30 Days of Creativity: Day 13

Birthday Card!

Mice and images (c) House Mouse Designs.
Card creation by ManicMonday.

I spent another evening with my card-making friend and this is what I came up with.  It is a birthday card for my niece and her favorite color is pink.  I used a House Mouse Designs® stamp with black ink for the design, then used colored pencils to color in the mice and cupcake.  I used yellow markers for the candle flame, which actually had to be drawn in, but I tried to shade them slightly. I mounted the white cardstock with the image on to a slightly larger light pink piece of cardstock, which was then mounted onto the dark pink card.  Inside is a simple Happy Birthday multi-colored (pink and purple) stamp.

You can see the envelope beneath the card.  In the lower left hand corner I stamped another celebrating mouse.  It’s a grey envelope because I didn’t have a white one available.  As a result, I elected not to color him.  Believe it or not, this card took me 1&1/2 to 2 hours to complete.  So if anyone ever gives you a hand-made card, keep in mind that it was not a trivial endeavor to make it! 🙂


© Manic Monday (manicmonday123) 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Manic Monday (manicmonday123) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

30 Days of Creativity: Day 8

Cupcakes!

Today is a little deviation on the creativity theme.  Instead of pictures being the focus of today’s blog, it’s actually the cupcakes.  (The pictures are rather terrible and I’m not editing them.)  One might argue that there isn’t much creativity in these cupcakes, since I succumbed to using a box cake mix.  Honestly, I was more interested in trying to imagine how the flavors would come together than in making a cake from scratch.  Besides, I wanted chocolate cake, and it’s so difficult to find a good chocolate cake recipe that doesn’t involve actually melting chocolate.  If anyone is willing to share a chocolate cake recipe, I would be grateful!

Mistake #1: I used a sugar free cake mix.  I’ve made some great cakes that are reduced sugar and the mix itself isn’t bad, but wasn’t going to work for this application.  I blindly grabbed the sugar free mix while strolling down the market isle because I hadn’t put the forethought into how the texture would relate to my idea of putting pudding in the middle of the cupcake.  Basically, this mix is too dry, despite the use of oil, so it crumbles very easily.

Mistake #2: I also used sugar free instant pudding.  All of this sugar-free starting material with a sugar-full frosting makes the ensemble taste lopsided.  I’m also wondering in retrospect, if instant pudding is the right way to go.  It doesn’t have the same texture as cooked pudding.  I wonder if a pudding cup would have worked better.  Some of those don’t even need to be refrigerated.

Mistake #3: In making the buttercream frosting, I used a variation of the Wilton icing recipe, which uses mostly butter but a bit of shortening to keep form.  This would be fine normally, because the shortening helps to retain the frosting shape at room temperature.  But these are cupcakes with pudding inside, so they need to be refrigerated.  The shortening solidifies too much and when you bite into a cupcake, all the frosting comes off in one piece.

Mistake #4: There’s no real flavor to the frosting other than the standard amount of vanilla used.  I did this intentionally because I didn’t want the frosting flavor to overpower the pudding.  Unfortunately, neither tasted very vanilla-y and they didn’t go together really well. 😦

Well, there’s some lessons learned in this process, but overall, I still think I had a creative starting idea.  I did manage to actually get filling into the cupcakes, which didn’t happen last time I tried filling cupcakes.  So I am going to give myself a couple of points in creativity for attempting such a project.  I sure have a long way to go before I enter Cupcake Wars! 😉

My version of a buttercream icing piped onto cupcakes

 

Vanilla pudding filling


© Manic Monday (manicmonday123) 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Manic Monday (manicmonday123) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

COBRA

Grrr….Argh!

COBRA – Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act – very useful option for those of us finding ourselves suddenly out of benefits, but…. the details!  OK, so my (former) employer sends me at least 5 different packets on my COBRA options, only one of which contains the amount and due dates for signing up and sending in payment.  Several sheets in each packet appear to be duplicates.  Not the entire packet, mind you, as if accidentally sent twice, but each packet a separate piece of the COBRA puzzle, with some redundant pieces thrown in for confusion.  I confess I skimmed through all the pages, looking for relevant, non-repeated information.  However, they give you a great big 1-800-call for information about your benefits hotline, so really, do the details on those pieces of paper matter?  Apparently so, although I still haven’t found the detail that has caused me the most immediate grief.

