Archive for Articles and Reviews

Garden Quotes

Garden Quotes

By and © Shelleyrae Cusbert

In my garden there is a large place for sentiment.  My garden of flowers is also my garden of thoughts and dreams.  The thoughts grow as freely as the flowers, and the dreams are as beautiful.  –Abram L. Urban

Gardening is about enjoying the smell of things growing in the soil, getting dirty without feeling guilty, and generally taking the time to soak up a little peace and serenity.  –Lindley Karstens,

I think that if ever a mortal heard the voice of God it would be in a garden at the cool of the day.  -F. Frankfort Moore

Green fingers are the extension of a verdant heart.  –Russell Page

Plants give us oxygen for the lungs and for the soul.  –Linda Solegato

The kiss of the sun for pardon,
The song of the birds for mirth,
One is nearer God’s heart in a garden
Than anywhere else on earth.
Dorothy Frances Gurney

Gardening is the art that uses flowers and plants as paint, and the soil and sky as canvas.- Elizabeth Murray

All through the long winter, I dream of my garden. On the first day of spring, I dig my fingers deep into the soft earth. I can feel its energy, and my spirits soar. – Helen Hayes

In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt. – Margaret Atwood

Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.-Marcel  Proust

To forget how to dig the earth and to tend the soil is to forget ourselves.-Ghandi

What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Nothing is more the child of art than a garden. – Sir Walter Scott

May our heart’s garden of awakening bloom with hundreds of flowers. – Thich Nhat Hanh

The many great gardens of the world, of literature and poetry, of painting and music, of religion and architecture, all make the point as clear as possible: The soul cannot thrive in the absence of a garden. If you don’t want paradise, you are not human; and if you are not human, you don’t have a soul. – Thomas Moore

It is in society as in nature–not the useful, but the ornamental, that strikes the imagination. –Sir Humphrey Davy

Flowers seem intended for the solace of ordinary humanity. –John Ruskin

Sometimes the tiniest flowers smell the sweetest. –Emilie Barnes

Grow what you love. The love will keep it growing.-Emilie Barnes

Earth laughs in flowers. –Ralph Waldo Emerson

To dig one’s own spade into one’s own earth! Has life anything better to offer than this? –Beverley Nichols

The garden is a love song, a duet between a human being and Mother Nature. –Jeff Cox

Many things grow in the garden that were never sown there. – Thomas Fuller


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Ready for your Close Up!

Ready for your close up!

By Shelleyrae Cusbert

It is easy to fail to include our self in our pages. Many of us are far more comfortable behind the camera rather than in front of it. However it is important that you are represented in your layouts, not just your thoughts and feelings but also your physical image.

With digital cameras now equipped with self timers, you have the perfect opportunity to control the image of yourself that you share. Taking self portraits can sometimes be difficult however the following tips for taking self portraits, should result in success.

The easiest method is to place the camera on a tripod, and position an object as a stand in for your self. Use focus lock before setting the timer and moving into the space. If you have a remote shutter release this process is even easier.

Use a small aperture so that focus is less critical, if you let the camera auto-focus on your face while using a wide aperture, you’ll probably find that your nose is in focus but your eyes are not.

For precise focusing, use string to measure the distance between the camera and your position and then use the distance to manually control focus.

Lie down on your back and hold the camera at arms length slightly over your shoulders, tilting your head up. With no background distraction, focus is less likely to be an issue and the pose has the added benefit of smoothing out extra flesh.

Photograph just small parts of your self. Many of us are self conscious of our appearance so taking images of body parts may be a more comfortable process with abstract forms.

Use your software to create art with your portrait, convert the image into a sketch, or overlay abstract designs.

We all have flaws and if you are very uncomfortable about sharing them, small fix ups may make you feel better about your portrait. Whiten teeth, brighten eyes and smooth a few wrinkles. Change a photo to black and white for a striking image which tends to be more flattering.

Include props that make you comfortable. Hold a pillow against your mid section to disguise those few extra pounds, straddle a chair, or lean out a window, to distract the viewer and add interest to the shot. Holding a camera to your eye, and shooting into a mirror is a popular self portrait image that says something about you as well as provides disguise.

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Back It Up!

Back it up!

