Wednesday, October 31, 2007

I'm Not as Nice As I Thought I Was

Last night Paul and I took a night out and ventured up to see "Evanescence" in concert. I'm a nut for their music. It's deep and dark and really inspires me... in a good way! I love the purity of Amy Lee's voice along with the crispness of the piano against the heaviness of the guitars and drums. I knew, when we went, that we'd be in the minority and be some of the oldest people there. I was right. Lots of teenagers- and lots of teens with their parents. I liked seeing that. I hope when my kids get to be teens they'll still want me around enough to go do things like that with them. It had been so long since we went to a concert that I actually forgot their would be opening bands. The first band to come out was just awful. They were called "Julien K". It was a mix of Human League meets Adam Ant on some kind of bad acid trip from the 80's... in heavy metal (I know, right...). Really bad. Then, "Sick Puppies" took the stage. I have to say, they weren't bad. But, the lead singer had such a terrible mouth! Every other word was "F..K" this and that... with the audiance being primarily teens... yes. I was definately offended. Then, Paul and I smelled something funny... at a heavy metal!! We laughed so hard. Since when do you go to a hard rock concert and smell nachos!!

But then, the most awful thing happened. A couple walked in carrying a little girl who couldn't have been more than a year old. No headphones or earcovers.... it was litterally sickening. Who would do that! First of all, it was about 9pm... and secondly, the noise was sooo loud! Luckally, there was an intermission soon thereafter, and I didn't see them return. I was fuming. I just wanted to take that child away from them and say "No. You lost your parental rights". I know I shouldn't judge... but I am anyway. Who, pray tell, would DO that?

The rest of the concert I kept thinking of that little girl. It was hard to focus on the music. But, overall, I did have a good time. I loved hearing Amy Lee sing in person. She was a million times better than she is on TV. I even got teary a couple times... her voice was so powerful. I fully reccamend seeing them if you get the chance... but go late so you'll miss the opening acts.

Happy Halloween!!!


Saturday, October 27, 2007

Saturday in the Fall

What an amazingly gorgeous week it's been! Today is no exception, and it's supposed to stay this beautiful for at least the next week. I couldn't be happier. This week I have been learning a new program at work, and it's been fantastic. It's a fun challenge, and I've picked up on it pretty easily. This program allows me to actually lay out my own books! Yes, I think that's a really cool thing.

Last night the boys and I made a trek to Target to pick up some new Halloween decorations. Now the house is all decked out for the fall. We now have spooooooky skeleton head lights and pumpkin lights hanging from the front porch. There's a new wreath on the front door, and all my decorations from years past have made their way around the house. It's quite festive!

It looks like the kids and I will be leaving on Friday, November 16th to go home to the Carolina's for Thanksgiving week. Paul will come out for the holiday, and then leave a little early (work schedule...blah...). This is the first time in over 10 years we'll have made it back. I'm really excited to go and be with the family. My parents will have all their kids under one roof for the holiday, which is a rarity. I'm really excited to get going. Plus, I'll be home for my birthday~ which is really the best birthday present of all.

It's also time around here to go shopping for fall clothes! I love the warm fuzzies of sweaters and warm things for the cold weather. Plus, it hides some of that extra flab... :-) I can't wait to get out and take pictures!!

Oh, I hope the fall is here to stay for a while.

More soon~ Amanda

Monday, October 22, 2007

A Project Finished!!

Wahooooo!!!!! The "Designing With Fonts" book is officially DONE!! Oh, I'm so excited about it! I think the book looks great. There are a ton of lessons in it, and some really fun techniques. Here's the last layout finished for the book...

I think I definately needed to be done with the book. Today I am having a ulcer attack.... too much stress? Hmmmm. Who knows. Couldv'e been those chicken wings last night...

Speaking of night... time for night night.

