Wednesday, December 07, 2011

A new stamp

I bought a new stamp the other day (a Jenni Bowlin one, not Tim Holtz, for once).  I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it ... after making several batches of christmas cards like the ones in this post , I thought I could use the same technique to make some birthday cards ... so today I had a go and came up with this one

As before, the background is distress stains/inks finished with a misting of perfect pearls mist.  I can do the same design in all sorts of colour schemes (I feel a shopping spree for more inks/sprays coming on ...), and I'm going to experiment with stamping the butterfly with different coloured inks too.

Once I'd made one, I had to try a few different colours ...

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thinking ahead

Well, actually, I started off this afternoon by thinking back ... to around this time last year when we had a class, at my local crop, where we produced a christmas mini-book.  But we only produced the basic book, plus some decorated pages.  Whilst the idea was that we finished it last year, I decided to save mine for this year and to complete it, a page per day, this December.  So I thought I'd better have a sort-out of where I was up to and what I'd need to complete it - it is 1st December this coming Thursday after all (where HAS this year gone?!)

The book has a decorated chipboard cover

The pages are a mix of envelopes (I'll be putting receipts, recipes and other bits and pieces inside the envelopes and more interesting memorabilia on the outside) and shaped cardstock, all with gold inked edges

All pages have been decorated to some extent but I will be adding extra embellishments, photos, journalling blocks or whatever else seems appropriate.  I aim to complete a record of christmas, and the lead-up to it, this year.

As for thinking ahead ... thinking even further ahead, I've also been preparing a book to record the whole of next year.  It is A4 sized and the plan is to complete a double page for each month.  I want to include everyday stuff - photos of the garden, the weather, new shoes, the biscuits I baked ... the sort of humdrum stuff we often forget about.  I also want to use up some of my ScrapaGogo kits, so I'm going to make myself pick one kit per month and try to use mostly (or even only) stuff from that kit to complete the month's entry.  I'm hoping to produce a book to remind us what everyday life is like, to look back at in the future.

The chipboard covers are covered with Tim Holtz resist paper which has been coloured with distress stains and perfect pearls mists.  The numbers are American Crafts "Thickers" and I've also added a clockface rub-on, some tissue-tape and some charms plus a keyhole embellishemnt I found lying about in my stash.

I'm looking forward to working on this and will share one or two of the entries in it on here as I go through the year ...

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A new art form

I saw an article in a scrapbook magazine about glue books - see an example here - and immediately wanted to have a go.  I have loads of paper scraps (many of them are because I do a lot of scrapping in 8x8 size so have paper left over from 12x12 sheets) and other bits and pieces and, although I keep them , full of good intentions to use them, I rarely do use them.

Also, I have seen lots of examples of art journalling and, although this artform intrigues me, I know it is not the type of thing I want to do right now, but something about it attracts me ... so when I saw the article on gluebooks, it immediately struck me as a form of art journalling, just with less paint and more paper.

So today I had my first go at creating a gluebook page (I don't have a book to put it in right now, so it's just on a loose piece of paper, but I know the type of book I want to buy and made sure this was the right size to go in it ...).  I found a beautiful scrap of paper that I didn't even know I had and used that as the main accent, cutting out a small accent image from it and layering it over another part of the paper.  I also used some small scraps of co-ordinating, less patterned papers, some definition stickers I forgot I had (this is turning out to be a good way to use long-forgotten stash!), a small scrap of lace, and then added some journalling.

I'm pretty pleased with my first effort and I can see all sorts of possibilities in this artform.  Although this one has a vintage feel and is mainly paper based, I've seen examples which are much brighter and more modern and I've seen some that use stamped images or parts of photos.  I think I shall be experimenting in future weeks, but first I need to buy a book to put this in ... I feel an internet shopping spree coming on ... 

Sunday, November 13, 2011


The CJ that arrived a couple of weeks ago had the title "Scrap the month" and an invitation to scrap anything at all that reminded us of the particular month we were in.  My initial thought, as it arrived in early November, was to do something about fireworks, but I thought that was a little "obvious".  Then I remembered my grandfather, who died earlier this year, and who was a radio operator in bomber planes in World War 2, and decided to combine memories of him with the acts of Remembrance in November (Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday).  The only photo I had of him in uniform was at his wedding, but I love it as it makes it more personal.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

O Christmas tree ..

