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11 posts from February 2011

February 28, 2011

Quirks and quotes: an authentic way to tell a story


Some of my favorite scrapbook pages or projects are those documenting both the things that my subjects say, verbatim, or the quirky things they do that make them unique.

I featured one of my favorite albums in my 2nd book, called "Things You Say," a collection of random quotes from my then 6-year-old walking quote machine, Coleman.

SAY album

Here's a sample spread from that album (click on it to see it larger in a new window):

SAY flat

Quoting your scrapbook subjects is such an authentic and simple way to truly capture a bit of who they are, and it takes no more writing skill that the ability to report what you hear, and give it a bit of context.

To that end, I designed a new set of StoryGuide templates (both in 8.5 x 11 and 12 x 12) to help capture quotes, as well as quirks.

The template includes a journaling block for quotes, as well as one for quirks. I made an updated Cole layout over the weekend.


SUPPLIES: StoryGuide 3a (Cathy Zielske) • Olan Solids (Michelle Martin) • Krafty Ledger Paper Pack (Katie Pertiet) • Distressed Edges No. 9 (Anna Aspnes) • Avenir Font

Next, inspired by the question I asked on last Friday's sponsor giveaway (When was the last time you did a page just about you?) I decided to do a quotes and quirks page about yours truly.

On this layout, I created a hybrid version by turning off layers, resizing text blocks and then assembling it all on my dining room table. (Click on the photo to see it larger in a new window.)


I dipped into my ancient stash of patterned papers for a little swatch of Basic Grey, and I believe those little asterisks are from an equally ancient American Crafts alpha set.

There are a lot of you who do pages about yourself on a regular basis. That makes me all kinds of happy.

However, according to the comments left over the weekend, there are a great many more of you who do not or have not in a painfully long time.

If any of you have read my books or this blog over the years, you know I'm a staunch advocate of documenting the scrapbooker. Yes, all those stories you tell about all those people you love are important, but if you neglect to scrap the main story teller, you're doing a disservice to the craft. I mean it. I really do. This is me, on a scrapbooking soap box. Hear me roar.

Here's a look at my two print outs: one on white cardstock; one on photo paper.


I simply trimmed and adhered the photos and title to the background cardstock.

Here's a scan of my page, written in a second person voice, for those who like to read:


You could do this. You could write about yourself in the second person. There's like zero weirdnes with that. Zero. No, really… zilch.

I'd like you to at least consider the possibilities here.

For the love of repositionable adhesive, you have got to take a page or two and tell people something about yourself. And I don't want to hear the old, "But I'm so…boring…" or the classic cop out of, "I hate pictures of myself."

I've created a 4-page PDF downloadable handout to walk you through the steps of creating this layout. You now have zero weirdness and zero excuses.

Download CZ_HybridHowTo (file is 1.3 mb in size.)

Note: in my step by step, it shows how to drag guides out from the Ruler Bar in PSE 8.0. If you have an earlier version of PSE, you'll simply have to eyeball the repositioning of the small titles and journaling blocks.

My message for you this Monday? Keep your ears tuned to the things people say and the quirky things that only they do. Then be a savvy journalist scrapbooker and document away.

It's so much meatier than any "a good time was had by all" page ever will be. I can pretty much guarantee you that.

Oh yeah, and include yourself in the mix once in a blue moon, deal?




Find the 8.5 x 11 StoryGuide3a here, and the 12 x 12 version here. Questions or comments? Post them and I'll do my best to answer.



February 24, 2011

Whoopsie daisy


So a few days ago, I was dispensing food tips to a friend who asked me, "So which one of those Flatout breads is the one with zero points again?"

To which I confidently replied, "Oh, it's THIS one."

And then for fun, I decided to re-calculate it over at Weight Watchers online.

Imagine my surprise (said ala Jim Carrey's character in A Series of Unfortunate Events) to learn my much loved and oft consumed zero point food item was actually a whopping 3.




Sweet Jesus…I have been living a lie for MONTHS!

I have no idea how I miscalculated this item that has been lock, stock and part of my lunch for over a year now. (And before Points Plus, it was a mere 1 point! or so I thought.)