More soon~ A

Friday, October 19, 2007

All in a Day's Work

It feels like I'm a new woman!! Spent last night boxing up the leftover contents of the craft room to put in the garage. Finished up this morning. It's so weird to have the entire contents of my paper scrapbooking life condensed to one small rolling cart~ really weird. Paul and I went through the whole house and straightened, put away, boxed up.... etc. This afternoon the cleaners came to tackle the deep cleaning. Now, here I sit, alone in the house, waiting for Paula and Julie to get here for scrapbooking night. It feels so strange, great, and odd- to have a completely clean house. What a wonderful feeling! I'm so excited.... they'll be coming back in two weeks, and it's WELL worth it! I'm addicted to digital scrapbooking- and house cleaning!!! lol... well, only if other people are doing it (the house cleaning, I think...)

So, Julie's here and Paula's on the way.... time to scrap!

More soon~ Amanda

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Silly Nonsense things

So, I got this Email from a friend, and I couldn't resist filling it out and posting it. Here's the thing, if you read it and you get tagged at the end, you have to fill it out and post it on YOUR blog! Why? Because those are the rules I just made up.... okay. Here goes...

1. What is your occupation? Graphic Designer
2. What color are your socks right now? None
3. What are you listening to right now? "Like the Weather" by 10,000 Maniacs
4. What was the last thing that you ate? Taco Bueno
5. Can you drive a stick shift? Yep. Thanks Dad!!

6. If you were a crayon, what color would you be? Magenta
7. Last person you spoke to on the phone? Paul
8. Do you like the person who sent this to you? Yep.

9. How old are you today? 31
10. Favorite drink? Sweet Iced Tea
11. What is your favorite sport to watch? Ugh. Sports! Really!!!
12. Have you ever dyed your hair? That's my secret....shhhh
13. Pets? 1 cat, Scully. 1 dog- Rocky the boxer, and two beta fish.

14. Favorite food? Chicken and pasta
15. Last movie you watched? Oh...I think it was "Pride and Prejudice" with Colin Firth

16. Favorite Day of the year? Would have to be Christmas
17. What do you do to vent anger? I'm a cabinet slammer.
18. What was your favorite toy as a child? Barbie or My Little Pony.
19. What is your favorite, fall or spring? Definately Fall

20. Hugs or kisses? Kisses

21.Cherry or Blueberry? Cherry
22. Do you want your friends to email you back? Everybody likes to get Email- I think. Unless it's spam.

23. Who is most likely to respond? Paula

24. Who is least likely to respond? Mom

25. Living arrangements? Married with Children

26. When was the last time you cried? Sometime last week

27. What is on the floor of your closet? Oh.... clothes, shoes, it's a mess.

28. Who is the friend you have had the longest that you are sending this
to? N/A

29. Who is the friend you have had the shortest that you are sending
this to? N/A

30. Favorite smells? This is probably weird... but I love the smell of gasoline being pumped and the smell of Home Depot. My favorite smell, though, would have to be the smell of my little boys right out of the bathtub.
31. What inspires you? Shopping
32. What are you afraid of? death
33. Plain, cheese or spicy hamburgers? Cheeseburger

34. Favorite car? Ford Mustang, but I've never had one.

35. Favorite cat breed? My little Scully! She's a calico tabby cat.
36. Number of keys on your key ring? 3
37. How many years at your current job? 1
38. Favorite day of the week? Friday
39. How many states have you lived in? 4
40. Do you think you're funny? Sometimes

Okay... so Paula, Heather A., Cindy, Julie and Mom~ YOUR'E IT!!!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Writer's Block

So, I hope Kristy's not reading this I am at The Scrapbook Pad. I'm supposed to be working on some more lessons for the font book, but I am having a major case of writer's block. It's nice to be out of the house on such a pretty day. I'm seeing lots of familiar faces I haven't seen in a while here at "The Pad", so it's kinda nice. Of course, I'm the only one sitting here with a computer today- so there does seem to be a group of women across from me looking at me as though I have three heads. Other than that, it's been a really nice day. Wish I could get with the program and do some productive writing, though.

