetate came in a pack, and the sticker is from Tim's collection. The  flourish rub on is from Basic Grey. The postcard journal spot and the quote are from K & Co. 

The back side of the acrylic page, another quote (Laughter is the best medicine), another journal spot, another Tim compass sticker. When I asked Heath what type of fish that was, he laughed and said "That is the world's smallest trevally!" So I had to quote him :)

Another favorite.. I use a lot, and one of the things you can do is change pictures to either ink or pencil drawings. Depending on how it's set, it can look like anything from a barely there sketch to a very accurate almost black and white photo look. This one is about in the middle. I printed it on water color paper for a bit of texture and inked the edges with Vintage Photo distress ink. I almost didn't add the letter stickers at the top - I like that they are hidden when the acrylic page is over, but I also thought the page needed just a little embellishment. 

I had fun making this page. Lots of layering. The photo at the top is a pocket, and the tags were left blank for Heath to add information/thoughts/etc. The flourish rubons are from the Bohemia collection. Letters from Making Memories.  Kind of a funny story behind this one.. when I first made the page the letters were just on the paper.  He had been bugging me for pictures of the album, so I sent him one of this page to see what he thought. He told me it was excellent, and he loved it, but after a bit asked what the letters were. Rubons, I said. Which made him comment that they would not be easy to change then... yeah, it was spelled wrong. HIS fault, mind you, since I copied the information directly from his facebook gallery. He told me not to worry about it, it didn't really matter, but.. yeah. Me: "I'm a perfectionist, it matters."  Him: "I'm not. So no, it doesn't." (that might be a misquote lol I can't remember exactly what we said, but that was the gist of it.) But, again, being a perfectionist, and knowing he would be showing it to other people, I had to try. Luckily it was fixable, and I actually like it better this way anyway. 

Gorgeous photo of the ocean.. definitely "off the beaten path"... 

I love this picture of the poles from the charter trip. And as I was looking through a travel quote sticker book, I found the perfect quote "If people concentrated on the really important things in life, there'd be a shortage of fishing poles." (Doug Larson) This is one of the few times that I have bought a sticker set just for one quote - usually I make sure I will use at least 50% of them. 

Pretty much the same supplies on this page. I love the "How am I going to get this home?" sticker.  and from the conversations we've had about fishing - "It just doesn't get any better than this" is SO appropriate. 

More fish pictures :) The top one was Heath's facebook profile picture when we started talking. The bottom fish is an elephant shark. The date circle at the top is from Tim's sticker set. 

Another favorite picture. Rubons are from Fancy Pants. Beach bum sticker from 7 Gypsies.

Another word I double checked the spelling on before doing - at least this one would have been easier to fix since it was on a title block and not just on the background paper. (which, naturally meant it was spelled right). Used a little magic mesh on the sides just for something different. 

Another fun layered page. The blue part with the quote is a bit of chipboard which is covered with paper then sanded and inked. It fits right under the photo which I put up with foam tape. The quote was very fitting - the place they were fishing was just around the corner from his house. I hate the glare on the bottom photo. 

Another photo pocket - and this is one of my favorite pictures of him - especially since it is at the beach. The quote to the side says "the only normal people are the ones you don't know very well."  All the words on the background page are a rubon - I can't recall who made it, but it was one I had been saving for a while. I like how it just barely shows up on the dark paper, it's almost like a watermark. The tag was hand made from some chipboard and covered with lined Basic Grey paper - I wanted to have something more personal  in the album, but I put it on the tag so he could take it out if he didn't want anyone else to read it. The "dear friend" rubon is from Deja Views. The coffee stain stamp is my favorite - I can't remember who made it, but it came in a "thanks a latte" set and I picked it up at a stamp convention in St. Louis several years ago. I put it on with paint, and actually had people ask me if that was a mistake and had I set something on the paper. (chuckle)

The back page is mainly just a protective cover - the only thing one it are the two 7 Gypsies stickers, one which says "Limited edition 1 of 1" (the 1's being Making Memories rubons) and ""Made with love by:" which I signed. 

