Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Book Review: Before I Go To Sleep by S. J. Watson

Pros: sympathetic protagonist, good pacing, tension builds to a strong climax

Cons: some plot twists are predictable

Every morning Christine Lucas wakes up next to a stranger: her husband, Ben.  An accident has robbed her of the ability to remember the past 20 years and to retain new memories.

She quickly discovers she has been keeping secrets from Ben, in the form of Dr. Nash, a doctor trying to help her regain her memories and a diary she's been keeping for the past few weeks.  A diary that has, 'DON'T TRUST BEN', scratched into the front page. 

This was a quick read that pulls you in from page one.  The plight of a woman who has no idea who she is, who learns things each day and then forgets everything, is gut-wrenching.  

Ben is alternately a sympathetic and sinister character.  Christine discovers he lies to her, but isn't sure if it's to keep her from feeling grief over the events of the past or for another purpose.

I was able to guess a few things that would happen, but the climax was strong and contained a few twists I didn't predict.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Silhouette SD In Use

It's taken a bit of time to get used to the software - I'm not the most photoshop literate - so I haven't made any full Silhouette cards until now.  Yesterday I created a lily of the valley design (2 leaves, 3 stems and 16 flowers), cut them out and made a card.  I also cut a frame for the inside birthday congratulations.

So, how does the Silhouette work?  You create/open/download your design, resize it and lay out the pieces you want cut (pieces you want cut from other papers can be put off to the side of the cutting area).

Load your media (ie, put the paper onto the sticky carrier plastic and put it under the runners on the machine),


then send the design to the machine once you've specified your settings.  In this picture you can see the green frame I'm cutting, while at the bottom, the center of the frame (in purple) won't be cut.














Cut your shapes, peel them off the backing and use.  The knife will score into the backing sheet (you can see the frame in the plastic if you look closely), so be sure to use the correct one (along with the correct knife and cutting settings).


And here's the card I made:


And if you're curious about what it sounds/looks like when cutting, here's a short example:
video

Friday, August 05, 2011

Silhouette SD - Digital Cutting Tool

I've been busy lately and haven't had the chance to blog about the awesome birthday present my husband got me: the Silhouette SD.  It's a craft cutting system that allows you to design your own shapes to cut.  This means you can cut ANYTHING you can draw (or find a shape file for, scan in and trace, etc.).  You can resize shapes, use any font on your computer and more.

So, what's in the box?  You get the machine, 2 cutting mats (for different thicknesses of materials), 3 blades (again, for different thicknesses of materials), the design software (now Mac compatible!), an instructional video on CD-Rom, 48 designs (with 50 included in the design software to get you started), a start up guide book and a $10 giftcard for their online store (for buying designs).  And all your cords (power & usb).

While not particularly noisy it's also not a quiet machine.  It's surprisingly melodic as it cuts designs.  They come out crisp and professional - just watch how you reuse pre cut paper (I've tried to reuse larger paper from which I've cut designs only to have it catch while being pulled into the machine, knocking it out of synch).

Friday, June 24, 2011

Credit Valley Explorer Tour

I don't know how my husband finds these things, but for my birthday he took me on a Credit Valley Explorer train ride.  The train has grouped 4 person seating (so two of you go backwards each way) and has riders swap sides at the halfway point so everyone gets to see out both sides of the train.  It also includes a 'light' lunch and drink service.  The tour starts in Orangeville and goes south towards (but not reaching) Brampton.


After passing several golf courses, the train goes around forest and then farm land.  We saw a surprising number of animals, specifically horses and cows.

There's even a nice waterfall.  The train slows down a strategic spots to aide in the enjoyment of the view.  Much to my surprise, they also served desert!


It's a fun tour and a great way to spend an afternoon.  They run tours throughout the year, but I imagine the fall tours are packed.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Mini Bonsai Kit

Everything that comes in the box.
A few years back I got a mini bonsai kit for Christmas.  It's been sitting in its box in my office since, as I waited for a time when the bookshelf in my office - one of the few places in the house that gets sunlight without fear of cats eating the plants or playing in the dirt - freed up.  I've been using the spot for my winter herb garden, but now that the herbs are outside I decided to see how this kit worked.  I was all ready to plant to seeds last week, when I read the instructions.  Apparently the seeds need to be soaked in water for 24 hours, then given 7 days of cold stratification.

Now that that's taken care up, I was able to soak the soil pellet so it expanded, and, finally, plant the seeds. It's now sitting in the sun.  Hopefully in a few days I'll see some sprouts and in a year or so I'll have a mini bonsai tree!