Needless to say I dropped to the kitchen floor, assumed the fetal position and stayed there for hours until Cole said to me, "Um, Mom… this is getting weird."

Long story short, if a tree falls in the woods, does it make any sound if no one is there to witness it?

Likewise, if points are consumed for months on end, but no one is there to record them, do they really count?

Herein ends our philosophy lesson for the day.

Now if you'll excuse me, my fetal ball is calling.



February 23, 2011

If I were to develop a line of digital brushes for use on scrapbook pages that were anti snow…


Here are some phrases you might see:

Snow Sucks!


Snowpocalypse my ass!


'snow what I think? Snow SUCKS!


Silly Snow—YOU SUCK!


You'll have to pry my snow shovel out of my cold hand…literally, because my hand is actually frozen to the shovel!



Snow what! I'm burning activity points with every shovel full.


Always remember this…snow SUCKS!


Believe…(that snow sucks!)



It's truly a miracle (that I don't up and move to Miami!)




I don't know about you, but even with all those exclamation marks, I'm thinking this set would sell like hot cakes all across the upper midwest.


Ms. I'm Snow Done with It


February 21, 2011

Tweaking it.


After posting last week's weight-related whine fest (which generated a great commiseration of misery and support in the comments, in addition to making me me feel so much better in my quest for better health and lesser girth) I set out last week to make some tweaks.

Many of you suggested shaking some things up, and last week, it was a dietary shake up that ensued.

The first thing was to bring back the infamous yet delicious Green Drink.



I think you actually get healthier just by looking at that photo.

The next tweak? Drop the hot cocoa habit. Pronto.


Remember back in December when I discovered this little hot piping nectar of the Gods? If you do, then I'd like to apologize in advance for being yet another pusher of sugared drinks with a laundry list of ingredients that I can't even pronounce.

Even though I was saving my Weight Watchers points every day for this treat, I realized that to achieve my long term goal of being less reliant on crap (no offense to the Stephen's company, for it truly is the Cocoa of Our Lord) I had to drop it like it was hot.

So I did.

I'd like to point out something I am still drinking every day: Oregon Chai Lattes. Why keep that? Because it has 4 ingredients: sugar, milk, tea and spices. Nothing I can't pronounce, so for now, mama is keeping that one.

The other thing I'm doing? Exploring some different cooking options, and specifically, focusing more of my efforts of vegetarian dishes, especially those found in this book:


I'm not a huge connoisseur of meat. This is not to say I don't love a big assed juicy steak from The Outback Steakhouse. This is not to say I have a problem with anyone enjoying a Baconator from Wendy's. This is not to say I'm going to flip out and become a militant vegan.

This is simply tweaking and exploring different options for me and my body.

I am currently reading "Veganist" by Kathy Freston, and I find it so interesting that she writes about how meat causes every health ill in the word, and yet you can find the same facts to support the notion that soy matches animal protein on every level of badness. Still, it's interesting stuff.

I also watched Food Inc. last week, a movie I'd put off for a long time for fear it would weaken my bubble of not wanting to know how my food gets from Point A to Point Me. I found it far less scary than I expected to, but nevertheless it made me think about where and how I'm getting my food and how can I support smaller, independent farms and growers who are raising their animals and crops in humane and organic ways.

Part of tweaking is exploring what and how I eat and being open to the possibilities around me. Just like tweaking the fitness program, or tweaking the attitude on a daily basis, I am here to learn ways to live my best life possible.

I've decided to see how a whole-foods based, vegetarian approach will work with my body, so I'm planning what I'm calling "Meatless March."

(Of course I do nothing without a corresponding logo/identity system in place.)

I've decided to use my birthday month as a testing ground for a month of meat-free cooking. I want to see how I feel and how my body responds to this approach.

Now you may be thinking, "What how will your family do with this quest?" My daughter, Aidan, has been a vegetarian for over two years. She's totally thrilled to have a veggie focus in the house, plus she's excited to try new dishes. Dan eats what is put before him and can always pick up a six-pack of sliders from White Castle when he's feeling anemic. Cole doesn't eat much more than peanut butter, Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal and pepperoni, so for him it'll be business as usual.