 I recently bought an intricately laser cut 3D bare chipboard christmas tree and yesterday I had a go at decorating it.

I started off colouring the whole thing using a distress stain (peeled paint).  Then I used various distress inks (shabby shutters, crushed olive, bundled sage and forest moss) all over it to create a less "solid" colour - lots of texture and subtle variation in colour. 

I found a couple of old metallic ink pads that were beginning to dry out a little, and they were ideal for dabbing around the edges to add little hints of gold and copper

Finally I sprayed the whole thing with a gold perfect pearls mist and then painted the star gold using acrylic paint.

I have some little mini bells that I want to tie to the branches but don't have suitable ribbon/cord yet.  I'll take another photo once I've been shopping ...

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A new technique

I saw an article in Craft Stamper magazine about creating textured-looking background effects using a scrunched up plastic bag to apply ink.  I loved the look of their creations (one of them is on the front cover - see link above) so just had to have a go myself.  I decided on an autumnal theme first, using various colours of distress inks and some Tim Holtz stamps.  I also used some tissue paper (kindly supplied by one of my favourite online shops, which uses it as wrapping for your goodies) to stamp, rip and adhere to the front of the card to add extra depth and texture.  My photographic skills don't really do it justice, but you'll get the general idea ...

I tried a second one, using different colours and a different theme.  I'm quite pleased with it but think I prefer my first effort.  It's definitely a technique I will be using again though.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Another card

Oops, I haven't blogged for ages.  That's probably because I haven't done much scrapping recently - most of my crafty time has been spent creating cards (mostly christmas cards, and I've already blogged about those).  But I've just remembered a card I made a couple of weeks ago that I really liked; I didn't blog it at the time because it was for a friend's birthday, but that birthday has been and gone now so it's OK to show it ...

The background was created using distress inks (what a surprise - I'm obsessed with these at the moment!) and a perfect pearls mist.  The butterflies and foliage are Prima resist canvas shapes coloured with more distress inks.  It looks nicer in the flesh as the texture of the canvas is more visible than in the photo.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Orang-utan update

Well, I lost my stitching mojo for a while so progress has been slow, but I've finally got the bug back again so have been stitching a lot over the past few days and have finally finished the second page -

I need to get a move on though - these first two pages have some blank space on them but the last two pages are completely stitched.  When I first started, I thought I had plenty of time (my son goes to Borneo next summer) but because I slowed down so much, the target is more challenging now.  But if I carry on at the speed I've been going for the past couple of days, there will be no problem ...

And for anyone who doesn't know the background - previous blog posts are here and here .

Thursday, September 22, 2011

More new stash to create with ...

... yesterday not one but TWO lovely parcels arrived.  One contained something I plan to play with fairly soon (more of that in a later post, I hope) and also a new extra large acrylic block, which was very handy as the second parcel contained, among other things, my new Tim Holtz christmas stamps :-)  I'd also splashed out on some more distress inks (SO many gorgeous colours to choose from - I plan to own them all eventually).  So I just HAD to get all inky today and try out the new stamps and some of the inks, didn't I?

I'd already had an idea for some christmas cards, so that is what I did.  There are two different designs but they can be done in a variety of different colour schemes - limited only by my imagination and the number of ink pads I own ;-)  My favourite is the second design, but the first will be nice to send to people who prefer a more traditional style of card  -

The colours are much richer in real life, and the sparkle (from the perfect pearls mists) doesn't show up on the photos at all.

They are very simple to create, but great fun (and a little messy!).  The backgrounds are distress inks in various colours applied randomly with an ink applicator the spritzed with perfect pearls mists.  Then I swept some ink directly from the pad across the bottom of the sheet before stamping the image in plain black ink.

I think I will be making quite a few more of these over the coming weeks ...

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Yet another beach LO ...

Yes, another beach-themed layout!  Having done the two small LOs in CJs, I was really pleased to see this week's weekly challenge on UKScrappers involved a beach theme - it was good to play around with some of my ideas on a larger scale.

