Design Team Q & A with Carole

Hi, YNS Friends!  It’s Carole Burrage, and here’s more than you ever wanted to know about lil ol’ me.


Q:  Tell us about your family and where you live.

I’ve been married for almost 22 years to my college/law school sweetheart, Sean.  We have two boys, Truman (age 18 and a soon-to-be graduating high school senior) and Carter (age 10 and in the fourth grade).  We also have two dogs – Sweet Pea and Daisy – both of whom are rescue girlies we adopted.  We just moved this past year from Claremore, Oklahoma, where we’d lived for 18 years.  We now reside in Durant, Oklahoma, where my husband is the President of Southeastern Oklahoma State University.  We’ve been living in a historic (read: ancient; it was built in 1918) house on campus, but just closed on a house that I am ever so anxious to move into.  We have pretty extensive renovations to complete first, so please: pray for me!

Q: When did you join YNS?

That’s actually a pretty hard question for me to answer.  (Those of you who know me at all realize that nothing is ever simple or straightforward when it comes to yours truly.  I like to think of myself as a riddle wrapped in an enigma, but I’m probably just a garden variety PITA.) I’ve been stamping with YNS products since 2010, and shortly thereafter Karen and I struck up an online friendship (I can’t believe we STILL haven’t met in person!  That must be remedied soon.) I guest designed for YNS, and guested for a few YNS blog hops, and for a year or so, I even had a monthly column, of sorts, called “Carole’s Creative Commotion” on the YNS Blog.  In 2013-2014, I took a stamping hiatus for a while.  By late 2014, I was ready to return to my beloved images and inks, so my buddy Karen created a spot for me on the YNS design team and I’ve been happily playing with the talented gals on the team ever since.

Q: What are your favorite YNS images?

I am a huge fan of all things Fhiona, especially the awesome World Kids collection.  I can’t resist Cory’s Critters and Friends (his big-eyed characters remind me of the Muppets, whom I love dearly).  I adore kawaii (especially food with faces!) so that means Macy Wong’s illustrations are among my faves, as well.

Q: What are your favorite color combos?

I lurve me some bright colors, and given the opportunity to use all ROY G. BIV of the rainbow, I will elect to do just that.  As for a single color combo that always makes me a little giddy to see?  I’d have to go with my longtime go-to, the perfectly preppy pink & green.  In my Lilly Pulitizer-ized version of the world, this combo would reign supreme.  Even my remote control would be pink & green, just like the one in this card I created using the new For the Boys stamp set and the Circles Die Set.

CB YNS Take Control

Here’s a close-up of this cute channel changer:

CB YNS Take Control close up

For more inspiration using the For the Boys set, head on over to our Pinterest page.

Thanks so much for letting me share a little of my cluttered mind with you.  Next week you’ll have the oh-so-awesome privilege of getting a peek into what makes Boss Lady Karen tick – good times!


Introducing and Welcome Back Carole Burrage

Hello! I have a very special announcement today, but before I move forward with that, I wanted to address all of those who applied to be on the YNS Design Team. Thank you SO much for setting aside the time to put in an application and we are so humbled by the fact that you all want to be apart of our little family! We are currently reviewing the applications but we’re a little overwhelmed with the response! We’re also in the midst of bringing you another new release on December 7th, so we are working hard behind the scenes. We will be sending all applicants a response soon. 🙂

For the big announcement today, the YNS Crew is very excited to welcome back Carole Burrage to the team! Carole is no stranger to YNS – she used to write the most amusing posts and her creative spirit is a force to be reckoned with! I had the opportunity to meet Carole in person at CHA 2012 and I can attest that she is as funny in person as she is online!

I’ll let Carole take it away and introduce herself:


Hi, my name is Carole Burrage, and I’m thrilled to be re-uniting (and it feels so good… 😉 ) with my dear friends at Your Next Stamp.  I’ve been stamping since 2006, and have had the pleasure of serving on many design teams as well as the Splitcoaststamper’s Dirty Dozen (June – Nov. 2008).  I also used to write the ‘Carole’s Creative Commotion’ monthly blog post for YNS (who knows – maybe it will make a comeback one of these days!).  I took a lengthy hiatus from serious stamping to go back to work after several years as a stay-at-home-mom. Thanks to a recent move, I’m once again a SAHM and itching to get those creative juices flowing again. I now live in Durant, Oklahoma, with my husband, two sons, and our two rescue dogs. I’m so grateful to Karen for giving me another opportunity to get crafty with her awesome company and talented team of designers. I look forward to sharing my designs with you!