I'll definitely keep you updated on the process as it unfolds in March, as well as share any recipes that are particularly delicious along the way.

To use a phrase from Kathy Freston, I'm just leaning into some tweaks. We'll see how it all shakes out.

P.S. And by all means, feel free to share your favorite veggie dishes.




February 16, 2011

Four Things I Adore

NUMBER ONE: this girl.


NUMBER TWO: this boy.


NUMBER THREE: this body wash and this lotion.


In 2007, following a Creating Keepsakes University in San Jose, Dan and I stole away to San Francisco for an overnight at a swanky little boutique hotel on the Embarcadero. Their house toiletries were by Fresh, and I've been hooked on the Sugar Lemon scent ever since. I go through phases were I'll decide it's too decadent to buy pricey lotion in small quantities, and then I'll say, what the bleep, here's my credit card number. This scent is To Die For. If I could have everything in my life smell this way, I would be happy. I want people to remember me and say, "You know what? She smelled SO stinkin' good!" If you have a Sephora near you, go in and take a whiff. You won't be sorry. I will tell you, however, the perfume, which I got for Christmas two years ago does not really smell like the lotion. Sad, but true.

NUMBER FOUR: this tea maker.


I've been touting my love for Adagio Tea ever since I became a tea afficianado back in 2010. I got hooked on using the ingenuitea tea maker. I decided to order myself a new one a few weeks back because my old one was looking a bit scuzzy, and I accidentally broke the lid. I didn't realize they've upgraded the design slightly, using a new metal mesh filter, and it works like a dream. A veritable tea making dream, I tell you. My teas of choice? Irish Breakfast and Lemon Grass.

This concludes 4 Things I Adore. Thank you.

February 15, 2011

Awesome, sporty, bacon (or how to interview someone and make a cool hybrid scrapbook page)


Last week I came across on older scrapbook page I did for an article in Simple Scrapbooks magazine (RIP, Simple), and it featured an interview with my then 9-year-old daughter, Aidan.

Interviewing aidan

I am the scrapbooked interview's biggest fan. Why? Because asking questions and getting straight answers from your kids (or whoever you might be interviewing) is a really slick and authentic way to capture real life, specific details about your subject.

Aidan, my self-professed indie music hipster, had a hard time believing that Kelly Clarkson once topped her list of faves, but at the same time, she still doesn't aim for popularity, preferring to simply be who she is and see what happens. I really cherish these little slices of her life, reflecting what she thought in 2005. And this approach takes zero writing skill. Ask the question, report the answer.

Journaling can be a hang up for people. In all the classes I've taught and travels I've been on, I hear this time and again: writing is easy for you, they tell me. But not for me.

To that end, I've started designing a new series at Designer Digitals called "StoryGuides." The goal of these templates is to provide journaling frameworks, essentially giving you the prompts and directions to fill in the blanks and create a meaningful document about your unique subject. The first in the series features an interview format geared specifically towards kids, tweens and teens. Keep in mind though, you can change up the questions in the templates to fit your particular needs.

I've never done an interview with Cole, so this past weekend, I sat him down and got the scoop. Then, I used my digital template to type up the answers, add the photos and colors, and then I simply turned layers on and off in Photoshop to print out the pieces for my finished hybrid scrapbook page.


The page above consists of a piece of cardstock and four small photos. The digital page looks like this:


I turned off all of the photo layers to print out the journaling and the outlines onto white cardstock. Then I turned the photos back on, and the other layers off to print the photos onto a piece of 8.5 x 11 photo paper.


Next, I trimmed out the photos and adhered them onto the cardstock. However, I realized that the blue on the cardstock was a bit off from the blue on the "2011" block. That happens with ink and photo paper. Often, you get a richer, brighter color on photo paper. So, I turned off all the layers except for the blue date box, and sent that to print on a piece of white cardstock.


It's subtle, but the cardstock version matches with the title better.

This 8.5 x 11 template can be completed and mounted onto a 12 x 12 piece of cardstock as well.


I think the framing white space is gorgeous around this, and it allows a bit of breathing room into a text heavy design.

I also think having a little slice of what Cole thinks at age 11 is going to be really cool to read 10 years from now. I have to wonder if on his 21st birthday, will he still use "bacon" to describe himself?