The challenge was a beach theme, the colour blue or turquoise, and two photos.  I knew immediately that I wanted to scrap some photos of this summer's holiday in France.  Although I initially had plenty of ideas, I couldn't find papers that looked right.  Then I found this paper with circles all over it - although it didn't seem like a "beachy" paper, the colours were so perfect I knew I had to use it. Then I remembered my new Tim Holtz mini mask, and started to get ideas ...

I rounded the corners of the photos to fit in with the circular theme and found a journalling card that fitted perfectly.  The letters were printed on cardstock and cut out (printed from the hybrid downloads that went with the ScrapaGogo kit in which I found this paper).  I inked over the mask to create the compass shape over one of the circles, then used a brad to attach a spinner in the centre of it ...

The finishing touch was to dry brush some sand-coloured acrylic paint around the edges for a sandy effect.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

My first tag

Tags have intrigued me for a while.  I love the look of them but have never quite seen the point of them ... what do you do with them once you've made them (apart from admire them, of course)?  But now I'm starting to get more adventurous with inks, stamps and other exciting things, I thought I'd have a go, and I've even worked out what to do with it ... it will be added to the front of a card and sent to somebody at some suitable occasion -

I used a blank manilla tag  (size 8) and began by inking it with distress inks (frayed burlap and crushed olive, with a tiny bit of walnut stain).  I then used frayed burlap on a clockface stamp (from ScrapaGogo) randomly over the background.  The large V's are rub-on letters (referencing the roman numerals found on many clockfaces).  The quote is a Tim Holtz stamp - the piece of card has been distressed and inked with the same colours as the tag.  I've used some Tim Holtz Ideology bits (clockface and game spinners).

The lower clockface was cut from blank chipboard, stamped and embossed (another Tim Holtz stamp, using black ink and clear embossing powder) then inked with the same colours as everything else.

Finally, the whole tag was spritzed with a Perfect Pearls mist (heirloom gold) to add a subtle sheen that doesn't really show very well on the photos.

I'm really pleased with my first effort and think I'll be doing more of these - watch out for them if you receive a card from me in the next few months! 

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Another CJ, another beach ...

I didn't realise when I did the beach LO on the last CJ that the next CJ I was due to receive had a beach theme, so this is two beach-themed CJ entries in a row.  There are some similarities (twine and use of distressing techniques) but also differences (no paint this time, but plenty of ink).

We were asked to use photos of deserted (or nearly deserted) beaches (as few people as possible) and to stick to "beachy" colours.  We were also asked not to journal directly onto the page, to either leave out the journalling or to hide it; I chose to do some hidden journalling (if you untie the twine bow, the flap lifts up to reveal journalling about why Cancale is such a favourite place for us).

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Snowman limbo

I spent four hours yesterday afternoon at a crop and had a very productive time.  I scrapped the last of last year's photos for the family photo album - I managed two double LOs and one single from a pile of snowy, icy scenes.  I was particularly pleased with this double LO -

There are a couple of "firsts" here - the first time I've used mixed fonts in the title (I didn't have enough letters to use all the same font so decided to give mixed fonts a try), and the first time I've used journalling strips, rather than journalling in a block.  It took me ages to plan and a while to complete (mostly drying time as most of the lettering started off as plain chipboard and was painted/glittered/varnished) but I'm really pleased with the final effect.  I'll certainly be using both techniques again, and may even pluck up the courage to use even more mixed fonts in future (mixing fonts within words too) - I've seen it used very effectively elsewhere.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

I love CJs

I love taking part in CJs (Circle Journals, a kind of travelling scrapbook) - they force me to scrap photos and topics I wouldn't normally do, to try new techniques or colour schemes, and they generally stretch my creative imagination.

The CJ I am currently involved in is an "open theme" one, which means that each book has its own theme and that theme could be absolutely anything.  In today's case, the owner of the book has sent round some sets of photos of her dog, Leo, and has asked us to scrap them for her. 