I called several weeks ago about my benefits and find out that I need to have a pin number sent to me that I can use to access my account.  Great.  Wait for that.  After I have all the information, DH & I debate over dental insurance.  Well, it’s $75/mo by COBRA and if we haven’t done anything about our teeth in the past two years at $12/mo why should we spend $75/mo on insurance we probably won’t use?  So we get that settled and I sign up online for health only.  Done.  I wait 10 days… no money has been taken out of my account.  Well, I need prescriptions.  So I call and verify that I have coverage.  Yes, but it takes 14 business days to notify the insurance company. OK, fine, I can wait another week for my scripts.

Fast forward to this week.  I need my scripts now.  The pharmacy says I don’t have insurance.  I say, fill them anyway.  I’m out of choices.  I call the glorious 1-800 # back and ask them what is going on.  They say, oh, well, we don’t notify the insurance company until you send in a payment.  WTF?  That isn’t what you told me last time.  What you told me last time was that I only had to sign up for it.  So now what do I do?

I had signed up for direct deposit to make my life easier, and that won’t start until June 1, which is still in my 45 day time frame for payment.  That’s all good and well, except that until then, I have to pay for all of my own medical and then try to get reimbursed from the insurance company after the back-dated insurance kicks in.  No, I’m sending a check in on Monday.  Well, you don’t have to, the benefits support specialist says, your account will be direct debited on June 1.  While true, that’s an extra two-three weeks worth of doctor appointments and medication juggling I have to do before payment all becomes automatic and life goes back to simple co-pays.  What land do they live in that I can spare all this up-front cash and trust the insurance company to reimburse me?

Meanwhile, I only picked up two of my three medications.  The third, generic Lipitor, was going to cost me $111 out of pocket.  With my high deductible health plan, this normally costs me $0.  I said no.  My PC is going to kill me if my cholesterol numbers are too high when I get tested on Monday, but she will understand once I explain at my next visit.  A lot of doctors today are sympathetic when it comes to insurance companies.  It’s not that I don’t have insurance, it’s that it’s currently inactive. It will be back-dated once it’s activated.  However, I can’t afford to be filling my psych meds without active insurance.  I need this ASAP.  I’m half tempted to send the check overnight.  It seems to take them two weeks to do anything.  Two weeks to send out the paperwork, two weeks to process, two weeks to notify the insurance carrier.  I don’t even know if I will get new insurance cards.  I should have asked, but it might have taken me two weeks and three tries to get the correct answer.

Well, that’s enough crabbing for today.  I am going to try to get back on the creativity wagon now.  It helps to keep me sane during this unemployment period.  Finding a job is a lot of work, and very depressing, so I have to find ways of balancing that out.  Photography seems to help.  I need to go out on a shoot somewhere soon.  The simple act of taking a photo is an art in and of itself.  And I need a little art in my life.

30 Days of Creativity: Day 5

Tigers!

Today’s work is another example of Adobe’s Lightroom® program.  This image was taken at a local zoo, and I was lucky enough to capture the tigers when they were looking at the camera.  With my nice long zoom lens (75-300mm) I was able to capture them in this unique pose without having to crop too much.  My edits were subtle in this case, I cropped the image to focus on the tigers, adjusted the contrast and saturated the color.  I also added just a hint of vinetting (darkening of the corners) in order to emphasize the animals.  I think this works nicely to accentuate the curve of the tiger’s back.

Image edited in Lightroom(R)

For those of you interested in the photograph’s details, the settings were as follows: ISO 400, 300mm, f5.6, shutter 1/200s.

Original image of the tigers. (c) ManicMonday 2012

Although there may not seem to be as much “creativity” in editing a picture that starts out well, I beg to disagree.  It is often more challenging to take a good picture and make it great rather than to make it funky.  There are hundreds of easy ways to make the picture look funky, but there may be hundreds tiny adjustments needed to make it look real and larger than life without being unnatural. While the former may be more fun, the latter is more challenging.  And I think both take creativity.

Although the biggest challenge of them all is to take a good photograph to start with.  If you don’t have that, then you’ve got nothing to work with.  For those of you who like to take pictures – get snapping!  That’s where the creativity begins!  🙂


© Manic Monday (manicmonday123) 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Manic Monday (manicmonday123) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

30 Days of Creativity: Day 4

The Turtle

One of my favorite editing programs is Adobe Photoshop’s Lightroom®.  It’s a digital darkroom program designed to mimic the power of editing done in darkrooms before the age of digital cameras.  It can made your photo more realistic or it can make it edgy and modern.  It can take a bad photo and make it good, or it can take a good photo and make it great.  Today’s creativity challenge photo is the turtle.

