Tuesday, November 25, 2014

10 reasons I love my Cricut Explore

Tuesday, November 25, 2014
*This is a compensated post, as well as a post that contains affiliate links.

I want to start by saying that I almost never write posts like this.  I have nothing against bloggers who write sponsored posts, but I struggle with having to write something that doesn't feel authentic to me.  It's not my job to sell you on things and my opinion might not be the same as yours.  But, once in a while the opportunity to get paid to write a post I would write anyway comes along and I have to jump on board.

I have been participating in the Cricut Design Space challenge and have made it into the top 10 a couple of times.  In order to participate, Cricut sent me a new Explore machine.  I have been a cricut owner for years and purchased my previous machines.  I was super excited to get to try out this new machine.  I had heard such great things about it and I have to say, I was not disappointed.

So, here they are- my Top 10 reasons for loving my Cricut Explore:

#10- The new I-pad app.  This app is in Beta testing and will be released in January, but I was able to participate in a webinar that showed how this app will work and I have to say I'm super impressed.  I don't even own an i-pad, but I might need to fix that. ;)  The reason this is in my top 10 is not necessarily because of the app, but because it is a reflection of the responsiveness that Cricut has developed to its customers.  People asked for an app, the ability to design remotely and one that would work on the i-pad- and Cricut listened.  They are listening to the Facebook groups and what their customers are saying and I think that's amazing.  I believe they truly care what their customers think, and I couldn't always say that.  They are making huge strides to turn things around in this area.  They are also working tirelessly to bring new features and tools that people want.  So, if a specific feature isn't available yet- wait a bit and I'm sure it will be.

#9- The machine itself.  It's light, easy to pull out and put away.  I don't have a space where I can leave it out and hooked up all the time, so it's nice that it has it's own storage area to keep extra tools and blades right in the machine.  It even comes with a carrying bag.  And it's quiet!  It's nice that I can still hear my music while it's working. :)

#8-   All of the Cricut images.  I have quite a few cartridges from over the years and have always loved the options they provide me for my crafting, but now, you don't have to purchase the entire cartridge, you can just purchase single images if that's all you need.  And this leads me to ...

#7- Print then Cut.  All of the Cricut images are available to be turned into printables- with a simple click of the mouse. 

#6- Creating your own images.  I'll admit that the ability of the Silhouette to manipulate the images you are cutting, and to upload your own images was something I envied for a long time.  I am so thrilled that first with Craft room, and now with Design Space, Cricut allows you the versatility to take your projects to even greater heights.  :) From welding letters to create one cut image, to slicing off bits and pieces, to arranging them on the mat for projects using vinyl and heat transfer, you have so many more options now.



I used the weld feature to create the cherish word art in this project.
#5- uploading your own files is free.  You can purchase external .svg, .jpeg or other cut files, or create your own in other software, such as Adobe Illustrator and upload them to Design Space at no cost.  It's exactly the feature I used in my Scalloped Advent Banner.

#4-  Write, Cut and Score- I love all of these features.  I have not used the pens much- YET.  But, I have some great plans ahead for those.  I do love the score tool and the cuts, well they are awesome.

#3- If you've wondered about how the Explore cuts- it is after all a digital cutting machine- wonder no longer.  And independent lab took the Explore and the Silhouette and tested them side by side.  You can read all about the results and find out how the Cricut vs. Silhouette contest turned out.  Long story short- the Cricut won. :)

#2- The materials the new machine can cut.  In addition to how precise it is, this machine can cut everything from leather to balsa wood.  It's pretty impressive.  I even took a piece of laminated cotton and threw it on a mat to see if it would cut- it worked like a dream.  I have much more playing to do with this feature, but I have been super impressed so far.

#1- Ease of use.  This is far and away my favorite feature.  Most of the bloggers I talk to think this is a downside, but honestly, I don't always have time to build a project from scratch.  Sometimes I just want to load a project and get cutting.  The software, machine and app are all intuitive and are built to be user friendly and simple to understand.  I love that when I have a specific project in mind I can create it myself, or if I just want to create- I can jump on Design Space and get going. 

So there you have it, my reasons for loving the Cricut Explore.  There will probably be more along the way. :)  I'm sorry if you're seeing a lot of posts like this in your feed right now, as you can imagine, there is a huge push before Black Friday to generate a buzz, but if you've read this long, then hopefully that means you value my opinion.  I really do love my Explore.  I've been a huge Cricut fan for years and I'm so grateful for the opportunities I have had to create great projects and participate in the Design Space star contest.  If you have any other questions about the Explore, feel free to ask in the comments or e-mail me.