As soon as I saw the photos of Leo on the beach, I knew I wanted to scrap them.  I knew I had papers and embellishments that would suit the theme and fancied playing around with texture too.  Initially I planned to use colour-cored cardstock and sand it, but I found I didn't have a suitable colour.  Then I thought of using paint.  This is the first time I've used paint directly on to a page before but I'm very pleased with the result

I'm fairly new to using acrylic paints so this was a real adventure for me.  Painting directly on to the page and them journalling and placing rub-ons over the top was a new departure but is one I will definitely be using again.  And I think the twine winding round the photos adds more texture - another technique I will use again.

The "beach party" label on the left-hand side started off as a plain chipboard piece.  I painted it with a pale blue acrylic paint then the brown; when dry, I sanded it to reveal some of the blue below, giving it a beachy, distressed look.  The "beach party" is a rub-on.

I hope she likes what I've done with her photos ...

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

More photo cards

First of all I must apologise for not blogging for so long - holiday preparations, the holiday itself, and all the work that needed doing when we got home, have all meant that I've been pretty busy for the last few weeks so haven't had any time for scrapping, let alone blogging about scrapping!

But, we're home now and I managed to find a little time to create yesterday, mainly because I needed to create some cards (one of them is for an event in two days time).  So I thought I'd share two of my recent photo cards ...

... this first one uses another photo from the professional photo shoot I blogged about last month - here - and is celebrating our 21st wedding anniversary (last month).  I was so pleased to find some beautiful papers and embellishments that went so well with the colours in the photo

This card uses an old photo, scanned and printed onto glossy paper.  This one celebrates my in-laws' 50th wedding anniversary  (the photo doesn't do it justice, the light wasn't very good and the colours look a little washed out) -

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Fairy tale CJ

I've joined a new CJ (Circle Journal - for those who don't know, it's a scrapbooking "round robin" - each person sends round  a book on a particular theme and everyone adds a page or two to it).  I blogged my own book and my own LO in it a while back - here .  I spent part of this afternoon creating my contribution to the next person's book ...

...  the theme is Fairy Tales, and she has asked that we don't use the Disney versions as she prefers the more "dark" original versions of most fairy tales.  I chose to do a LO about Sleeping Beauty and used some of my new Tim Holtz stamps and inks to create an aged and vegetation-covered look to suggest the castle as it is covered with vegetation as the princess sleeps for 100 years.  I had great fun and got very inky fingers ...

The paper started off as plain white computer paper - I printed off some extracts from the story then cut and crumpled and inked the paper before adding some stamped images on both the paper and the cardstock.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Photo shoot

We had a professional photo session a couple of months ago.  As well as some copies of some of the best photos, we paid for a CD with some of the photos on, copyright free, so we can use them however we want ... perfect for using for scrapbooking, or for making photo birthday cards, like this one for my Mum -


Saturday, July 02, 2011

I know it's a little early ...

... but I made my first christmas cards of the year today!  No, I'm not super-organised, or totally mad, I just wanted to use some of my new stash ;-)

Vicki, who has taught some classes at my local crop, has just opened her fabulous new online shop so I just had to order some new stash, it would have been rude not to, wouldn't it???  I chose a few bits and pieces, including a perfect pearls mist spray which I thought would look great on christmas cards/snowy scenes.  I was keen to use it so thought I'd make a couple of christmas cards with it ... here's one of them -

The snowflake is a Maya Road chipboard die cut covered with acrylic paint, glitter and glossy accents.  The papers are from a set I bought a couple of years ago (Dovecraft) and the whole thing is finished off with a light spritz of the perfect pearls mist - it doesn't show very well in the photo but adds a lovely shimmery sheen - you can see it a little better in this angled close-up

I've got some lovely snowy photos from last December/January that need to be scrapped soon, so I think I'll be using this mist spray quite a bit :-)

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Team challenge

As I have mentioned before, I enjoy visiting UKScrappers and have even joined a "team" on the forum.  One of my fellow team members recently set the rest of us a challenge (here on her blog ) - to create a layout using a sketch as inspiration.  So I had a go this afternoon and this is what I came up with

I've followed the sketch fairly closely but have made a few minor changes.  I really like it - it's close enough to my usual style but has some extras that make it feel really different.  Challenges like this make me think outside of my normal "box" and create something a little bit different; in the long run, this can only help my creativity develop.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Crop class

At my local crop today, Vicki held a class for a few of us - we learned how to make a beautiful binder (using mostly Tim Holtz goodies) - I'm going to use mine to store stuff we produce in future classes (Vicki has lined up some good ones for us :-) ), it'll become a book of inspiration, I hope.