Only time will tell.

Keep an eye out for more StoryGuides to be released, and if you have any ideas you'd like to see for journaling prompts, don't hesitate to let me know!

NOTE: This template and everything else at Designer Digitals is on sale through Midnight tonight P.S.T. Save 30% on everything in the store.


SUPPLIES: StoryGuide No. 01 (Cathy Zielske) • white cardstock (Bazzill Orange Peel) • Ilford Gallerie Smooth Pearl Photo Paper. Note: this template is designed using two free fonts. There are links inside the digital package in the HOW TO PDF that will take you to the site to download the fonts. Or, you can always substitute your own.



WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT HYBRID SCRAPBOOKING? Check out my collection of tutorials at Vimeo. Questions? Comments? Post them here and I'm happy to answer them.



WANT MORE ON INTERVIEW-STYLE SCRAPBOOKING? Check out Ella Publishing's ebook, Quick & Creative Quizzes. This ebook ishock full of fun-to-complete, easy-to-use questions. Quick & Creative Quizzes will show you 20 ways to both simplify and spice up your scrapbook journaling. From questions for couples and kids to an all-purpose, fill-in-the-blanks event quiz, you’ll find something to fit every layout.

There is also a companion piece designed by yours truly featuring printable PDF components to help you re-create some of the ideas you see in this book. No Photoshop is needed to work with these printable quiz pieces.


February 14, 2011

When my Lucky jeans' luck ran out


I am 44 and 11/12ths years of age and me and my perimenopausal self are retaining two things today: water and a bad attitude.

This post won't be for the faint of heart or the easily offended, but it might be exactly what the neurotically driven and easily frustrated types are calling for.

But there I go already, talking about myself.

It all began a few days ago when I pulled my Lucky jeans off the rack in the basement where they spend their time drying (you didn't think I put my fancy Sweet n' Low jeans in the dryer did you? I'm not that masochistic). I knew they'd feel snug after a washing—even in cold water—because I wasn't born yesterday. I get how jeans roll.

Except that my oh so Lucky jeans were trying to roll over some new chub in my general ass region, and the region in question wasn't having any part of it. At least not willingly.

After pouring putting the jeans on, repeatedly assuming a tight fetal squat position and stretching with all my might, they still felt just a titch too snug.

Now don't get me wrong here, they were buttonable and all, but let's just say buttonable is a loose term compared to the last time they graced my muffin top-clad bod.

The problem really crystalized on Day 2, when I put them on for a second full day of wearing, and they felt exactly the same. Usually after a day they stretch out enough to make the second day a much more pleasurable and life affirming experience.

But this time? No noticeable shift in snuggage.

And then all of a sudden, everything felt too snug: my bra, my shirt, my vest, my socks, my underwear—even my glasses. I made a beeline to the Sweatshirt and Yoga Pant drawer in my bedroom, and officially gave up on being a presentable middle aged woman for that particular day.

Just like George Costanza said about sweatpants being a sign that you've given up, well… yoga pants say pretty much the same thing, ladies.

Here's where I tell you that today I'm struggling. Struggling with the day in and day out effort it takes to maintain a healthy lifestyle. If today is your Day 1 of the process, please, for the love of Jillian Michaels, STOP reading now.

The struggle is a part of this process, though. After 14 months of exercise, eating right, and a corresponding 30-pound-ish weight loss, I'll be honest: some things do get easier.

And some things ebb and flow.

Getting the muster to exercise is not a challenge for me any more. Sure, I'll skip a swimming day every now and then, mostly because I don't like the fact that on Thursdays, I can't get into the pool until Noon, and Noon is during my official work hours, and sometimes I think the need to earn income is more important than dousing myself in chlorine. But by and large, the exercise thing is not something I struggle with.

Right now, I'm struggling with what I assume the results should be with such a concerted effort on my part. True, I was playing fast and loose with Weight Watchers for a while there, but the past two weeks have seen me emerge as a model plan participant.

But that particpant's jeans are getting tighter, and no, it's not because my butt is getting more muscular. That I can guarantee you.

A one-pound gain at my bathroom weigh in on Saturday isn't exactly boosting my morale much either.