The album turned into quite an ambitious project, but one I am definitely glad I made. It took fully 2 1/2 months for me to get it done (tho keep in mind I work 40+ hours a week). Much of it was actually done at work, as I was stranded there due to bad weather and being on call - In fact the day I mailed it out, they had predicted the worst storm in the area for a long time. The album made it out of Quincy, but got stuck in Chicago for 5  days due to the snow. Still, after 10 days it got to Australia, made it through customs without any mishap, and was delivered safely to his door. He loved it, and that's all one can ask for. 

Monday, February 21, 2011

A long break.. and Lamington Cake

It has been a long time since I've written anything for the blog.. It has not really been a very good year.. and most of it I don't really want to go into.

There have been a couple of good things though - the kids are doing well.. the car is still running.. and I finally can play a few things on the guitar. Finally got back into scrapping a bit, making an album for a very good friend... but that will be another post..

Speaking of said very good friend.. we were talking the other day, and he was telling me about the dessert he was having that day.. which was a lamington cake. Showed it to me via webcam (did I mention he lives in Australia? No? Well, now you know..) and was telling me how awesome they are, so I thought I would make one. Not that I'm the greatest cook on the planet, but hey, it's a cake, right?

So here is what I have learned about lamington cakes...

Lamington cakes have been made in Australia for years. They were named after one of the govenors, Lord Lamington. There are a couple of stories regarding how they came about, but they quickly became a favorite. Australia declared National Lamington Day in 2006, and youth groups have Lamington drives as fund raisers.

They are made of sponge cake, dipped in chocolate, and covered in coconut. Some are made with strawberry jam between the layers, some with raspberry, some with whipped cream.

The other thing I have learned about them? They are MESSY to make lol. But very yummy, especially when made with homemade strawberry jam.

(Photo from

The recipe I found was from - The recipe seemed simple enough, but again, not being of the chef-ly persuasion, I had a few other things to learn.. for one thing "caster sugar" is a super-fine baking sugar. Also, I wasn't able to find any desiccated coconut, so I used what I could find.

Preparation Time

20 minutes

Cooking Time

15 minutes

Ingredients (serves 12)

  • Melted butter, to grease
  • 75g (1/2 cup) self-raising flour
  • 40g (1/4 cup) plain flour
  • 35g (1/4 cup) cornflour
  • 4 eggs, at room temperature
  • 155g (3/4 cup) caster sugar
  • 170g (2 cups) desiccated coconut
  • 115g (1/3 cup) strawberry jam, warmed
  • Chocolate icing

  • 300g (2 cups) pure icing sugar
  • 35g (1/3 cup) Nestle Baking Cocoa
  • 125ml (1/2 cup) water


  1. Preheat oven to 180°C. Brush two 20cm (base measurement) cake pans with melted butter to grease. Line the bases with non-stick baking paper.
  2. Sift the combined flour and cornflour into a bowl. Use an electric beater to beat the eggs and sugar in a large bowl for 10-12 minutes or until thick, pale and creamy. Sift half the flour mixture over the egg mixture. Use a large metal spoon to fold until just combined. Repeat with remaining flour mixture.
  3. Divide among the prepared pans and smooth the surfaces. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden and the cake springs back when lightly tapped. Set aside in the pans for 5 minutes to cool slightly before turning onto wire racks to cool completely.
  4. To make the chocolate icing, sift the icing sugar and cocoa powder into a bowl. Stir in the water. Pour into a large shallow dish.
  5. Spread the coconut over a large tray. Dip the base and side of 1 cake into the icing, allowing any excess to drip off. Place the cake, icing-side down, onto the coconut and turn to coat the base and side. Transfer to a serving plate, coconut-side down. Spread with the jam. Dip the top and side of the remaining cake in the icing, then in the coconut. Top the jam-covered cake with the remaining cake, coconut-side up. Serve.

So here is my cake... it was yummy enough that my son had to have 2 pieces right away.