The cover came in three parts (front, back and central spine).  We chose Tim Holtz papers (in plain kraft brown but with resist patterns printed on) to decorate both the inside and outside of the covers; these were cut to size and then coloured with distress stains and inks before being stuck to the covers.  The spine was attached to the covers using sticky-backed canvas which we colourised using more inks and stains.  Inside, a ring binder attachment has been secured using brads - this could be used to make a journal, recipe book, mini album ... there are many possibilities (and I may explore some of these in the future), but I will be using mine to store future creations.

The binder was finished off by adding a beautiful knob/handle to the front (there is also an elastic loop attached to the back which can be hooked over this to keep it secured shut) and a "dangly bit" to the spine ...

So, not only a gorgeous end product, but also a chance to try out some products I'd not used before - all in all, a great afternoon's work - thanks Vicki :-)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

What a difference a stamp makes ...

... well, after a very busy couple of weeks, I finally found a little time for scrapbooking at the weekend.  I'm still working through family photos from last year, so this is one of my 8x8 LOs - please excuse the limitations caused by the small size and my desire to scrap as many of each year's photos without running into tens of albums for each year!

I loved the paper as soon as I saw it and luckily, although it was originally a 12x12 piece, it still works when cut down to this size.  But after I arranged all the elements of the LO, I thought it lacked a certain something, needed a little extra interest ... then I had a rumage through my lovely new stamps and found the perfect image ... the flying birds are not part of the original paper but are stamped on in a matching ink, and I think they complement the rest of the LO perfectly

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Stash and stitches

An exciting package arrived this week - the stash I ordered using some of my birthday money :-)  I chose some more GORGEOUS Tim Holtz stamps and another ink pad (a girl can never have too many ink pads!) ...

I even managed to find some scrapping time this afternoon and use one of the stamps in a LO (not one worth sharing though).

And, as I was asked recently how my orang-utans were going, I thought I'd better post an update (if you missed the original post, it's here ) -

Saturday, May 07, 2011

National Scrapbooking Day

How appropriate - I've just found out that it's National Scrapbooking Day, and where did I spend the day - at a crop!  (For anybody who doesn't know, a crop is an event where scrapbookers gather and scrap (and also chat, stroke stash etc) )

I've just committed myself to join a new CJ (Circle Journal - a "travelling" scrapbook that gets passed from person to person, each person completing a layout, until it gets home again), so I used today to get mine started.  For the first time ever, I made the book from scratch, cutting my own chipboard covers and cardstock pages before embellishing and combining them - not actually as difficult or impressive as it sounds, but it's cheaper and more satisfying than using a bought mini-album.  The final book is just under 6x6 in size, a good size for posting.

This CJ is an "open" CJ, where each participant chooses the theme for their own book.  My theme is "stash" - I'm asking each person to use some of their new stash, or favourite stash, or old stash they thought they'd never use ... basically it's an excuse to have fun and to create a book of ideas and inspiration that I can use when it finally returns to me.  So for my own inital layout, I just had to use some of my gorgeous new Tim Holtz stamps and inks (plus a bit of tissue tape) - I had great fun creating it and am quite pleased with the way it turned out ..   

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Tag card

I always find it much more difficult to make cards for men, especially when I don't have a good recent photo to use to make a photo card.  With my Uncle's birthday coming up, I was feeling a little lost, but then I found some stickers and papers I'd forgotten I had and cobbled together this personalised tag card -

One of the beauties of having so much stash that you forget what you've got - it's such a pleasant surprise when you find just the right thing :-)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

April week 4 challenge

Another weekly challenge on UKScrappers.  This time the challenge included using white/black, ribbon, metal, 11 of something and a photo of something miraculous/wonderful.  I chose photos of my wonderful eldest son (photos taken 15 years apart, posing with the same teddy bear), and the ribbon (bottom right hand corner), metal (staples holding ribbon) and 11 items (stars on ribbon strip) were all pretty easy once I decided what to do. 

