Tuesday, December 20, 2011

I'm (Finally) Engaged!

On Sunday, December 18th, 2011 Jeff and I took the train from Albany to Penn Station to spend the day in NYC. We saw the Rockettes, had lunch at TGIFridays, wandered and shopped, and then made our way back to Rockefeller Center when it got dark to see the Christmas tree. We settled on a bench across the street to look up at the twinkling lights and just enjoy the moment of being there together right before the holidays. It was here that he slid off the bench and down on one knee to ask me to marry him--and of course I said YES! To read the full details of our engagement day story, visit my new blog, which will chronicle my wedding planning adventure .

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Super Simple Sculpey Snowman Ornament

Last Friday I visited my grandma at her apartment before work, and I got to see her little Christmas tree all set up. She could include very few ornaments on this much smaller tree in her much smaller apartment this year, but she included a small Sculpey snowman ornament that I made for her over a decade ago. It was so sweet in it's simplicity and has such an adorable homespun look that I had to try to replicate what I had done all those years ago to give as special gifts. Hopefully my boyfriend's family members will enjoy them for years to come as my grandmother has.
To make your own gang of snowmen cuties you will need:
  • White Sculpey Polymer Clay
  • Acrylic paint in orange, red, and brown or black
  • fine detail paint brush
  • round tooth picks for noses
  • scissors and/or wire cutters
  • eye pins or small metal paper clips for hooks
  • whole cloves for "stick" arms
    1. Paint the pointy ends of round tooth picks with orange acrylic paint and leave out to dry while completing the other steps.
    2. Roll two small balls of white clay, one larger than the other and squish them together. The larger ball forms the body and the smaller ball, the head.
    3. Push an eye pin or paper clip cut to size down into the top of the snowman's head to form a loop so it can be hung on the tree with a hook or ribbon. Hint: I like to leave my eye pin almost the full length of the head and body so that it keeps the two pieces together and there is less risk that it will come out of the clay after baking.
    4. Push a clove into each side of the body ball of clay down at an angle from the top to form the snowman's arms. (These smell great while baking!)
    5. Cut the painted end off one of the toothpicks (it should be dry by now) and push it into the head ball of clay to form the carrot nose.
    6. Bake the snowmen on a glass baking dish that you have dedicated for use with polymer clay according to package instructions (I baked my snowmen for 17 minutes in a preheated oven at 275degrees).
    7. After they have baked, take them off the glass and put them onto the counter to cool.
    8. Once your snowmen have cooled, use the brown or black paint and a fine detail brush to add dots for eyes, mouth, and buttons. Also, paint the year on the "butt" of the snowman if desired.
    9. Use red paint to add a small heart to the bottom right of your snowman's body for a sweet little touch.
    10. Allow to dry and add a hook or ribbon and package for your lucky recipient or adorn your tree!
      Happy Holidays! Enjoy!

Sappy. Sentimental. Surreal.

My last graded assignment for grad class.
The rose my professor gave me on the podium in the Lally Forum at the College of Saint Rose.
Well, after a long journey, my grad classes finally came to a close this evening. I don't know if it's even really sunk in yet. I am almost officially a certified Literacy Specialist for grades 5-12, and I almost officially have a 4.0 in my program. My professor is amazing, and she was sensitive to the anti-climatic nature of us finishing off the course with presentations and just going on our way until the graduation ceremony in May--so she bought us all roses. A classy and fitting token to acknowledge our completion of a program at the College of Saint Rose.
It's bittersweet of course, because I'd like to celebrate my degree by putting it to good use in a classroom full of students ready to absorb my newly gained knowledge, my passion, enthusiasm, and creativity--but teaching jobs where I live in upstate NY are far and few between. To be honest, I've spent most of the last year questioning whether or not I need to choose a different career (although, if not a teacher, I have no clue what else I'd be). I'm worried that if I can even manage to bite and claw my way into a school somehow that I will be chewed up and spit back out trying to manage a sea of politics and negativity with little support or resources. I'm worried about what education has become, and that I'm not prepared for what I will need to become in order to survive it.
And yet, after over a year of feeling this way, I volunteered in a friend's 5th grade class today to help with a holiday project and I felt a renewed sense of purpose. I worked with some of her students last year as a TA, but stepping into a classroom for the first time this school year, and on the very same day I completed my grad program, I felt alive again. I felt like that was where I was supposed to be. I felt like those students looked to me for a hug, to answer a question, to give them a moment of positive attention--and in those moments, I felt I mattered--like I could make them smile or laugh, make them feel good about themselves, and make their day--and of course by doing so, they make mine!
With my rose-colored glasses on, that's what I feel teaching should be about: helping the students become better, more well-rounded people so that they can not just function in society, but contribute to it--helping them to develop a passion for learning and a zeal for knowledge and exploration--and helping them to develop compassion, creativity, and a positive sense of self.
My heart aches as I write this, because I have worked so long and so hard (and spent so much money) on my own education, so that I can have this opportunity to work with students, and it feels like my day will never come. So while it may seem that I should be celebrating my accomplishments--they may not have sunk in because the real celebration can happen only when my career begins with a teaching job and a classroom of my own.