YAY! I can’t wait to see what you create, Carole! Please go visit her on her blog – Mother’s Little Helper – and give her some love!

Have a fantastic day!


YNS Fun Friday!!!

Before we get started have you see the new releases yet? We would love for you to hop along our Fun and Inspirational Blog Hop

We also some fabulous challenges, this is the last month of YNS challenges…we’re changing things up in 2013!

Our November Fun Friday theme is all about Gifts and Giving! Have you seen last weeks post yet? If not, click HERE to check it out! 

I thought this Birthday Owl card by Kerri screamed Gifts but I’m not sure about the Giving part! LOL She’s a little protective of those presents!

Now let’s see what the team has for us this week…

I love this fabulous gift set! Be sure to visit her blog for all the details!
Loving all the bold and bright  patterns and colors on this card! I’m sure Carole has something interesting to say so be sure to visit her blog for more details!

Fun little treat box! Visit her blog for more info!
These festive tags are adorable!!!!  Visit her blog for more details!
Super sweet birthday card! Be sure to visit her blog for more details!

Maureen Wong – Merry Mouse Candy Cane
This is a cute little project! Visit her blog for more pics and details!
We’ve got a special deal going on…15% off your entire order!
Online Code – YNSNOV2012
Offer Valid until Nov 10th at midnight

 Thank you so much for joining us! 

Wishing you a Fun and Creative Day!


CCC # 7: Counting Sheep

Hi, friends. Thanks for stopping by for the 7th edition of CAROLE’S CREATIVE COMMOTION! (Forgive me – I like seeing my name in all caps. Even if I’m the one doing the typing.) Last month, I shared with you that there are certain images I prefer to avoid, most notably: elephants. I thought I’d balance the scale this month and tell you about a certain species of image that I LOVE and scoop up whenever I can: SHEEP.

Yep, I’ve got a thing for those fluffy little flockers. And, just as I can pinpoint the source of my distaste for the elephant, I know where my love of sheep images originated. Take a look…

Aaah… Princess Diana in her sheep sweater! Princess Diana first wore this sweater to a Polo Match in 1983, when I was 12 years old, and from that moment on, I have been positively smitten. Of course, this is back in the day when there weren’t a million celebrities, and you couldn’t Google their name if you wanted to see a photo of them or know what they were up to. You were at the mercy of the magazines, and in Diana’s case, photo books. One day, my mom brought me home a book called “Princess Diana, Lady of Fashion.”
(See? I can even Google an image of the cover of that book!) I swear, I thumbed through that book thousands of times. Believe it or not, I still have it somewhere around here. Guess what my favorite picture in the book was? You got it: Diana in that red wool sweater, woven with dozens of white lambs, and one black sheep.

Several years ago, I found a tiny sheep stamp and created an homage to Diana for an ATC swap I was in. I’ve recreated that sweater in paper and ink at least 10 times since then. And here’s my latest version, using YNS’s Cute Sheep stamp:
Diana would be 50 years old had she not been killed in that fatal car accident in Paris, in 1997. I can still remember exactly where I was (in my bedroom, in the house we lived in before our current home) and what I was doing (rocking Truman, then 11 months old, and trying to get him to fall asleep) when Sean came in the room and told me that Princess Diana had died. Now, I’m six years older than Diana ever got be. My son, Truman is now 15 – the same age Prince William was when his mother died.

In my own small way, I honor the memory of the Princess, who captured world’s imagination with her style and beauty, every time I make one of my sheep cards. As I do so, for a few minutes, I turn back into that ‘tween-aged girl, laying on my twin-sized bed with the rainbow sheets, leafing through that book, and imagining Diana had a life as perfect as it looked in the pictures.

So, tell me: what images do you collect? Are there any themes you’re drawn to, again and again? Tell me about them, and on Saturday, February 25th, Karen will randomly select one lucky commenter to win Cute Sheep.

See you next month, on the 18th.

xo – Carole

PS – I used the February Sketch For You To Try as the blueprint for my card. YNS is sponsoring the SFYTT this month, and Karen is generously giving the following discount to everyone who participates.