Don't get me wrong. I am neurotic where my body image and weight issues are concerned. I promise you that I'm working diligently to uncover the real truths in my life that cause me to have these particular issues. That said, it still doesn't erase the fact that some days, I'm going to feel unlucky in my jeans when they're feeling too tight for comfort.

I am going to question the work, the planning and the focus.

I am going to get tired of making the newer, more healthful meals that no one really likes as much as the older, less healthful ones.

I am going to wonder what it's going to take body wise and weight wise for me to stop beating myself up for any perceived lack of success.

I am going sometimes think to myself, "Aw, f#@& it. Those donuts aren't going to kill you."

My point today is that if you're in this process with me, you know that not every day is stellar. Not every day is full of wild success and inspiration. Not every day is going to feel all that lucky.

But the part that is pretty lucky? Each new day you're lucky enough to get is a fresh start to live the best possible life you know how to.

I'm still in. I just really needed to get that off my chest.



February 09, 2011

Generation Gap


On Sunday, Aidan was explaining to me how Justin Bieber was hosting SNL the previous night and that he was in the skit with that preacher, who is actually a man, but is pretending to be a woman, and you know, it was really funny.

So I go to Hulu on Monday morning, and search SNL for Justin Bieber as host. Nothing.

Then I check the most recent episode only to find it was Dana Carvey. NOT the Bieber.

Then it clicks: Ohhhhh! The preacher woman played by a man was the iconic Church Lady. Doh.

Turns out Justin Bieber was only on the show for a few sketches, but in her telling of the events, he was the celebrated host.

And I'm not sure why but I suddenly felt like I came from a completely different planet known as the late 80s, and that all communications with 1-4 from here on out are going to be a crap shoot.

Then I came down with a severe case of Bieber Fever.

The end.


February 08, 2011

Out with the old…and the old was pretty awesome


Meet my dying Dirt Devil. Dirt Devil, blog readers. Blog readers, Dirt Devil.

I bought this shimmering example of cleaning efficiency in 1990, the year I moved to Minnesota to shack up with an ambitious coffee shop upstart by the name of Daniel Ezekiel Zielske, Jr. Moving in with a member of the opposite sex was bound to bring many changes, but regardless of how different things were going to be in my life, dust bunnies still had no business occupying the various living spaces of the 1880s duplex we were sharing in the Frogtown neighborhood of St. Paul.

This Dirt Devil has seen every single momumental mess  or crumb pile of my entire adult life.

It was there to suck up many fur balls from my now deceased and much loved pets.

It was there to vacuum up countless Cheerios flung callously from high chairs by the two Zielske toddlers.

It was there to clean every single nook and cranny that the large vacuum simply couldn't reach.

And it did this, without so much as a thank you, for 21 years.

Think about this: 21 years, people. 21 years of weekly use and not once did it break down or stop working. (Okay, so the on/off switch died about 10 years ago, but that, friends, is what packing tape is for.)

I loved this thing so much, I wrote about it in one of my "Me: The Abridged Version" albums. Here's what I said a few years ago, under "V" for "Vacuums that get their money's worth":

 I’ve had the same, red, Dirt Devil can vac since 1990. That is 19 years for anyone who’s counting. NINETEEN YEARS! I’m sorry, but I love this portable can vac. Sure, the little guy has seen it’s better days. The on/off button hasn’t worked in years and I simply plug it in to hear the lovely roar of the suction begin, but I have to say, it still works as well as the day I brought it into Dan and my’s relationship. That’s what is wild: the vacuum has lasted as long as our relationship. Dan doesn’t love this little vac the way I do. He chooses to put the attachment hoses on our upright whenever he’s tackling a vacuuming task. He doesn’t realize the superior suction power and the easy of mobility afforded by the Dirt Devil. What is sad to me is that Dirt Devil no longer makes the same model. Sure, they have something similar, but all the online reviews I’ve read say over and over: it’s not like the original. I feel like every time I’m cleaning, I’m using a family heirloom—a precious family heirloom. And that’s okay by me. I heart you, Dirt Devil. Please don’t die on me anytime soon.

But like many relationships in life, sometimes they simply run their course.