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Library Day

I've been hearing all sorts of doom and gloom stories on the internet lately about how libraries are defunct and should be closed.  Of course, not everyone agrees that it's the right thing to do, myself included.

My local branch was closed for over a year.  I got by by going to a further branch and trying to wait for my holds all to arrive before going so I wouldn't have to make the trek so often.

Well, I'm happy to report that my local branch has reopened today.  Given all the talk about the usefulness of libraries (that everyone's using the internet at home for research and ebooks are cutting the need for paper books, etc.) I expected the place to be pretty empty.  I mean, aside from myself, who would be anxiously waiting for the library to open again?

Apparently quite a lot of people.  The library was packed.  There were adults on the computers, youth in the youth section talking about OSAP and universities and how to pay for school when you can't find a job.  The magazine section had lots of comfy chairs and a fake fireplace, where I sat to browse my findings.  I heard students studying at a nearby table and saw parents getting their children books.

And the staff were ecstatic, welcoming everyone back to the library, raving about the renovations and dishing out suggestions for books as well as computers.

As I walked home I realized something.  For all the home computers, for all the advances in ebooks, for all the other things that take up our limited spare time, I've never yet been to a library that was empty.  We take for granted the free access to computers, books and professional help libraries offer.  If we're not careful, someday our descendants won't have that luxury.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Stamping

I picked up a lot of new stamps and equipment at the Creativ Festival, so I figured I'd try them out.  The Local King Rubber Stamps booth had a great demonstrator showing off their stamps.  Unlike regular stamps that give an outline which you then colour in, these stamps are designed to be coloured on, so the colours are blended on the stamp to create great images on their glossy paper.  Alas, I should know better than to believe things are as easy as expo demonstrators make them out.  They said you can use any markers, which is true - to a point.  I bought some water based markers at another book (Stampin' Up) and some Copic markers to fill in the colour gaps from the set.  Now, Copic markers are alcohol based, which means they dry faster than water based when applied to stamps, and the colours don't wash off.  (You can tell I'm new to the idea of colouring directly on the stamps.  It never occurred to me to make sure the markers weren't permanent before I used them.)

Here's what my stamp looked like when I was done trying to do my first picture.  You can still see the black marker around one eye and the nose.  That's all that made the glossy paper (see the stamp below).

So I did an experiment.  I used the same stamp and tried it with my water based markers (the pink/red wolf).  Much better, but not quite what I want in a wolf.

So I tried a third attempt.  I used some cheap dollar store markers, the yellow, orange, brown and black (you always want to go light to dark or you'll ruin your markers).  Not bad, but not quite card quality either.  I'll have to invest in another set of water based markers, with earth tones (rather than the colour set I got, which should be great for birds, butterflies and flowers).  I still noticed that the lighter colours had faded by the time I stamped the card.  Maybe that's why the demonstrator emphasized that you don't have to look at what you're doing when you colour.  You colour faster that way and end up with more ink still on the stamps when you stamp your page.

Compare that with the results of the rose stamp I got at the Stampin' Up booth.  I used pigment dyes I bought as a 4 set (2 reds, green and gold) at another booth (I don't remember which booth this was, though I suspect it was either Art Tales or Memory Keeper.  I bought a bunch of stuff there, including the Vanilla Smooch Spritz used to give the finished card a sparkly sheen).  

My rose set is designed to have each picture stamped twice, once for the base, and again for the highlights.  It was quick and easy and worked perfectly both times (though with the stamps having wood backing you have to watch your placing carefully or they won't line up).  I did the main rose twice, then layered it over the sparkly background.
I'm hoping with practice I'll get better with the marker stamps.  When done well they look fantastic.

A few hours after doing this post (set to publish the following day), I decided to do a search for the marker tip sheet the woman at Stampin' Up said she'd send me if I emailed.  I was correct in thinking the search would be easier.  And I found it.  It's a pdf file you can download here. (Or you can do a search for "Stampin Up marker tip sheet", it's the fifth result).  The first result, Using Markers - Stampin' Up is the one that taught me the best tip though:
3. Breathe on the inked image to remoisten the ink before stamping onto paper. 
Such an easy trick!  And it works.  So you don't have to colour fast to get good inked images.  Just breathe on the stamp to make the ink wet again.  I tried a few of my stamps to practice.  Here are the results.  Much better.  Now I just need black, grey and earth tone water based markers and I'm in business.   :)