CCC # 6: The Politics of Stamping

Last month, I received a package of YNS stamps from Karen. I had no idea what was in the package. I vaguely remembered a message in the design team forum about signing up for stamps for an upcoming release, but I was a$$ deep in alligators at that moment with finals, the holidays, etc., so I blew it off. After all, I figured, I’m not full-time on the design team. With YNS, I am the stamping equivalent of permanent guest star on a television show; I write my monthly CCC posts, and do a little designing here and there, as time permits. It’s an awfully sweet gig, I’ve gotta say.

So, anyway, I get this package of stamps, and of course, it’s full of wonderful purple rubber and dies. Manna from heaven! Upon closer inspection, though, I spy an image for which I have gone on record MULTIPLE times regarding my ambivalence. Yes, my friends, I see an… elephant. Karen had sent me the Special Delivery set from Jenny Suchin’s new line of stamps.

Now, ordinarily, I’m thrilled with any new YNS stamps I receive because – let’s face it – they’re all adorable. And it’s not that Special Delivery isn’t cute. It’s just that in the U.S., elephants are a symbol of the Republican party, and I am a Democrat with a capital “D.” Seriously. My children are named Truman and Carter (after the 33rd and 39th Presidents, both Democrats), and my husband is the minority leader (and thus a Democrat) of the Oklahoma State Senate. In other words, we are more political than your average bears, and thus, I generally eschew anything with an elephant motif.

That doesn’t mean I avoid having anything to do with Republicans, mind you. After all, I live in the reddest of red states. Oklahoma is the only state in the union in which the majority of people in every single county voted for John McCain, the Republican candidate, in the the 2008 Presidential election. If I refused to be friends with people based on their political views, I’d be a pretty lonely gal. Really and truly, some of my best friends are Republicans. Bless their hearts… 😉

I realize most stampers are able to overlook the whole elephant/donkey thing. (Donkeys are the symbol of the Democratic party, by the way. I could tell you the whole story behind the animal symbolism of the U.S. political party system, but frankly, it’s not that interesting; here’s a link that explains it, if you really want to know.) Then again, most stampers haven’t had to knock on strangers’ doors in 100+ degree heat and beg them to vote for their husbands. To get into my head on this issue, look at it this way: think of where you went to high school or college. Now, think about your alma mater‘s main rival. Would you ever wear a tee-shirt emblazoned with your rival’s mascot? Of course not. The only way an Oklahoma Sooner would be caught dead wearing the orange and black logo of Oklahoma State University is if he or she lost a bet.

Being a Canadian, I’m sure Karen didn’t have a clue about my elephant idiosyncrasy until the moment she read this post. I actually considered mailing the stamp set back to her and explaining why it wasn’t for me, but that seemed a bit silly, and I didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity to support the launch of Jenny’s line. So last week, when I sat down to stamp something for the YNS/Jenny Suchin blog hop, I had a dilemma on my hands. Should I just make a baby card and ignore the political implications I imbued the stamp with, or should I stamp it like I saw it? Well, you know me: if there’s an elephant in the room, I have to acknowledge it…

I figure I will send this card to one of my favorite Republicans, our longtime babysitter, Larami, who just went back to college after taking a semester off to recover from back surgery. She is absolutely dear to my family, and we think of her as one of our own. Even though she’s a political science major and a proud member of the University of Arkansas College Republicans. Larami will love this card, precisely because she will know how conflicted I must have felt making it. I will definitely recommend she frame it. I know all handmade cards are one-of-a-kind, but this one really is. I can guarantee the likes of it will never be seen again.

You Republicans in the audience don’t have it as bad as us Democrats. For whatever reason, elephant images are everywhere, and have some how become associated with babies. Elephant stamps are inexplicably ubiquitous. Donkey stamps, on the other hand, are as rare as hen’s teeth. Fortunately, though, Karen and YNS happen to have a donkey in their catalog, so I was able to give equal time to the Ds:
I used the So Sorry Donkey image to create this Yankee Doodle Dandy, and colored him in with Copic markers. I created the donkey logo background paper by copy-and-pasting the logo into a Word document, reducing it, and then copy and pasting the reduced size over and over again. I printed the document out with a color printer onto white card stock – easy peasy!

Here’s a close-up of Mr. Donkey, so you can see the coloring a little better:
You can see where I added some strokes with a gray colored pencil to give his fur a bristle-y look, and to give him a spiky forelock. Isn’t he a cutie?

