Monday, November 23, 2009


As the IT band issues in my right knee have started to recede, I've felt what I thought was a bit of similar tightness along the outside of my left knee. I've been stretching it and hoping for the best. Well, on Thursday I took running clothes to work with me. Unfortunately I forgot to take a jacket and it was just a bit too cool outside to run in shorts and a t-shirt without a jacket, so I headed to the gym. With IT issues, I thought it best to avoid running on a track, so I reluctantly got on a treadmill.

Side note on treadmills: what a horrible way to experience running! I'm afraid of falling off (which I've done twice--it's a well-grounded fear) so my posture is protective and not exactly as it would be if I were running on ground. Indoors there is also no moving air, so it gets hot and boring. One run on a treadmill after a LONG season of running outdoors (March through now) has convinced me that it's time to get running tights so I can keep running outside.

So anyway, around mile 2.0 my left knee started to hurt. It wasn't bad, so I thought it was just some tightness and kept running. I really shouldn't have. It is now clear that I am having identical IT issues in the left knee. It hurt like crazy that night, all day Friday, and even some Saturday. I had to skip my Team run on Saturday because of it. I joke that my left knee was jealous of all the attention the right one was getting. I'm just glad I can identify the problem and treat it quickly this time around. I ended up running on Saturday, but not a long run. Just maybe the weather will hold for one more week and I'll get out with the Team next weekend. Mileage update:

420.6 + 4.1 + 3.1 + 3.3 = 431.1

Thursday, November 19, 2009


I've had several topics working their way into blog posts in my mind, but none more consistently than my Slice, so I'm devoting this entire posting to a review of it.

The Slice is a cordless design cutter made by the scrapbooking supply company Making Memories. It uses designs stored on SD cards to cut shapes in paper in any size between 1" and 4" in half inch increments. In function, it is similar to the older, popular Cricut. To give you an idea of what I'm talking about, I'll show you some examples of where I've used the Slice on my layouts. I used it to make the fence, tombstones, house, tree, witch, picture frames, and "Moo" letters on this page; all of the white scrolls here; the lettering on this page; and the flowers and lettering on this page from my niece's album. Without a machine like the Cricut or Slice, the only way to get lettering or images like these is to a) cut them by hand using a scrapbooking scalpel from a computer-printed template (arduous and time-intensive), or b) buy pre-made embellishments (if you can find the color/size/image you want). I honestly don't know what I ever did without such a machine.

At the crops I've gone to over the last few months, I've gotten some questions about the Slice. How does it work? Do I like it? How much are the SD cards? I decided to address the pros and cons of the machine and give it a sort of review here on my blog.

How does it work?
It is mechanically straightforward to use, which I like about it. You:
1. apply Slice adhesive to the glass cutting mat and let it dry, about 2 minutes
2. press your paper to the glass mat so it sticks
3. turn on the Slice and insert the SD card that contains the design you'd like to cut
4. navigate through the on-screen (Slice screen) menu to select the design and size you'd like to cut
5. press the start button and hold the machine in place until it indicates that the cut is complete
6. remove the paper and design cut from the glass mat
7. turn off the Slice

The adhesive needs to be washed off of the mat and reapplied every so often. The instructions indicate that it should be replaced after every 4 cuts (I think), but I always do many more cuts than that. You can do the cuts while the Slice is plugged in, but it can also be used as a cordless device if you wish.

Do I like it?
I can't say it enough: I love it. Although I love the album I made just before getting the Slice, I still can't imagine scrapping without it. That older album that I love, some of it I love because I spent literally hours cutting out scroll work and lettering by hand and buying stickers and embellishments. It is so much easier to be creative and to create nice looking pages when I press a few buttons and the Slice cuts everything for me. Like I said, I love it. But, nothing's perfect. So what's the nitty gritty? What is great and not so great about it?

The biggest selling points of the Slice, for me (and this is not a complete list of pros), were the size, cordless-ness, availability/price of SD cards, and coordination with Making Memories collections. The whole machine is 3 pounds and is about 5x5" and 4" tall (or so). Making its size even better is the fact that it can operate without being plugged in. Why do these features make it so nice? At crops, Cricuts take up an enormous amount of counter space and space can become tight. Not only does the Slice not take up a lot of space, but if need be it can be moved so that you can work on it at your personal work space or in a place where more space is available. It also then does not take up a lot of storage space at home, and let's face it, everyone wants more space to do paper crafts.

Availability and pricing of the SD cards is also nice. New, retail price ranges from about $40-$50, and the cards rarely go on sale in big box crafting stores like Michaels. New, retail Cricut cartridges are around $70. Additionally, you can usually find Slice cards discounted somewhere online, and available new at drastically reduced prices on Ebay (usually $20 or less). There are over 30 Slice cards now available, with themes ranging from holidays to babies to travel, most with a different font.

The final bonus that I want to highlight is that Slice cards coordinate with Making Memories collections. For instance, I had bought some Making Memories metal Halloween embellishments a while ago just because they were cute. When I got the Slice Spook Alley design card, I saw that the embellishments coordinated with the designs on the card. I really like the potential this creates for making coordinated layouts. While I don't want to make this a Slice v. Cricut rivalry, I will point out that Cricut is made by Provo Craft, which does make some other scrapbooking products, but has decreased production in those areas as the Cricut has taken off.