I just found out today that the store I used to frequent- and have had such a love/hate relationship with- Recollections- is closing! Not just that store, but it seems they are shutting down all the stores and the corporate office. While my relationship with them for the last year has been tense, I would never wish that fate on anyone. I am terribly sad to hear about the closing of the company, and especially for all the employees I used to work with. The irony in all of it is that I actually had resigned myself to extend that olive branch where the local store is concerned. I was in there last week to buy a few things, and it was nice. I said hello to the store manager. While it was still tense, I feel that at least I made an effort. I was hoping that all this tension could be worked away, and that time had healed it~ especially after the warm conversations I had with some of the corporate office employees at CHA summer. The whole situation leaves me very sad.

However, in an inevitable flight, I'm sure lots of the old patrons from Recollections will make their way down to The Scrapbook Pad. I'll be very happy to see them, as I can normally be found there on the weekends. Who knows, maybe we can even get the old "Second Saturday" group back together. That'd be really nice.

In two days from now Nicholas will turn 8 years old. That, to me, is incredible. I can't believe he's that old! I also can't believe we've been living in Texas that long!!! We moved here two weeks after he was born. What's even funnier is that now I've lived in Texas as long as I lived in Charlotte, NC. Weird.

So, gonna try and get back to work now. Enough playing.... :-)
More soon~ I'm sure.... A

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Cutest Kids Ever

So, everyone thinks their kids are the cutest. But, here's the thing. Mine really are. Yep. It's true. I am the mother of the two cutest kids that ever lived. Sure I want to hang them out back by their toes every now and again~ but what good mother doesn't! Last night they were being especially sweet, and I took them out in the front yard for some good ol' fashioned fun with the camera. Fall has finally come to pay us a visit, and it's been considerably cooler out the last couple of days. They had such a good time. Yes, I do also have the Mac Daddy of all camera's, but I'm not the world's greatest photographer. I'm ashamed to say that I'm actually not all that good at taking pictures. But, I'm lucky- because my kids are so darn cute anyway. I just have to share a few shots...

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Get ready... this is a long one... :-)

So, it's been a while since I've sat down at the computer for a good ol' blogging session. My friend Catherine reminded me today that I need to do that. This afternoon, while working on some pages for book #3 I decided to take a little break and spill over to DST (DigiShopTalk), since I hadn't been there in a while. It was there that I discovered a link to another blog, where a traditional scrapper gives her opinion on what is happening in the paper world. I thougth it was great. And, it's crazy, but I can't find her name on her blog to give her proper credit. So, I'm posting her post here....

"As you know, I’m fairly “scrapbook obsessed.” (REALLY???? We hadn’t noticed!). Which means that, yes, I scrapbook but also that I think about it 24/7, read all the scrapping books and magazines and blogs, participate on message boards, watch scrapbooking on tv, attend and hold crops, work as a scrapbooking consultant and have my own little s/b business as a compliment to that, etc. etc. (Yes, I could go on!). As a person who is this involved, I have some opinions on what I think is happening in the scrapbook industry so I thought I would share them and see what you think. Note: When I refer to the scrapbooking industry here, I’m talking about paper scrapping not to include digital. First of all, it’s no secret that in late 2006/all of 2007, the industry has slowed down. By that I mean it’s not making as much money for the biggies, i.e. the magazines and the major scrapbooking product companies. Secondly, tons of local scrapbook stores (LSS’s) are closing with only a few new ones opening. Since LSS’s used to be the heart of the industry, I take this as a major hit. I think there are 4 major reasons for this downturn: the economy, the internet, digital scrapbooking, and the industry itself.