What about you? Are there any images you stay away from? What’s your reason? We all have our biases, and I’d like to feel like I’m not the only weirdo around here. Leave me a comment and let me know, and you just might be able to do a little bi-partisan stamping of your own for FREE! Everyone (regardless of political affiliation 😉 ) who comments on this post by 12:00 a.m. EST of January 25th will be entered into a random drawing to win the Special Delivery and So Sorry Donkey sets!

You know one of the things I love about stamping? It transcends politics. Get two stampers in a room together, and the last thing they’re going to talk about is an election. THANK GOODNESS!

See you next month on the 18th!

xo – Carole


CCC # 5: Christmas Is The Time to Say…

One of my favorite contemporary Christmas carols is Billy Squier (of ‘The Stroke’ fame – holla to all youths of the ’80’s in the hizzle)’s “Christmas Is the Time to Say ‘I Love You’.” Here’s a fun fact to know and tell: that song ‘dropped’ in 1981, during the heyday of MTV, when Martha Quinn, J.J. Jackson and the rest of the original vee-jays showed music videos and nothing but music videos, ’round the clock. The Good Old Days, if you will. In December of 1981, I was twelve years old and in seventh grade. That was thirty years ago. I’ll let you do math.

These days, when I sing (as I often do, to the chagrin of my children, the dog, and anyone within hearing distance) that song, I tend to change the lyrics to whatever I’m feeling or thinking at the moment. For example:

  • Christmas Is the Time to Say… I’m Tired
  • Christmas Is the Time to Say… Clean Your Room
  • Christmas Is the Time to Say… You’re Naughty
  • Christmas Is the Time to Say… It’s Bedtime

and so on. For the last couple of days, however, I’ve been observing my actions, gyrations, behaviors and what not. The tune that keeps popping into my head? “Christmas Is the Time to Say… I’m Crazy.”

I don’t know about you, but this time of the year brings out both the best and worst in me. The best because I honestly love the holiday season and truly endeavor to make it merry and bright. I decorate my house to the hilt, I try to select thoughtful gifts each recipient will love, I play Christmas music non-stop, I take in all the Christmas movies and TV specials with my boys (pretty much just my 7 year old, now, because my 15 year old is too cool), and so on. I want to create idyllic holiday memories that my family will cherish forever.

Alas, I must admit: it also brings out the worst. I could go into excruciating detail on this point, but in the interest of brevity, I’ll leave it at this: I try to cram way too much into way too narrow of a time frame. Inevitably, I end up over-extended, exhausted, and disappointed.

Have you ever seen the movie, “Christmas Vacation”? I swear, I am Clark Griswold with a va-jay-jay. Reality can never match those romanticized visions of sugarplums, dancing in our heads.

To liken my Christmas fervor with fine literature, let me remind you of a classic:

For those of you who don’t know the gist of this story, there’s a boy and this mouse. The boy gives the mouse a cookie, which makes the mouse thirsty, so the boy must get him a glass of milk. Then, the mouse wants to look in the mirror to make sure he doesn’t have a milk mustache, and when he looks in the mirror, he decides his fur needs a trim, so the boy needs to get him a pair of scissors, and so on. In every given moment, the mouse gets distracted and moves on to his next ‘need’ before wrapping up the previous endeavor. (SPOILER ALERT!) It eventually ends where it starts, with the mouse wanting a cookie, and then a glass of milk… And in the mouse’s wake? An utterly torn-up house and an oh-so-exhausted little boy.

In my case, I’m both the boy and the mouse. Let me give you one example:

This past Friday night was basketball homecoming at my son, Truman’s, high school. Truman is a freshman, and through a lot of hard work and dedication, he made the JV and varsity teams. He was also asked to be the male freshman homecoming attendant. My in-laws (mother, father, brother & his wife and kids) decided to come in for the game and spend the night.

My in-laws live several hours away from us and have not come up to our home in well over a year. They haven’t stayed the night in probably 3 years or so. (They think it’s much easier for the four of us to come down and see them. Don’t get me started…)

Anyway, with it being the holidays, I felt like my home needed to be not only immaculate, but beautifully decorated. We were going to be leaving Saturday morning for our Christmas with DH’s extended family, so I also needed to have all of the shopping for that side of the family done, and the gifts needed to be beautifully wrapped, with my signature big-fluffy-bows (each one takes at least 15 minutes to make. Don’t pretend you paper crafters don’t know what I’m talking about).