Edited in Lightroom(R)

Above is the image I created in Lightroom® and the original is below.  You can see that there are a lot of changes going on here.  First, I used a preset which is simply a set of instructions saved that can be applied to any photo.  The preset is called Dark Horse and can be found by searching websites containing presets.  (I can’t recall which site this one came from.)  There are plenty of places that you can find free presets to use with your photos.  This particular preset adjusts the color and contrast.  I made further adjustments from there, including sharpening, vingetting, noise reduction, and slight changes to the highlights and shadows.

Original photo before editing. (c) ManicMonday 2012

Photography (both taking the pictures and editing them) is a hobby of mine that really gets the creative juices flowing for me.  I am glad I decided to embark on this 30 days of creativity project because it has urged me to work with some of my older photos and be creative with them.

© Manic Monday (manicmonday123) 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Manic Monday (manicmonday123) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

30 Days of Creativity: Day 3

Tightrope


How easily we slip and fall
Always dancing on a tightrope
One side high, one side low
Tip-toe down the line, quiet as you please
Beware, beware the icy patch that has befallen me

Something to tip the scales,
a moment of mistake
a lifetime of punishment
holding on to my tightrope now
as if it were a lifeline

Tangled web of truth and lies
wrapped around my feet
to whom am I lying?
me, of course
because truth and fear
blend together to become a new reality

Climb! Climb! Why can I not climb?
The rope is slippery, that is why.
Laden with the grease of regret
Grasping, gasping, with the last of my strength
to hold on until help arrives

But is there help on the way?
Who can catch me if I fall?
It is a long way down from here
And I am alone
as my voice echoes through the cavern below me

One leg, one arm, maybe I can stay
alive a little longer
my tightrope, my savior, my nemesis
If I cease to struggle and just hold on
Maybe, maybe tomorrow
I can climb back up
to walk another day


© Manic Monday (manicmonday123) 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Manic Monday (manicmonday123) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

30 Days of Creativity: Day 2

Card-making!

I suspected this trip might involve card-making because the friend I was spending time with last night is really into this hobby.  I like it, and I have plenty of materials, but I’m not always creative.  In fact, one of these cards (the white one) took some help from my friend. 😦  Oh well, exercising your creativity is what this project is all about, right?

Card-making is much like quilting – it’s best done in groups.  You bounce ideas off each other and try new things in the process.  All cards are stamped using rubber stamps – I did not draw these pictures!  All stamped images are copyrighted by their creators.

Snoopy is a copyrighted image from Peanuts, (c) Charles Schultz

This first card I made for my husband.  He is a huge Snoopy and the Red Baron fan.  I found the stamp on clearance a long time ago and just now got around to making the card for him.  Being the Ace of Diamonds card, I figured that red had to be in the card somewhere so I made the background diamond red.  Snoopy usually has a red scarf, but that would have been too much red.  I found a few images where his scarf is yellow.  I threw in the green for extra color.  Then I wanted to put blue on it, but how to do that?  My friend suggested making the background blue and I think it came out quite nice.  Using a corner rounder kind of makes the image look like a playing card.  I gave the card to my husband this morning (with a romantic note) and he loved it!  🙂

The image is copyrighted by House Mouse Designs (R)

This second card I actually made a few weeks ago, but I thought I would share it with you.  I made it for my Dad’s birthday.  The center image is made with a House Mouse Designs(R) stamp – I believe the mouse is named Monica.  The stamp is so cute and I couldn’t resist using it, so I tried to make the card look a little more masculine with the checkerboard pattern and the dark card.  I’ve also got a strip of the same green paper lining the inside of the card for continuity.

  Lastly, I made this card last night.  On the left you see the cover of the card, and on the right you see the inside of the card.  The pictures may look awkward, but I can assure you that the final product doesn’t.  My friend had the pink and purple papers and came up with the idea to use them as backgrounds for my stamps.  The trick to getting the blending of colors on the stamps is to use a multicolored stamp pad.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t very good at centering my stamped images within the punch out.  So I decided that if I used the background papers, I wasn’t going to center them because I thought it would draw attention to the fact that they aren’t centered (like the butterfly on the right).  This card was very simple to make.  I used two different sized round punches – a smaller one for the images and a larger one for the background papers.  I did stamp the image first, then punch it.  It should have made the images more centered, but I think this backfired in my case.  Next time I make a card like this, I will try punching the cardstock first, then stamping it.  The top image was just stamped on plain cardstock, then cut out and glued on to the card.  I arranged all the background papers into a pattern that I liked, then glued them all down.  And that’s all there is to it!


© Manic Monday (manicmonday123) 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Manic Monday (manicmonday123) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.