CROP TILL YOU DROP -- My daughter-in-law Sue is a "cropper." If you don't know what a cropper is, you aren't one of the 25 million people in the United States who scrapbook.

I'm pretty sure all 25 million attended the Scrapbook Expo at the Pleasanton Fairgrounds last weekend. Make that 25 million and one. I was there, too.

My latest hobby, scrapbooking, is not a whim like my other hobbies -- collecting Italian charms, crocheting mufflers or raising children. According to statistics, "scrapping" is the fastest growing hobby in America, second only to collecting knock-off purses.

 

The average "cropper" spends hundreds of hours working on scrapbooks instead of making dinner or cleaning house. And she spends nearly $2,000 a year in tools and supplies. That's a drop in the bucket compared with what she once spent for shoes.

The most popular themes for scrapbooks are cats, with dogs a close second. For your cat scrapbook, you'll need cat decorated paper, cat paw stampers, cat catch phrases like "My Cat Can Whoop Your Dog's Butt," and hundreds of candid shots of your cat's daily life -- mostly sleeping or licking herself.

Other popular themes include "My Vacation," "My Wedding," "My Honeymoon" and "My First Baby," (second babies have a scrapbook but there's nothing in it, and third babies don't even get the book). After those basics, croppers really have to brainstorm to come up with themes to continue their habit -- "My Trip to the Grocery Store," "My Grandson's New Potty" and "My Husband's Favorite TV Shows."

 If you'd like to join me in my new hobby, just clear out one of your bedrooms -- move all your kids into one room -- and set up your Crop Shop. Then fill every nook and cranny with organizers of all sizes to hold your crop crap. At the Expo, I found tons of goodies to help "enable" my "addiction" --"antique" ink to "distress" paper, stampers featuring everything from animals to things that start with the letter Z, hole punches that make hearts, stars, even dog bones; and stencils featuring every holiday from Christmas and Halloween to Groundhog and Boxing days.

My favorites are the phrase books with quotes such as "Been there, done that, scrapped a page about it," "Don't Worry, Be Scrappy," "Born to Crop, Not Mop!" and "Nothing Stops a Cropper, Not Even a Paper Cut."

Sue came home from the Expo with armloads of creations. She can scrap anything from a cardboard box to a paper bag, and turn it into a work of art. I've tried to copy her designs, but I usually end up with antiqued fingertips, stickers stuck to my clothes and a scrapbook that looks like my 3-year-old grandson's artwork.

I asked Sue how she and her friend Robyn Frendberg became addicted to scrapbooking. Sue said, "I started scrapbooking when my son Brad was born. (No, he was not named after the scrapbooking embellishments called "brads.") I was passionate about preserving his memories, and I needed that creative outlet as a stay-at-home mom. Some people have a perception that scrapping is frivolous, but for me, it's an art form."

"I tried scrapbooking several years ago," Robyn said, "but I never really had time for it. Then when my son was born three years ago, I pulled out my supplies. I have thousands of pictures of Josh, who changes nearly every day, and I'm motivated to scrapbook his adventures. And after chasing a preschooler around all day, I find scrapbooking therapeutic."

I could go on about my new passion, but I've already broken a basic cropping code: "What Happens at Crop, Stays at Crop!"