So much of our life is stored on our hard drives that a computer crash is a nightmare scenario for any digital scrapper. A Carnegie Mellon University study found that the failure rate of hard drives within the first year of use was between 3% and 13% and that the chance of failure increase each year of use. Many of us have hundreds, if not thousands of photographs stored on our hard drive which would likely be irreplaceable, not to mention the layouts we have lovingly created and an extensive collection of digital elements yet statistics show that 2 out of 3 people have made no attempt to back up their files to protect their data.

Backing up is essential and should be done on at least a monthly if not weekly basis. Nominate a day of the week or date each month to back up.

Here are five options for backing up your work.

Print Hard Copies

Printing hard copies of important documents, contact lists and email address books is a simple option to assist with recovery should you experience a crash. Take advantage of photo printing deals and have your digital pictures and layouts, particularly those important to you, printed. You can scan the documents and prints back in to your computer if it’s ever required.

DVD or CD Disc

While there remains debate about how safe CD and DVD Data is, it’s an option that is inexpensive and simple. Copy your data to at least two discs and keep one handy while storing the second at another location. It’s important to ensure that you store and handle the discs correctly to maximize their shelf life.

Disc Cloning Software

Disk cloning software will back up everything on the computer’s hard drive, not just data files. Disk cloning software actually makes a complete copy, or clone of your disk, including the data, the programs, and your current operating system and settings. Keep the copy in a separate location for added security. This type of software can be purchased online and are relatively inexpensive. offers 1 15 day free trial.

Invest in an External Hard Drive

Purchase an external drive specifically for back up purposes. Copy your data to the external drive each day and then disconnect and store the drive elsewhere over night. You could place it in a home fireproof safe if you have access or at least somewhere nearby your person so you can grab it easily if you should have to leave the house in an emergency. If you want to increase your chance of protecting your data, use a second external on a weekly or monthly basis that is then stored at another location. Note however that external storage drives also have a failure rate

Online Back up

There are several online back up services available online. They offer secure server space as a storage site for your files for a monthly or annual fee. How practical this is depends on your internet connection and the amount of material you need to archive. offers 2GB free storage. You could also investigate online photo storage options such as that offered by

The best way to protect your data is to combine several methods of archiving and to be consistent about doing so. Back up any irreplaceable files or photographs immediately after acquiring them, and organize time in your schedule to archive your data on a regular basis.

Don’t think it won’t happen to you! Take steps to protect your precious memories today.


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Loving Quotes

Loving Quotes

The use of quotes, song lyrics or poems can often help you speak what is in your heart when you feel shy about journaling what someone means to you. You might find something in this collection for a layout about your partner, friend or family.

So dear I love him that with him,
All deaths I could endure.
Without him, live no life.
~ by William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet ~

My love for you is a journey;
Starting at forever,
And ending at never.
~ by Anonymous ~

Once in awhile,
Right in the middle of an ordinary life,
Love gives us a fairy tale.
~ by Anonymous ~

Love is not a matter of counting the years…
But making the years count.
~ by Michelle St. Amand ~

My bounty is as boundless as the sea,
My love as deep;
The more I give to thee
The more I have,
For both are infinite.
~ by William Shakespeare ~

If I know what love is,
It is because of you.
~ by Herman Hesse ~

You may only be one person to the world
But you may also be the world to one person.
~ by Anonymous ~

Love is a burning desire,
That makes your heart light on fire,
Love is being with you,
Someone saying I love you too,
Love is your tender kiss,
Something you don’t want to miss,
Love is you and me,
And that is all I see.
~ by Anonymous ~

Love puts the fun in together,
The sad in apart,
The hope in tomorrow,
The joy in the heart.
~ by Anonymous ~

The most wonderful of all things in life is the discovery of another human being with whom one’s relationship has a growing depth, beauty and joy as the years increase. This inner progressiveness of love between two human beings is a most marvellous thing; it cannot be found by looking for it or by passionately wishing for it. It is a sort of divine accident, and the most wonderful of all things in life.
~ by Sir Hugh Walpole ~

Some people come into our lives and quickly go.
Some people move our souls to dance. They awaken us to new understanding with the passing whisper of their wisdom.
Some people make the sky more beautiful to gaze upon.
They stay in our lives for awhile, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never ever the same.
~ by Flavia Weedn


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Photographing Texture

Photographing Textures

Digital scrapbooking products rely on texture to give them dimension and realism. The basis for that texture is most often derived from photographs of real life materials. Photographs of subjects such as concrete, wood and fabric are converted to overlays or brushes and used to create textured papers, tags and more.