Most of the items are from the November 2009 ScrapaGogo kit.  I've been subscribing to these kits for about 2.5 years now and love them.  But I was still very much a novice scrapper then and, though I loved the kits, didn't always have the ideas, or time, to use them.  But now I am getting more adventurous and am so pleased I've got the wonderful resource of these old kits to go back to.  Whatever the challenge/topic, I always seem to find a kit to suit it :-) 

Sunday, April 17, 2011

And now for something completely different ...

... a birthday card, but not in my usual style ... 

Since I bought some Tim Holtz stamps and new inks and ink applicator, I've been using them every chance I can get, so I decided there was no reason not to use them on a birthday card.  This is nothing like my usual style of card, which is normally much cleaner and prettier, but I think this works.  The sentiment inside will wish for a better year ahead than that that has been before.

So, on this I have used three stamps from my new Tim Holtz set and I've also used the ink applicator to ink the papers a little, making them not so "clean" and stark, giving the whole thing a sort of shabby chic effect.

I think I'm safe posting this on here, I'm pretty sure the recipient doesn't visit this blog, but if she does, I can assure her that the card looks better in the flesh than in the photo, so I hope she'll be pleased when it arrives later this week.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Another week, another challenge

The weekly challenge on the UKScrappers forum this week was to scrap a photo of a special event or celebration, to use pink or blue, and to use either houses, flowers, bells or stamping.  When my April ScrapaGogo kit    arrived the other day, I knew it was just perfect for this challenge ...

The photo was taken outside the hotel we stayed in on our trip to Paris to mark our 20th wedding anniversary (truly a celebration and special event), and it fulfills the other criteria too.  Apart from the "You make me smile" spot and the small piece of floss suspending the gem (both from the March kit), everything is from the April kit.  I also used a small amount of ink and acrylic paint (on the cameo and on the edges of the distressed paper section).

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

More 8x8 layouts

Here are two recent 8x8 LOs for the family photo album

Both show the limitations of scrapping on a smaller scale.  The first is very simple; on a larger scale I would have added a little more embellishment, but at this scale I felt the photo would be overpowered by it so left it out.  The second LO has more embellishment but looks a little cluttered, but it conveys the fun of the event so I'm happy with it as a page in a photo album.

Every now and then I manage an 8x8 LO that I feel really works.  Recently I completed a double LO that I am really pleased with -

I was able to add plenty of embellishment and some journalling without overpowering the photos; the proportions would have been different on an 12x12 LO, but I would probably have used a similar style.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Size really does matter!

As I've said in previous posts, most of my scrapping is 8x8 in size, as I scrap family photos for each year in 8x8 albums.  When I first started scrapping, this size suited me but I am now increasingly finding it limiting and even frustrating at times.  As I want to display a number of photos in each album, I am forced to use more than one photo on most pages, which can leave pages feeling cluttered and can leave less space for creativity.  It means that I generally stick to a simpler style and am not always able to use new techniques or embellishments.

On a positive note, scrapping on a smaller scale means that I almost always crop photos and this means that I can concentrate on the good part of the photo and get rid of unwanted bits - especially good when you are not the world's best photographer ;-)  Sometimes, taking small parts out of several photos can help to tell a story in a way one photo could not.  For example, a set of photos taken one grey and windy day were a little dull and frankly not very good and would not have made it into a photo album as they were, but cropped and arranged on a page they told the story of our kite-flying on the beach -

Okay, so it's not the most sophisticated LO in the world, but in our family album, it tells the story.

So, to the point of today's post ... I posted a while back about a 12x12 LO I'd done and said that it would have turned out very differently if I'd scrapped the same set of photos at 8x8 size -  here  Well, I have now scrapped photos from the same set at 8x8 size.  I did a double 8x8 LO about the same event, so here is the original 12x12 followed by the new 8x8 double LO

I'm going to continue with my yearly 8x8 family albums as they serve their purpose and certainly make more attractive and informative family records than do our old-style standard photo albums.  But I'm also going to be doing more 12x12 scrapping so that I can explore new ideas and indulge my creativity.  I've got some ideas for some themed albums, and I'm also planning to try more of the UKScrappers weekly challenges - they are greta for making me think in new ways and taking me out of my comfort zone.