I had the upstairs interior of the house painted a few months ago (okay, so maybe it was about 24 months ago…), and I’d been a bit of a slacker about getting all of the pictures re-hung, and in the meantime, Truman had changed bedrooms. During that time, the ‘new’ guest room had become a bit of a junk room. Why? Because no one ever comes up to stay with us! So, I had to get the guest room all cleaned up, pictures hung on the walls, etc.

On Thursday afternoon, I went to a department store to find a couple of extra gifts for my Mother- and Sister-in-law (because I hated for them to open just one from us, even though their main gift was nice enough on its own). While there, I spied a couple of lamps that I thought would look great in the guest room (the old ones looked dated and cheap, I’d decided when I had set the room back up the day before). Then, what to my wondering eyes should appear? A chair that would be PERFECT for the guest room! And so on…

I get home and place the lamps and chairs in the guest room, when I notice a couple of stains on the carpet. They’re curiously yellow. I bend down to sniff… and no, no, no!!! The unmistakeable stench of dog urine. Too busy to decide whether it was the work of Gretel (RIP, I had to put her to sleep a couple of weeks ago – that’s a terrible, horrible, no-good story for another time) or Sweet Pea (or should it be ‘Sweet Pee’?), I immediately think, “I’ve got to clean these carpets!” So I go to the local hardware store and rent a carpet cleaner at 6 p.m. at night, hoping and praying the carpet will be dry before the company arrives the next day.

As I’m cleaning the guest bedroom carpet, I think “Well, as long as I have the carpet cleaner, I should clean all of the carpet in the house…” and later, “Well, the upholstery of the living room furniture looks a little dirty, too…” You see where this is going, don’t you?

Now that it’s Sunday, the 18th, here’s what I know: the gifts were plenty as they were, no one but me would have given a second thought to the lamps or the lack of a chair in the guest room, I could have probably done a good enough job on the carpet with a little spray carpet cleaner and a rag, and no one cared about my big-fluffy-bows as they tore into their presents.

One of these days, I’ll learn my lesson. In fact, I think I’m going to start today. Instead of working myself into a lather trying to create a new card or item for today’s CCC post (our 5th!), I’m going to show you a couple of early projects I made with Your Next Stamp images, which helped me fall in love with YNS.

This is the very first card I created with a YNS image. I did it for a JiFFy (Just For Fun) Challenge I do with a few of my stampy girlfriends monthly-ish, and one of them selected the adorable little monkey from the Monkey Gone Bananas set. I decided to make mine a Japanese Snow Monkey, a la

Next is one of my very favorite YNS images, ever. So much so, it’s the image I selected for my YNS watermark: Happy Days Mermaid.

So, talk to me. Are you a Harried Holiday Hannah like me, or a Serene & Simple Sarah? Do you want to be different, or do you have any advice for the rest of us crazies? Leave a comment and let me know. One randomly-selected, lucky commenter will get her choice of either the Monkey Gone Bananas or Happy Days Mermaid. You have between now and midnight on Christmas Day (Dec. 25th) to post your comment, and Karen will announce the winner on the 26th.

Just for old time’s sake…

Did you see all the original MTV vee-jays?! And Billy’s sweater… oy!

I leave you with my best wishes for this season for you and yours, and for a New Year filled with peace, prosperity, and people you love. See you on January 18th, 2012, friends!

XO – Carole

PS – Can you think of another single blog post in which both terms ‘vee-jay’ and ‘va-jay-jay’ have been used?! SCORE!!! 🙂


CCC # 4 – Thankful

Hi, YNS Friends –

Happy November! This is one of my favorite times of the year: the calm before the hustle & bustle of the holiday season; the anticipation of good things to come, without the pressure of needing to get things done yet. Next week, we in the U.S. will be celebrating Thanksgiving.

To be perfectly honest with you, I don’t have a plethora of Thanksgiving traditions. I’ve tried a few times to start some; inviting extended family and friends, setting the table with the good china, serving the traditional dinner of turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, etc., going around the table and having each person tell one thing they’re grateful for, and so on. All that Norman Rockwell stuff.