The suction has been slowly lessening over the past 6 months and I was beginning to realize that my time with this beloved little tool was coming to an end. All the fresh replacement bags in the world weren't helping it to pick up even the simplest of random crumb piles. While I did do a modest amount of research, looking at higher end can vacs from companies like Dyson and Miele, in the end, I just decided to stay true to a brand that has served me so loyally over the years, and I bought this:


Another reason I picked up this model? The prices on the Dysons and the Mieles made the large vein in Dan's forehead throb uncontrollably.

Will it be a relationship for the ages, me and the new Dirt Devil Vision?

I can say this as of today: it totally sucks, as in a good suction way, which is already an improvement over the current state of its predecessor.

Long live the Dirt Devil.





February 07, 2011

Make a journaling-rich hybrid scrapbook page


Last week, I was going through scans of old pages on my hard drive and making back up copies of  them, and I came across a page from 2005 that I absolutely loved. I can't remember where it might have shown up—possibly for an article in Simple Scrapbooks magazine or maybe for a class I was teaching—but it featured a rockin' picture of me taken by the one and only Tara Whitney, and I looked like a complete and total badass.


I didn't even need glasses back then. Dang!

The thing I loved most about the page is that it was a chance to give some much needed advice to my then much more uptight self. You guys know I'm all about the self pages. I think we as story tellers belong in our albums right along side every one else we're scrapbooking about. You know the drill: if you don't tell your story, who will?

I decided to revisit this page and turned the design into a layered template to put into my Designer Digitials collection.

Here are the two new journaling-driven hybrid pages I made:



Today I have a short tutorial for working with a digital template to create a hybrid scrapbook page. I love the idea of writing notes to yourself, or notes to someone in your life. This template is designed to do just that, with the design work all taken care of for you.

Hybrid Scrapbooking Tutorial from Cathy Zielske on Vimeo. 

STEP-BY-STEP: Here are the basic steps for working with the template using Photoshop Elements 8. Note: this template was designed using a free font called District Thin, available at You will need to download this font, and activate it on your computer before beginning this process. Or, you can change the fonts to any you currently have on your system.

1. Open the template and then open the photo you want to use. Copy the photo (Select > All, or Command or Control + A, then Edit > Copy, or Command or Control + C). Close the photo.

2. On the template, click on the PHOTO layer, then Paste your photo into the document (Edit > Paste, or Command or Control + V.) The photo should pop right into the green template rectangle shape.

3. To size your photo down, click on the Move Tool, and then click and drag on any of the 4 corner handles. (Be sure Show Bounding Box is checked in the upper tool bar.)

4. Once you're happy with the photo placement, you can then modify your title to whatever you would like it to say by using the Type Tool and highlighting the title words.

5. Turn off ALL layers except the photo, the PHOTO mask, and the title. Then send photo to print onto 8.5 x 11 cardstock with a full bleed setting. Trim photo and set aside.

1. There are 6 separate type layers containing the journaling placeholders. Start with the first one.

2. Using the Text Tool, highlight the journaling subhead area and type your new words. Do the same for the body of the journaling entries. Highlight, and type over. Try to keep the same  number of lines on each block of journaling.

3. To change the color of the journaling subheads, click once on the Set Foreground Color icon at the bottom of the Tool Palette to bring up the Color Picker. Move your mouse around to find different colors to try. Once you find a color, click OK.

4. Highlight the subhead again, go back to the Set Foreground Color icon, click once to bring up the Picker (which will already show the last color you picked) and click OK. The color will apply to your subhead.

5. Once all of your journaling is done, turn off the PHOTO layer, and send the file to print onto 8.5 x 11 cardstock. Adhere photo onto cardstock.

Note: 12 x 12 scrapbookers can create this page, and mount it on coordinating 12 x 12 cardstock. It creates a really nice area of framing white space around the core content of the hybrid 8.5 x 11 design.

LAYOUT SUPPLIES: Layered Template No. 79 (Cathy Zielske) • white cardstock (Bazzill Orange Peel Texture) • District Thin font (template is designed using this free downloadable font)


Questions? Leave me any  you have in the comments today. Good luck making a journaling rich hybrid page!