Okay, the first and easiest reason is the economy. Not that the economy is horrible, but it has taken a hit in the last few years with gas prices so high, mortgage rates going up while home values stagnate or recede, and jobs being outsourced to other countries where they can pay someone 50 cents an hour to do the same job an American would be paid $12/hour for (major pet peeve of mine, but we won’t go there). But the bottom line of our economic shift is that we all have less disposable income to spend on scrap supplies. Yeah, I know, horrors! Everyone I’ve talked to - ladies like me who have scrapped and shopped for years - has had to tone down their spending. I used to fill my Honda with gas for $25, and now it costs $45. There went the $20 I would’ve spent on supplies last week, and that adds up to $80 less from this one consumer over the course of a month. May seem small but not when you multiply $80 by the millions of scrapbookers who routinely shop. Before we used to think nothing of dropping $80-100 at the LSS every few months, but now it might happen once a year by using those gift cards from Christmas. Because our money is so tight, we’ve become smarter shoppers who rely on…big box craft stores and their lovely coupons. While this is convenient and cost-saving to we consumers, I feel it has really hurt the industry. I’m the most guilty of it than anyone I know, so I’m not saying we shouldn’t do it, just pointing out that it has had a definite effect. When I can get a Colorbok 12×12 album using a 40% off coupon for $12 instead of $20, or use a 50% off coupon to buy a Crop in Style Cube for half-price, I’m going to do it. But when I do, I’m taking the money I would have spent at the LSS and giving it to Michaels which is a huge nationwide chain. As much as I adore Mikes, they are not contributing to my community, donating items to my crop, or supporting my local scrapbook community like an LSS would. When we continually give our (few) scrappin’ dollars to Mikes, Costco, Hobby Lobby, et al., we are making it virtually impossible for the LSS to stay in business. When I asked one local owner why she was closing her store, she said, “Everyone thinks running a store is so profitable because scrapbook supplies are expensive. But it takes A LOT of pieces of 69 cent patterned paper to pay my light bill.” In other words, sure, there is a good mark-up on scrapbook supplies but it’s not like owning an appliance store or a car dealer where each sale can net you hundreds/thousands of dollars. A person has to walk out of the LSS with a bagful of supplies (or a full-priced Cricut or a full-priced QuicKutz) for them to see a significant profit per sale. I don’t know of one LSS owner who is making a killing, even the very savvy, business-smart ones. When I used to have 7 LSS’s within 100 miles, I enjoyed shopping at them so I could have the latest and greatest and enjoy the atmosphere there, even if it cost a bit more (see THIS POST for more on my love of LSS’s). But after I heard that comment from the owner, I made even more of a point to spend my scrap budget at LSS’s. Now I’m down to 1 LSS and I go there at least once per month even though it’s a 45-minute drive. The rest of the time, I do use my coupons and look for deals at big box stores. I suppose as a matter of principal, I could refuse to shop ‘big box’, but #1-I’m not that strong (LOL), and #2-Would it really make a difference if one lone scrap shopper in America made that effort? Nope. It would take a banding together of many of us, and I don’t see that happening. For most of us, the slowing economy has made it so that we put our budget ahead of the things we enjoy about our LSS’s.

The second trend that has negatively effected our industry is the internet. It’s tied in with the big box/economical reasons above but, basically, there are so many advantages to internet shopping that many of us have transitioned to it either partly or fully. There are so many positives to buying scrapbook supplies from the internet: easily view everything that’s available, compare prices to get the best deal, and take advantage of screamin’ deals on Ebay - all in the comfort of your warm, dry house while wearing your jammies! The only negatives: credit card/ID theft issues, waiting for the package to arrive, and sadly, taking our money away from the LSS’s. The major upside is that the internet has allowed any scrapper who would like to open up their own ’store’, whether it be Ebay, Etsy, or a full-on store website. As a scrapper who recently quit full-time work and was interested in working from home, I can appreciate how that kind of opportunity could be irresistable and even considered it myself. However, this freedom in e-commerce has led to a saturation in the scrapbook market…and the eventual failure of many online stores. Don’t get me wrong, I think you can still make some pocket money in this type of venture but I don’t see many people making a full-time income from it. There are many huge sites that have done very well for a long time (ROCKY MOUNTAIN HOBBIES, EMBELLISH IT, etc.), but they are rare in my opinion. (If I’m wrong on this, please educate me :-). Bottom line is that if we’re all shopping online and forcing vendors to give us the rock bottom price or go out of business, and forcing the closure of LSS’s which offer all the products that keep the big magazines/companies going, then we as online shoppers have negatively impacted the very industry that we so love.