None of those traditions I tried on for size ever fit. On those occasions when I attempted to implement the formula for an all-American Thanksgiving, I always felt a bit like a phony; like I was playing ‘dress up.’ That could be because I didn’t have a whole lot of experience in the holiday rituals department.

After all, Thanksgiving in the home where I grew up? Not a terribly big deal. My parents divorced by the time I was three, so on the holidays it was always just my mom, sister, and me. My sister is ten years older than I am, and by the time I was 10, she was married and lived across the country. From that point forward, Mom and I were on our own.

God bless her, Mom was not much of a cook. She taught at a community college, and often had evening classes. Thus, I ate a lot of my meals with Chef Boyardee and Mama Celeste.

Our Thanksgivings looked something like this: we would watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade together on the TV in the den. I sat there in my p.j.s and Mom worked on whatever project she was sewing at her machine. Then, once the parade was over, Mom would settle in for a full day of watching football. It didn’t matter who was playing; she’d watch all the teams, though the Dallas Cowboys and the University of Oklahoma Sooners were the only teams she truly rooted for. Not much for football, I’d go back to her bedroom and lounge on her big bed while taking in the annual Twilight Zone marathon on one of the cable channels.

Eventually, Mom would holler back to me and ask me what I wanted to eat for Thanksgiving, as if it had just occurred to her that some sort of meal was in order. At least one year, and possibly more, we went through the drive-thru of Del Taco. More often than not, though, I’d yell back, “Chicken and dumplings,” and within a few hours I’d be rolling and slicing biscuit dough, then dropping the strips into a simmering pot of chicken broth.

Last month, my mother died unexpectedly. For the past seven years, she lived within a mile of me and we spoke or saw each other daily. We had a complicated relationship, and when I complained about her, friends whose mothers had passed away would often say something like, “You’re lucky — I wish my mom was here for me to argue with.” My response would often be “You might not say that if you’d had my mom…”

Now, I get it. There’s very little I wouldn’t give to have my mom here for Thanksgiving. I wish I had the opportunity for one last conversation. What would I say? Of course, I would tell her that I love her, but more importantly, I would say, from the bottom of my heart, “Thank you.” I know she knew that I loved her, but I wonder if she knew or could feel how profoundly grateful I am to her for all that she did for me, and later, for my boys.

So, Mom, if you’re watching, this one is for you:
This little Thanksgiving number was created using the adorable Life Is Great image. Here’s a close up of this cute little gal in her paper-pieced teal turtleneck:
As I’ve gone through some of the things at Mom’s house, I was surprised to find she’d kept every card I’ve ever made for her. Even though she never acted like they were anything out of the ordinary, I think she must have liked them, and I think she’d like this one, too.

This Thanksgiving, we’ll be heading out for lunch at one of my husband’s aunts. His grandmother is 101 years old, so we can’t not have Thanksgiving with Granny. But when we get home, I think I’ve figured out what I’ll make for dinner for Sean and the boys: chicken and dumplings, in honor of Mom. Maybe it will even become a tradition.

For those of you celebrating Thanksgiving next week, what is one of your favorite traditions? If you aren’t celebrating Thanksgiving or don’t have any traditions, tell me something or someone for whom you’re grateful. You have until midnight next Thursday (aka Thanksgiving) to be eligible for Karen’s random selection of one lucky commenter to win the Life Is Great set.

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with one of my favorite blessings. If you like it, feel free to adopt it as your own.

Lord, for food in a world where many walk hungry,
For faith in a world where many walk in fear,
And for family and friends in a world where many walk alone,
We give you our thanks.


XO – Carole


CCC #3: Rays of Lights

Season’s greetings, friends, and welcome to the third installment of Carole’s Creative Commotion! You may think it’s a little early for ‘season’s greetings’ but – au contraire, mon frere – you’d be wrong. As we dyed-in-the-wool paper crafters know, the holiday season is upon us NOW. While the rest of the world is baking in the August sun, we’re scooping up the latest Halloween papers and creating ghostly goodness. When people are putting away their flip-flops and adorning their porches with pumpkins? We’re creating garlands and gift tags. By the time civilians are trimming their trees, we’ll be up to our… um… voice boxes in Valentines.

What can we say? We’re ahead of the curve. We set the holiday trends that make the world a more fun and festive place to live. It’s tough, creative work, but somebody has to do it.