I usually utilize this blog as a place to showcase my creative endeavors, but tonight it needed to be a journal. I needed to tell the world that passionate and qualified teachers are being forced to sit on the sidelines because of cuts to education. I'm wasting my degree by working in retail, and those students are in class sizes of 27--and worst of all, I feel powerless to do anything about it. I could vent about bureaucracy, and I could certainly continue to feel bitter, cynical, jaded, and defeated...but tonight driving home from my final grad class and thinking back on today in that classroom--I have a spark of hope left in me after all. Maybe it was rose, but I'm betting it was the hugs.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

12 Tags of Christmas: Mission Accomplished

The Inspiration by Tim Holtz -www.timholtz.typepad.com
My versions of the 12 Tags. Wow! What a wonderful burst of inspiration and creativity Tim has provided these past 12 days. I'm so proud of myself for keeping up and pushing myself to adapt what I have and to make them my own for the most part. I hope you enjoyed witnessing my journey!

12 Tags of Christmas: Day #12

My version utilizes gold tissue for the flower, and a cherub print tissue for the background along with distress Rock Candy Stickles and frayed burlap distress inking. I used a vintage button and tinsel, a piece of paper lace, silver embossed a snowflake chipboard element, and stamped and embossed the wings and crown...
Perhaps the coolest part is I made my own frozen Charlotte doll to use on the tag. I have a real doll that I want to save for another project so I created a mold out of it using Amazing Mold Putty, and then made the duplicate out of translucent Sculpey clay and baked it according to package directions.
Once all the elements were hot glued or stapled into place, I printed, inked and glued on the "all is calm" phrase and added the dot border of Patina Stickles. This is one of my favorite, if not my favorite tag. I love the elegance and charm.
The inspiration: Tim's Tag #12--you can see more at www.timholtz.typepad.com
LinkClose up of my handmade Frozen Charlotte doll.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

12 Tags of Christmas: Day #11

The inspiration: Tim's Tag #11--to see more visit www.timholtz.typepad.com
My version of today's tag, was again quite a challenge due to the need to adapt the materials used because I am missing so many of what Tim has in his collection! I loved the look of the vintage/retro Santa, but only had a small stamp, so I kind of shrunk down the design and shifted everything to the bottom of the tag which gave me the opportunity to showcase more of the background technique. I added snowflakes stamped with Blue Jean Distress Stain and embossed "Happy Holidays" in silver.
Without a melting pot and UTEE I was left to heating the shrink plastic with a heat gun and then inking with alcohol ink, painting white on the back, and then attaching to the tag with CTMH liquid glass (their version of Glossy Accents). Once I glued the pieces to the tag, I used the liquid glass in a thick layer on the pieces too, so that I could get the high shine plastic gloss look that Tim achieved by submerging the pieces in UTEE. I diecut the flower shape out of the shrink plastic, but had to handcut the holly leaves and branch because I do not have that die.
Again, Tim has challenged me--this time to pull out things I haven't played with in forever (i.e. shrink plastic) and things I've bought and haven't ever used (i.e. the little retro santa stamp) and make use of my own resources instead of buying new things (i.e. hand cutting pieces instead of buying more dies). I can't believe there is only one day left!