The third big effect I see involves digital scrapbooking. I don’t know any official statistics, but I’ve concluded that a large portion of paper scrappers (maybe 50%?) have transitioned partially or fully to digital scrapbooking. I base this on the number of people who talk about it on MB’s, post their digital pages, demand representation in the ‘paper scrapbooking’ magazines, and the number on digi-websites and blogs. I’ll bet Costco is making a killing on 12×12 page printing! Digital scrapbooking is very popular and it has to have had an effect on the paper scrapbooking industry. It goes something like this: A paper scrapper wants to try digital scrapbooking. She looks around online and downloads one free digi-kit from 50 different sites. She tries the digital thing and realizes she can complete a whole album while sitting in the car with her laptop at 5 of her son’s baseball practices. Not to mention no fuss, no mess, no sticky desktop to clean when she’s done. She thinks, “Why didn’t I try this sooner?” and tells all her friends to try it, which they do, and they all love it. Ms. Digi Scrapper looks at all of her paper scrap supplies and says, “I’d better stop buying supplies because I will never even use what I have, much less new stuff. And besides, why pay money when I can get all those digi-kits for free?” Now the only money she is spending is on printer cartridges and digital page printing (although I hear from lots of digi-scrappers that they don’t even print most of their pages; the pages live in their computers to view onscreen, post on their blog, or e-mail to relatives). Anyhow, even if some of this 50% of scrappers remain hybrid, I’d bet they still don’t spend anywhere near the amount of money on supplies as they used to. As for the creators/sellers of digi-elements, are they getting rich? Have we just transitioned the profit from the paper scrap companies to the digital designers? Personally, I don’t think so. Again, why pay for something when there are so many freebies? I love the ARTICLE Kim Guymon at wrote about this subject and she explains it very well. But, again, the bottom line is this huge transition to digital scrapbooking has changed the face of the scrapbooking industry as we know it. I imagine if you’ve gone totally digital, you aren’t concerned but as a ‘completely paper’ scrapper, I kinda’ wish it wasn’t happening. I’m not blaming anyone - the digital scrapbookers or their industry - I just wish digital had come along after my lifetime or something, LOL. It’s like when I get mad sometimes and DH says, “Why are you mad at me?!?” and I say, “I’m not mad at you, I’m mad at the SITUATION.” (Pout, pout).

“Fourthly” and lastly, I place some blame on the scrapbook industry itself. I think they have bowed to the pressure we put on them for something new, “the latest and greatest”, all the time and they just release too many dang products! Coming from me, this statement probably shocks you, right? I can shop like nobody’s business and drool over all the new products. I discuss them here on my blog and post links to enable your shopping as well. But just because we want the new stuff all the time, doesn’t mean the industry has to provide it. I think the popularity of the scrapbook magazines with their ads for new products, their awesome pages and articles featuring the new stuff, and all the internet advertising of same has pressured the makers of scrapbook products to keep putting out new collections. Well, I’m no expert but I imagine that costs a lot of money - designing, advertising, attending trade shows, sending reps to the stores, and filling orders. When the industry was really thriving, that was all well and good. But now that it has slowed, we’re still expecting tons of the latest and greatest, and they are still delivering. How can that be profitable? Add to that the new companies that continue to appear and it boggles the mind. A few of the longtime, larger companies have recently gone out of business and I predict that more will follow. I’ve also noticed limits on production that frustrate stores and consumers. It has to eventually fall apart, as much as I absolutely hate to say that.