Thus, even though it’s ‘only’ October 18th, you’ll indulge me if I skip the chatter about ghouls and goblins and move on to the very important and emotionally-charged subject of… CHRISTMAS LIGHTS!

“Christmas lights”: that simple phrase is enough to strike fear in the hearts of those who know me well, and a reason the males in my immediate family (which accounts for everyone but me & the dogs) dread the Friday-Sunday of every Thanksgiving weekend. Why? Because that’s how long it takes me to get the Christmas tree up and lit. In most areas of life, I’d consider myself ‘Type B’. But Christmas tree lighting is different; they are my madeleines, my Rosebud, my Moby-Dick. Clark Griswold, c’est moi.

Here are my rules for a properly lit artificial Christmas tree:

  1. Buy the largest pre-lit tree with the most bulbs per branch that your room can accommodate. If needed, make a platform for the tree with concrete cinder blocks. (This is what department stores do to show off trees to their best advantage.) If the tree you want is a bit too big for your room? Improvise. Squish the top branches and make it fit. For example (and yes, this is my tree…):
  2. Using twist or zip ties, secure a couple of electric outlet strips to the trunk/pole of the tree. You never want more than three strands of lights plugged into each other or you run the risk of overloading. Not only can this create a fire hazard, it can also cause a short in your lights, which after all the work you’re going to do, is the very last thing you want.
  3. Fluff out the branches of the tree. This should take you a long time. If it doesn’t, you’re doing it wrong. You’ve got to make the tree look as realistic as possible (as in, not every branch can tip up at the ends) without having any gaps where you can see gaps through the tree to the back side.
  4. Starting at the bottom, light the tree. Every single branch must be covered from base-to-tip-to-base, before moving to the next branch. Use light clips (green plastic thingies that look kind of like bobby pins) to avoid the the distraction of gaping cords. Work with the strand lit to ensure even coverage.
  5. When you think you’re done, add at least two more strands. More is more and a tree can never be too well lit. Your tree should be so well lit, you don’t even need ornaments. As of last year, my tree had around 15,000 multi-colored lights on it. I’m still not sure that was enough. (And yes, there are two stars at the top of my tree; one just didn’t seem like enough…)
  6. Stand back and marvel over your handiwork. Have a glass of wine (if you haven’t been driven by this process to drinking already) or cider. Then get out the rest of tree decorations and put those up.

I’m consistently amazed at how much Karen and I seem to have in common. She couldn’t have known about my Christmas light OCD when she released the very first Your Next Die. And yet what was it? A scalloped strand of Christmas light bulbs!Karen could not have spoke to me more with this stamp and die set if she tried. Here’s a close up of some bulbs, which I made more life-like with a coat of Glossy Accents. You can also see the pleated ribbon treatment I created by pinning the ribbon in place then running it through the sewing machine a couple of times.As for my aforementioned affliction, I think the only thing that might cure it is going back to a natural tree. Real tree branches can only handle so much weight, and certainly aren’t strong enough to handle the work out I put my artificial trees through. Believe it or not, I used to be a ‘real tree snob’ and pooh-poohed the fakers with their artificial trees. Then, about a dozen years ago or so, the price of real trees in my area seemed to sky rocket, and, well, I succumbed.

Enough about me. Tell me about YOU! For those of you who put up trees, tell me a bit about your lighting strategies. Are you a multi-colored or a clear light person? {I believe that’s almost as telling as whether you’re a dog- or cat-person, by the way.} Any hints or tips you’d like to share? As you can tell, this is a topic that takes up a lot of space in my wee brain, and I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Another thing I’m curious about: what are you stamping for, these days? Are you, too, already stamping Christmas (as I assumed earlier, for argument’s sake), or are you living in the here and now, and still stamping Halloween? Despite the fact that it’s going to make me seem like an unreliable narrator, I’m going to let you in on a secret: I plan to do a little more Halloween stamping over the next couple of weeks. After all, I have too many cute Halloween stamps I need to get inky (like Got Candy, Creepy Crawly, and the Cute Witch and Cute Kitty digi stamps), not to mention all the paper that’s getting old as I type this!

And for those of you who don’t put up trees or celebrate Halloween or Christmas, leave me a note anyway, even if it’s just to tell me I need an intervention. 😉 Karen will be giving away a Light Up the Holidays stamp and die set to one lucky person who comments before 11:59 p.m. EST, Tuesday, October 25th. My philosophy about comments is the same as my philosophy about Christmas lights: THE MORE, THE MERRIER! 🙂
See you next month on the 18th!

xo – Carole


CCC #1

Hello Friends!