Building your own texture library is fairly simple, take a walk around your home and you can see the possibilities emerge. The wooden floorboards, granite kitchen bench, the carpet, peeling and chipped paint, denim jeans crumpled on the floor, bathroom towels – the list is endless.

The only things you need are a camera capable of high resolution, a macro function can come in handy too and good lighting.

Use the largest resolution your camera is capable of to give you more flexibility with the image, particularly when you wish the result to be used at 12×12”.

When photographing texture you need lighting that emphasizes its surface characteristics in fine detail, creating a pattern of highlight and shadow. Low angle sunlight is best outdoors – either early morning or later afternoon.

Indoors, place the main light so that it lights the subject from one side and creates contrast. Manipulate the angle of the light to find what works best for capturing the subject’s texture. Overhead or front on flash should be avoided.

Try shooting textures using the black and white setting on your camera, without the distraction of color you can focus more on the details of the image.

Correct exposure is important for capturing texture details so consider using manual, rather than automatic settings to account for light and color.

When you photograph, consider the scale of the texture. If you get too close, texture may be distorted with unrealistic scale, as with, for example, fabric weaves.

Taking photos using macro settings will ensure detail but you may sacrifice some depth of field, resulting in uneven focus. A tripod or steady surface to brace the camera is important when using macro settings. You can also try shooting the texture at a distance in landscape mode to ensure maximum depth of field.

Use your photographs create tools that allow you to evoke the sensation of texture in your layouts, to give it depth and visual dimension.

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White Balance

We rarely think of light as having a color however white light is made up of all the colors of the rainbow spectrum, red, orange, green, blue, indigo and violet. Digital devices simplify light into three main color bands of red, green and blue. Digital photographers refer to the red end of the spectrum as warm color temperature and the blue end of the spectrum as cool color temperature. Light is measured and awarded a color temperature, scaled in degrees Kelvin.

We are generally able to judge what is white and so may not be aware of the color casts that would be inherent in a photograph until we see the image. The red and oranges of both sunrise and dusk are a favorite with photographers because they warm the scene. Tungsten light, given off by common household bulbs, is also on the red end of the spectrum which is why indoor shots often have an orange cast. Photos taken under fluorescent lights may have a green cast even though we may perceive the light as white. Halogen lights, shade and cloud tend to create shifts towards the cool blue end of the spectrum. Colour temperature tends to be considered neutral (or white) on clear sunny days during mid morning and afternoon. Daylight temperature can be mimicked with daylight bulbs indoors.

It is not only the light source that causes shifts, elements in an image with strong color can reflect into  the lighter colors in the image. In the first image below the flowers have been recorded as yellow even though it was clear to me they were white.

In most cases digital cameras have become sophisticated enough that the Auto White Balance is capable of judging which color is strongest and when you take your image it attempts to neutralise the dominant color so that whites are white rather than tainted with a red or blue cast. A digital camera’s auto white balance is often more effective when the photo contains at least one white or bright colorless element. In some situations however the camera may struggle with the intensity of the light and be unable to compensate without some further instruction.

The White balance option in your camera settings may provide you with several alternatives to avoid color casts at the time of shooting rather than needing to edit the shot later.

Custom/Manual: A custom setting allows you to use a neutral reference such as a gray card that reflects all colors of the spectrum equally. They can be purchased from camera supply stores or you can make your own with household materials. When using the custom setting the camera reads the amount of reflected light and can quite accurately reproduce colors. This is crucial in situations such as wedding portraits when the white of the dress can easily be tainted with other colors.

Kelvin: This allows you to choose a span on the Kelvin scale that best fits the color temperature situation you are photographing in.

Color Temperature and Light Source (moving from red to blue)

1000-2000 K  Candlelight

2500-3500 K  Tungsten Bulb (household variety)

3000-4000 K  Sunrise/Sunset (clear sky)

4000-5000 K  Fluorescent Lamps

5000-5500 K  Electronic Flash

5000-6500 K  Daylight with Clear Sky (sun overhead)

6500-8000 K  Moderately Overcast Sky

9000-10000 K  Shade or Heavily Overcast Sky

Tungsten: Select this option when photographing indoors with normal household bulbs providing the light. It will instruct the camera to compensate for the orange cast.

Fluorescent: Choose this option in areas where overhead fluorescents are common such as supermarkets and stores.