12 Tags of Christmas: Day 10

Here's my version...with vintage music paper banner, vintage faceted flatbacked crystals (using Tim's technique see www.timholtz.typepad.com-but it didn't work as well for me because there were so many facets you can't see the image clearly through them, but it still looks pretty right?)...
Stampin' Up music note wheel stamp, CTMH holly stamp, santa cut from scrapbook paper and stickles added for glitter and shine...
pieces of a floral pick glued on under the banner...
a shot with the flash to show the glimmer mist background.
The inspiration: Tim's Tag #10

Friday, December 9, 2011

12 Tags of Christmas: Day #9

my version of tag #9
The Inspiration: Tim's tag #9--see www.timholtz.typepad.com for more.
I think this may be one of my favorite tags so far. Instead of stamping the flourish like Tim did, I used an inked embossing folder and heat embossed the flourish design with white pearl embossing powder from CTMH. After that, I used Red Brick Distress stain over the whole tag and the pearl embossing powder acted as a resist, but picked up some of the stain. Then I swiped the whole tag with clear embossing ink and coated it in clear embossing powder and heated for an enamel look. I inked the edges of the tag in Burlap distress ink.
I am excited to say that I made my own embellishments from a candy cane stamp embossed with red, cut out, and inked with burlap. I used the CTMH Art Philosophy cartridge to cut holly leaves, and I crumpled them, sanded them, then inked with burlap and glued them behind the candy cane and accented with red pearls from Queen & Co. My favorite embellishments are the tickets though...I diecut those from the cardboard packaging from candy canes! Then I sanded them to distress and added more burlap ink and stapled them on the tag with the Tiny Attacher. I used white seam binding ribbon and a bow of green and red bakers twine that mimics the look of the candy cane stripes.
I've enjoyed this 12 tag adventure for the inspiration its given me to take the time to sit down and play with some involved techniques that I usually don't allow myself the luxury of having the time for. Only 3 more days to go!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

12 Tags of Christmas: Day #8

My version... with lamp post and silhouettes cut from the Heritage Cricut Cartridge, Making Memories stamp, tags, and flowers, Tim's holiday kraft resist paper & inks...

with a vintage pen quill and antique key!

The inspiration: Tim's Tag #8 you can see more at www.timholtz.typepad.com

12 Tags of Christmas: Day #7

The improvisation...misted tag inked with Tim Holtz distress inks and stamped with Stampin' Up music wheel stamp and burlap ink...

CTMH stamps, archival ink, and clear detail embossing powder...

no awesome kraft glasine for me to play with--crinkle olive wassau paper inked with shabby shutters instead, hand cut with a few Queen & Co red pearl gems.

The Inspiration: Tim's Version of Tag #7 see more at www.timholtz.typepad.com

My version of tag#7 :o)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

12 Tags of Christmas: Day #6

My version of tag #6...Tim's seasonal embossing folder, distress stain and inks, CTMH stamps and embossing powder in clear and silver....

floral pick accent with glittery leaf inked green...

The inspiration: Tim's Tag #6 see more at www.timholtz.typepad.com
Wow, I looked at this one all day yesterday but didn't attempt my version till this afternoon. I was stumped by the metal tape and paint daubers because I don't have any...how was I to make this work without going out to buy more new products? My solution was to emboss the design with the embossing folder, then swipe embossing ink over the top of the image and emboss it in silver to get the metal look. Then I inked the debossed parts with various holiday inks and covered the whole tag in clear detail embossing powder and heated again. I love the look, though not quite the same as Tim's.

Monday, December 5, 2011

12 Tags of Christmas: Day #5

My version of tag #5 utilizing product packaging, Raisin and Pearl mixative alcohol inks, Tim's diamond stamp...

bow and pearls, along with two sizes of doily circle borders cut from Tim's Kraft Core cardstock with the CTMH Art Philosophy Cartridge.

The inspiration: Tim's Tag #5--you can learn how to make this by visiting www.timholtz.typepad.com