I’m so excited to finally introduce you to our first and only (for now) Special Event Design Team member…the super talented, hilarious and oh so smart Carole Burrage! Carole will be hijacking posting on the YNS blog the 18th day of every month – how cool is that?! If you’ve never stopped by her own personal blog Mother’s Little Helper than you are missing out on some amazing talent and ton of laughs! I was introduced to Carole’s blog well over a year ago by my sister and instantly thought to myself…’Karen, this is a gal you need to get to know’ so I stalked read her blog for many many months before ever saying anything and the moment I emailed her there was an instant connection and I’m so happy to now call her a friend and fabulous member of the YNS family. Please give her a warm welcome and be sure to leave a comment on her posts because not only will she entertain you but there will be YNS prizes up for grabs every month too!!! WHOOT WHOOT!!!

Ok so without further ado…take it away Carole!

Welcome to the very first Carole’s Creative Commotion blog post! When Karen approached me with the idea of giving me the YNS Blog for one day each month TO DO WHATEVER I WANT TO WITH IT, I leapt at this unheard-of-opportunity. Then I wondered if she was off her meds/on a bender/cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs. But who am I to look a gift horse in the mouth? If Karen wants to give me this platform and let me expound on whatever topic flits into my fool head, I’m going to accept it with gratitude.
Thanks, Karen!
Now that we’re done with the niceties, shall we get started?
Here’s what I’m thinking about today: taking ownership of and pride in your art. That’s the big theme. And, looking at the little picture: I want you to start signing the backs of your cards.
Let me explain where I’m coming from. I’ve been active in the stamping industry and online stamping community for several years now and one of the happy results of that involvement is that I’ve developed great friendships with some amazing stampers. A benefit of friendships with stampers? Happy mail! I’ve received so many gorgeous cards over the years, I could open a stamp art gallery. No joke.
But you know what drives me crazier than I accused Karen of being, earlier? When people don’t sign their work! Seriously – most of the cards I receive lack any indication of who created them. I think that’s a crying shame. Do you think Picasso or Matisse would fail to sign their work? If they did, it’d sure fetch a lot less on the open market. Think about it: anything, from art to literature to baseball cards, is worth more when it bears the artist’s signature or stamp of authenticity. If you don’t believe me, just watch an episode of Antiques Roadshow.
Now, some of you may be thinking, “Well, that’s real art. Stamping isn’t art. It’s just my little hobby…” No, no, no, no! I disagree (in case you didn’t catch my drift from the four previous ‘no’s’). By typing “What is art?” into Google, the first definition it provides is this:
The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.
I think we can all agree that creating handcrafted greeting cards out of paper, ink, and glue falls under this definition. Is stamping what some might consider ‘fine art’? Maybe not. But it’s as close as I’m going to get, and I’m proud of my small contributions towards making this world a cuter place.
Thus, I want to encourage you to embrace your art and on the back of your card, to make some sort of declaration that indicates that YOU took the time and made the effort to create the little masterpiece the recipient is fortunate enough to hold in his or her hands. Let me show you what I mean. Here’s the front of my card, using YNS’s adorable new Rainbows and Happiness set:
And here’s the back:
I made my mark using YNS’s “Stamped By…” stamp, which is on sale for less than $1.00! (Seriously, is there anything these days that costs less than a dollar?!) I love a stamp like this, and I have several that feature the copyrights of the different stamp companies whose images I use. They typically ‘fit’ with the look and feel of my card, and they let the recipient know where I got the images, in case they’re interested.
Anyway, I hope I’ve given you a little food for thought. Leave a comment and tell me if signing your cards is something you already do, will do from now on, or are opposed to and why. Let’s discuss! And just to provide you with an incentive, the oh-so-generous and lovely Karen is sponsoring a giveaway of Rainbows & Happiness and Stamped By… to one lucky commenter. Here’s a photo of the prize package for you visual learners:


Karen will announce the winner on August 25th, so that gives you a full week to give me your thoughts.
Okay, chickadees, I look forward to hearing from you. And remember to mark you calendars – we have a date on the 18th of each month!
XO – Carole

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