There are three primary drawbacks to the Slice: its size limitations, its adhesive, and its margin of error.

The primary drawback of the Slice is also one of its strengths: its size. As I mentioned, it cuts shapes anywhere from 1 inch to 4 inches, with sizes available in half-inch increments. Some of the whole words available are cut on the diagonal and consequently can be cut to be as much as 5.5" long, but that's the absolute limit. You cannot use the Slice to make die cuts like this gorgeous 12x12 paper. It will cut beautiful shapes like this in up to a 4x4 inch size. It also will not cut letters more than 4 inches tall.

Adhesive, I think, for any design cutting machine, is an issue. The problems with Slice adhesive are that a) it's expensive (though much less so on Ebay), b) it smells truly awful, and c) using too much or too little can mess up your cut. As to the smell, cover your nose or go outside to apply it. I cover my nose and mouth with a sleeve and it's just fine. Using too much adhesive makes it difficult to remove cuts from the glass mat, while using too little (or not changing it frequently enough) often allows the paper to move as its being cut, causing irregularities in the cut. (Side note: irregularities also appear when the machine needs to be recharged). All of these things are avoidable once you learn the machine and how much adhesive works best for you.

The margin of error was something I'd read about before buying the Slice. When you indicate that you want a 2 inch "a" to be cut, the letter that's produced will not be 2 inches tall. It will be scaled so that the tallest capital letter of the font would cut at a 2 inch height. This rule of thumb gets a little bit squishier when cutting shapes rather than letters. Expect to have some trial and error when settling on a size to cut, especially when you are just starting with the machine.

All told, I strongly believe that the pros outweigh the cons, and other than the size limitations (which are also part of why I love this system), the cons can all be more or less prevented as you get to the know the machine. I love this machine and would buy it again in a heartbeat (ok, ask for it as an anniversary present again in a heartbeat). Owning one will also encourage you to get addicted to the Making Memories blog, as I now am. No complaints about that!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The second week of November? Oh, that blur.

Unbelievably, it's Thursday and I'm only now finding a quiet minute in the week. Running hasn't happened this week. I just literally have not had a spare minute in which to do it. I'm planning a good run on Saturday though, so I'm looking forward to that. Here's a mileage update from last week though. The 5.1 run was really nice. Meg and I put on our big girl shoes and decided to bite off a longer distance than either of us had done in a while. It was a good time, even if we walked a little bit of it.

409.4 + 2.8 + 3.3 + 5.1 = 420.6

Other projects! As I said before, I've taken on the project of finishing my scrapbook for 2005. I started by filling in some missing events from the end of that year, Christmas and my brother's wedding. Last weekend I finished a family trip to Chicago and Christmas at our house. You can see those pages here, here, and here. I made these at a crop with some friends. It was the third crop I've gone to, and they just keep getting better. At this crop there were five of us there together. It made me want to make a scrapbook page of pictures of my favorite scrapbooking dwarves, who have noun names instead of pronoun names: Embellishments, Adhesives, Perfectionism, Organization, and Slice. We make a fun set. The pages of my brother's wedding are up next, and I'm really looking forward to making them.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Post-race updates

Things have calmed down a bit since the race. As all the stories and pictures have come together, a few things have surfaced that merit updating on here. For instance, I later found out that the woman who drove into the course in Detroit was eventually arrested. Thank goodness! Unfortunately, that's the most exciting update. The rest are: my IT band still gets tight (but doesn't hurt) even on short runs, I got new shoes (the 4.1 mile run below was their debut), and I'm in love with my race tag.

After taking a week and a half off, I finally got back to running. Yesterday afternoon when the babe took his nap, B and I took one too. The 60 degree weather and blue skies overpowered my need for sleep though, and I laced up my new shoes and headed out. I'm so glad I did. Weather like this in November has to be savored. It's just incredible. I need to work this afternoon, but I might tear myself away for a quick run. It's too nice to stay inside.

402 + 3.3 + 4.1 = 409.4

Since I've now given my niece's First Year album to her parents, it's time to start a new project, and I've chosen a worthy one: finish scrapbooking 2005 and 2006. I finished 2005 through my wedding day some time ago and parts of the rest of that year and 2006 are finished. However, there are large chunks of both years that just never got done, like our honeymoon, my brother's wedding, Christmases, and my besty N's wedding. Basically anything complicated I skipped over. It is time! It's getting ridiculous. I don't want to leave you with the false impression that I have the years between 2006 and now finished. Quite the contrary. I like lists, so here:

1999-2004: finished
2005: finished through my wedding with parts of remainder of year completed
2006: maybe 1/2 to 2/3 completed
2007: hardly touched
2008: coming together, but I've barely touched my son's baby pictures, which will likely be an entire separate album
2009: are you kidding me? I'll probably scrapbook the Rock & Roll half this coming weekend, but I think that will be the first thing done for this year

Right now I'm working on last Halloween (I'll post the pages when they're finished) and like I said, will probably do Rock & Roll this weekend, but after that, I'm on a mission to finish those older years. I'll probably cover more of my crafts projects on here now that my running season is coming to a close.