One final note, there will be some great deals on the Cricut Explore come Black Friday.  I can't spill the beans just yet, but stay tuned. :)

xoxo,
Amy

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Scalloped Advent Banner

Thursday, November 13, 2014
 
 
*Disclaimer- this project is participating in the Cricut Design Space Star Contest and is eligible for prizes.  All ideas and opinions are my own.  This post also contains affiliate links.  I truly do love my Cricut Explore and  if you think you might want one, clicking through the links to purchase will result in a small cash compensation for me.  That is all- on to the project. :)

Can one have too many advent calendars?  I don't think so.  We have a few at our house.  I have five kids, so I'm thinking if I have 5 advent calendars they'll all be happy and there won't be any fighting about who's turn it is that day.  I can dream anyway.   One of my favorite ways to count down to Christmas is to have simple daily activities that bring us together as a family for some fun, reflection or service.  This scalloped advent banner is perfect for that.

The tags inside the bunting are the perfect place to write that day's activities.  Some of our favorite things to include in our countdown are:
make gingerbread houses
read a Christmas story
watch a movie
play a game
make cookies
take a treat to someone
shop for presents
take a drive to see holiday lights
enjoy a treat
write a note to someone
wrap presents
have hot chocolate
visit family
have cinnamon rolls
play in the snow
do a craft

Sometimes we do an activity more than once, for instance read a Christmas story is one that we do at least once a week since we have so many favorite stories.  My main goal with this is to make sure we are taking time every day to stop the craziness and just be together.  But, with that being said- life gets crazy- especially during the holidays- so I really don't want to add one more thing that makes things even more hectic.  I edit the activities and make sure they are simple and reasonable for that day.  For instance, I won't plan the drive to see holiday lights on the same night as a work party- it wouldn't get done and we would all be disappointed and stressed.

This banner was pretty simple to put together with the Cricut Explore.  I uploaded the pocket file and cut out 12 pockets out of a pearl white cardstock.  I find that when I'm using textured cardstock- especially one with a sheen- I need to use the posterboard setting to get it to cut cleanly.  Then I uploaded the cutout file I created that created smaller accent pieces that wouldn't distort the scallops and cut it out once of six different patterned papers.  My team decided that our theme for this round would be Dreamy White Holidays- so I tried to keep the palette pretty muted and focused on white tone on tone paper with just a few hits of green and red.  I cut out tags and labels from the same left over papers and numbers as well.  It took some arranging to find combinations that worked, but I'm thrilled with the final result.  

To assemble the banner fold the pockets on the score lines and crease well.  Then I ran them through my sewing machine to close up the sides.  You could also use glue or double sided tape, but it might make the pocket opening a little narrower and you may need to adjust the size of the tags.  Glue or tape on your patterned pieces, labels and numbers.  I used 3D glue dots to lift the labels off the flag a bit.  Then just run some ribbon through the holes at the top of the banner.  I tied extra ribbon between each of the flags for some extra texture and color.  Add ribbon to the tops of the tags and write your activities on them.  Place them in the right pocket and enjoy your holiday season.

If my project wins this round all the project files will be available in Cricut Design Space.  I'll keep you posted. :)

XOXO,
Amy

Monday, November 3, 2014

Renewal

Monday, November 3, 2014
Here I sit on a Monday morning.  The list of things I could do is a mile long.  Instead I am choosing to sit here and write.  Because, well, I miss this little spot of mine.

 This weekend I received a copy of Where Women Create magazine in the mail.  It's a gorgeous magazine full of beautiful pictures and amazing photography and inspiring women.  Women who have pushed their boundaries, reached for their dreams and achieved incredible things.  Women I greatly admire.

And while I am not ready yet to fully flutter my creative wings and let my dreams go out on a wild flight, it certainly fanned the flames of desire to continue to strengthen and enlarge them in preparation for just such an adventure.

The last month or so has been a crazy ride.  Both my DIY word art and my Black and White Christmas Shadow box projects were selected as the top 10 final projects in the Cricut contest I am participating in.  My word art actually came in second.  It was such an honor.  And, because the winner of that round was already a finalist, I get to compete in the final round for the contest in December.  So much fun!

I had nearly decided to quit blogging.  I am SO tired of all the extra stuff that seems to have to go with it.  I had forgotten why I even started in the first place.  I blog because I love to create.  It makes me happy and fills my life with beauty.  I hope my blog will be a place for others to come to be inspired.  I hope it is a place where other mothers and other women who struggle with the stress of life will come to realize they are not alone in those struggles, because sometimes just knowing you're not alone makes things seem easier to bear.

And these last few weeks have helped me remember these things.  I love making stuff.  And, honestly, I feel like I make good stuff (mostly).  I love sharing stuff.  I love helping others make stuff.  So, hopefully, this marks the beginning of a new era in my blogging life.  And hopefully the community that is already built around this blog will grow and we will create a wonderful place full of joy and light.

 Let's grow our creative wings together, because, flying on the breeze of inspiration is such a wonderful, exhilarating ride!  Won't you come along with me?

 XOXO,
Amy
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