Daylight: Telling the camera that you are shooting in clear sunny conditions will push the camera’ sensor to even out the color temperatures it records.

Cloudy: Selecting this option will warm a scene where the bluish cast is caused by overcast days.

Shade: To compensate for the cool light of shade the camera will warm the scene.

There may well be additional settings to compensate for particular scenes such as Snow where it can be very difficult to ensure the snow is white, it often becomes gray or blue. The picture on the left was taken with auto White Balance while the right was taken using the Daylight Preset to neutralise the cameras natural tendency to shift the hues to blue.

You can also use the settings to create deliberate effects by telling the camera that the light is in fact opposite so that it shifts the color balance to one spectrum or another.

Lens filters can also be used to assist in compensating for or to deliberately create color temperatures.

Post processing is also an option for correcting white balance issues. The RAW format is perfect for situations where correct white balance is very difficult to judge due to mixed lighting situations or very strong color temperatures. A RAW file must have the White Balance defined during the editing process as it does not record the information at capture. This gives the photographer the ultimate control over the result.

Images can also be edited using the color balance tools in an editing program. You can correct or enhance the color casts in the photo with tools

Take a few minutes to look at the options you have available to you in your camera and then go out and shoot to see just how White Balance plays a part in getting that perfect shot.

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Digi Crafting with a Xyron

If your layouts are hidden in your hard drive or in an album a Xyron Creative Station will help you get them out in the open!

A Xyron Creative Station can create stickers, magnets, labels and laminate with a simple exchange of cartridges. It needs no electricity, batteries or heat. You simply choose a cartridge to suit the project, and feed your project through. You can choose from a cartridge that applies laminate to the front and back, laminate to the front and adhesive (permanent or non permanent) to the back or laminate to the front and magnetic sheeting to the back. With edge to edge application you can cut out your project without the materials separating. You can choose from a few sizes – the 9 inch Creative Station is what I have, you can also get smaller versions. So now I’ve told you what it is – let me show you what you can do with it!

Magnetic Fridge Layouts

Flatten and resize copies of you layouts and arrange on a letter sized canvas to print from your home printer on photo paper. I prefer to print on gloss but you can also print on mat.

I arranged 6 layouts on my canvas at 3.5 inch square each allowing me to fit 6 layouts per sheet. You can make yours smaller or larger as desired.

When printed and adequate drying time given if required, use the laminate/magnetic cartridge and feed the entire sheet through the Xyron machine. You can use the built in cutter to trim the page off. Then use sharp household scissors to cut the layouts apart.

Be warned your children will love these – I have four children and the magnets regularly go missing so you may want to keep them out of reach – they make the perfect gifts for friends and relatives and since they are lightweight can be posted easily.

The ideas are endless and could include creating the following from your digital supplies:

* your own custom fridge or file cabinet art

* a magnetic shopping list – design the topper with your digital scrapbook supplies and apply the magnetic laminate. Use a craft knife to cut a slit and push through the notepad.

* magnetic frames

* small calendars

* chore charts

Wine Bottle Labels

The laminate/permanent adhesive cartridge was ideal for personalising a bottle of wine for my grandfather for his 80th birthday.

Measure the label you want to replace and add a margin of a few millimeters. In your program of choice create the label and then print. When printed and adequate drying time given if required, use the laminate/permanent adhesive cartridge and feed the entire sheet through the Xyron machine. You can use the built in cutter to trim the page off. I suggest you wait a short time before cutting the label out using sharp scissors and then you only need to peel off the backing, carefully position the label and smooth to adhere.

Again, the ideas are endless, you can personalise anything that will accept the adhesive, and could include creating the following from your digital supplies:

* food (container) labels

* door plaques

* stickers for children

* add photos to glass coasters ( here the photo is adhered to the underside of the coaster)

Create an altered book using the laminate/adhesive cartridge. Start with a board book and measure the pages (or scan if its a shaped book like mine), create a template in your program and then create each page, print and then run it through the Xyron before adhering to the pages in the book.

The laminate/laminate cartridge is handy for any number of projects you have created using your digital supplies including laminating cards, bookmarks, certificates, placemats, recipe cards, even entire layouts.

I have laminated 8×8 layouts and hang them by bulldog clips from my kitchen cupboard handles.

The Xyron is a versatile tool for any digital scrapbooker who wants their layouts and designs to be seen!

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