So there are my thoughts on today’s paper scrapbook industry. I think about it a lot as I read the message boards and hear so many complaints lately like this: “CK has gotten so thin”, “My LSS closed :(”, “The freebies at CKU/Expo have gotten so limited,” and “Why is there no Michael’s coupon every week like there used to be?”. I’ve noticed that CK, the premiere scrapbook magazine, has changed to a company with horrible customer service and thousands of loyal subscribers dropping their subscriptions. I see Creative Memories, the premiere (or at least original) scrapbook home party company, firing employees and making decisions that continue to alienate their consultants and, hence, customers. To me, the answer to these questions and the reason for the negative trends all lies in the fact that the scrapbook magazines and the companies who make the products are not thriving like they used to be. As scrappers, that’s just something we have to realize and live with. Hate to be Debbie Downer, but I think it’s only going to get worse… Please don’t shoot the messenger. I’m not happy about it either, fo’ sho’. Now tell me what YOU think - I would love to know if I’m ‘in the dark’ or ‘on target’."

Now, this lady is bright, brilliant and lovely. On most of her remarks, I have to say that I agree. However, I viamently disagree with her "Fourthly" part of this article. And, here's why it's important....

Most of you bloggers and readers out there know that I come from a traditional background. I became enamored with digital scrapbooking once I tried it, but it took me a remarkably long time to "try" it. Now that I'm in it, my goal is to make my pages look as realistic as possible. I want people to have to touch my pages to see if they are real! A lot of the women who I have been meeting as of lately are digital scrapbooking veterans. They've been doing it for 5 or so years, and the novelty has worn on them a bit. Now they are eager to get their hands messy and embrace the texture of traditional scrapbooking again.

I've also noticed a significant trend. Traditional scrapbooking was pretty scarce say- 10 years ago. What was around then was the "Creative Memories" looking supplies that everyone is familiar with. The papers were solids consisting of bright and pastels. The patterns were basic stripes and ginghams. The selection of embellishments was limitid to bright cartoon-like stickers, and a small assortment of die-cuts found at the local library or school. Scrapbooking was nothing at all like it is today. Traditional scrapbooking went through it's twists and turns just like most things do. Scrapbookers graduated from the stickers and die-cuts to start using stamps, paper piecing, and other techniques. Think of the waves that have come through, hitting everything from the heritage and altered lines to the crispness of Bo' Bunny papers. Then came the Basic Grey, Daisy D's and the beautiful lines of today.

Now, let's look at digital scrapbooking by that very same perspective. Just 16 months ago I started digi-scrappin'. At that point, there were really only two stores I frequented. I have to say that most of the others didn't carry items that I liked to use. It was that same difference between shopping at "Creative Memories" or an elite store like "Archivors". A lot of the elements out there looked unrealistic and very "Photoshoppy", as we called it.

Today, just 16 short months later, it seems that digital scrapbooking is following the same trend that traditional scrapbooking did. The digital consumers are switching over from traditional, making them more demanding than the digital consumer of yesterday. There are now very few digital stores that don't have the callibur of quality I want to see in the products I buy. The items are no longer boxy and one-dimensional. Often when I browse a gallery of a digital site I am simply blown away by the layouts done.

I am smack dab in the middle of the traditional and digital industry with my job. I see trends on both sides, and I am all too aware of the number of stores closing on a monthy basis. But, I am adament in my opinion that there is still a large market- and will forever be- a huge market for traditional scrapbookers. The answer lies when the retailer realizes their digital customer and embraces them both. Catering to the digital consumer is just as important as catering to the traditional. Sometimes even more-so. Because, the digital customer is very likely to buy something in the store to add onto a digital page. However, the traditional customer is going to keep spending... what did our author above say??? $80-$100 every few months!?! To me, that is unreal. I am the digital customer, and I'm spending $30- $60 a WEEK just on digital supplies, not to mention albums, refills, ink, paper and prints.

And, let's talk about that. Sales are down everywhere- yes. But, digital sales are going back up. The holidays are nearly upon us. So many retailers are missing out on holiday sales just because they don't carry kits on discs or accesories for digital scrapbookers! Do they even know that the new- more affordable- Bamboo Wacom tablets are out? So, I'm interested to see what happens in our industry. But, I don't think that digital is going to kill the traditional radio star.