Sunday, January 29, 2012

Lovey Dovey

My completed yarn-wrapped heart now hangs over the mirror in my foyer. I hate that word, foyer. Makes me sound so fancy. But it sounds better than "front entrance" which is what I initially typed.

I am not, nor have I ever been, and I predict I won't ever be, sappy. When I lose my Burt's Bees, I become chappy; with a tiny amount of wine, I am slaphappy; and my middle-aged lady arms are starting to look flappy; but sappy is not a word that would describe me. Lovey-dovey, mushy, huggy-kissy sweet stuff kinda makes my skin craw, my eyes roll toward the back of my head and my finger make a gagging motion down my throat.

Supplies: Styrofoam heart and pink yarn: Hobby Lobby; baker's twine: Anthopologie, last Christmas; buttons and paper measuring tape: from my stash; vintage photos: from my mom

However, this is not all my fault. I inherited the unsappy gene from my mother. Case in point: If I tell her I lover her, more often than not, I'm greeted with a "whatever." It's just not in us to give a sap. 

So it's kinda funny that I decided to spruce up the pad for Valentine's Day. Honestly, it's because I had so much fun decorating for Christmas, that I didn't want to stop. Never mind that the floors haven't been swept in years and that the laundry is a 6' mountain of funky smells, look! I made a yarn wrapped heart!

Are they not the cutest? My mom brought me a stash of old family photos, some of people neither of us knew. Doesn't it look like he's tickling her ear and she's trying to stop him? I wonder where they are now.

And it was really easy to make. If you've been on pinterest for a millisecond, you've seen yarn-wrapped wreaths. I made one at Christmas...but this one was a wee bit trickier because of the points in the heart. If you've never tried it before, here's how I went about it: tie yarn around styro wreath and wrap yarn around it. That's it! When I came to the points in the heart, I plugged in my hot glue gun and glued in strips of yarn to fill in the gaps. It's really the easiest and most mundane craft ever. 

Another nunno-who-they-are photo from my collection. I love how she's on her tiptoes in her sweet loafers...and is he coping a feel?


When I was finished with that, the fuschia heart was rather boring. So I decided to add some blue striped  baker's twine which I double knotted in the back. I backed the photos onto matte board and hot glued the board to the frame so as not to ruin the photos. The vintage buttons were hot glued on as well. I had initially used a black ribbon to hang the heart but it seemed too domineering. I swapped it out for the paper measuring tape. In all, it looks pretty crafty, but that's okay by me. It'll do for the month of Feb.

Right under the yarn-wrapped-heart mirror in the foyer is a little table with this display. My collection of vintage children's books comes from the throw-away pile at in my school's library.
These little cupid houses have actually been up since Christmas. As if you couldn't tell. I've decided that the hearts on top of them mean I can leave them out just a pinch longer. Again, this idea was pulled from pinterest.

If you have access to clay and a kiln, here's how I created these: for the trunk, place a texture down on your table. I used a large stamp that had a wood grain design. Place the clay on top of the stamp and flatten it with a rolling pin. Remove clay from stamp and roll into a tube shape. For the roof, lay a different textured surface onto your workspace. I like to use vintage lace. Repeat the step of flattening the clay. Now, instead of forming a tube, roll clay into a waffle cone shape. Slip and score to the top. Add details and, viola! A house for cupid!
My Valentine garland. The easiest craft ever.
This is the last of my Valentine's decor, I swear. If I do anymore, my anti-sap status is sure to drop greatly. This here Valentine's garland was the easiest to make. My school has one of the Edison die cut thingies. I die cut some of my scrap booking paper (picked up a JoAnn's)  that I thought might compliment the colors of my living room. Which, as you can see, is just black and white. Easy to match.
If you've never sewn before, this is the project for you. When I got my first sewing machine about 6 years ago, I started by sewing paper. There's no fear in "messing up" and ruining expensive fabric. For this, I just pushed the heart through the machine. To make the blank space, I just continued to pull the heart so the machine would keep intertwining the two threads. Once the space was long enough, I fed the bird through the machine. Simple, right?

So, there you go. Valentine's decor for the un-Lovey Dovey set. I keep thinking to the next holiday I can decorate for...which is St. Patrick's Day, I believe. Nothing is coming to mind. Except to leave my little clay houses out just one more holiday and call 'em Leprechan Houses. That'll work, right?

Friday, January 27, 2012

What I Wore This Week (not that I recommend it)

Running on Fumes Monday: Oui. I had just arrived home from San Francisco a mere 6 hours before the school day began, hence the hair. dress: vintage, picked up in S.F. on Haight Street ; sweater: a Lily Pulitzer find at Goodwill; shoes: my ancient John Fluevog shoes. I was so thrilled to visit one of his stores in S.F. and scoop up a new pair!
Just a little peak at what I wore to work this week. I'm so glad the weekend is here. I've been on the move traveling every weekend for what seems like a month. And while I have loved every minute of it, I'm truly a homebody. I am looking forward to sleeping in, catching up on some craftasticness (almost done some Valentines-y decor I'll share with you soon) and being with hubs and kitty. Hope you have fun doing what you enjoy the best!
Bustin' Loose Tuesday: I love this dress. I got it on the cheap because it had some holes which I thought I had mended the night before. When I arrived at school, I noticed a small one near my underarm (anyone else hate the word "arm pit"?). By the end of the school day, the lil hole had grown to a new neck hole. Thankfully, I keep my sewing machine at school so I was able to do a little mending in my office. dress: The Cactus Flower, Bloomington; belt: made by me, available in my shop; shoes: anthropologie; headband: made by Jen of Peachy Tuesday

Headband close-up. I loved it so much I based Tuesday's outfit around it! These headbands are so comfortable and unique, I am constantly getting stopped and asked about them. You must check out Jen's sweet etsy shop here: http://www.etsy.com/shop/PeachyTuesday

Amazon Art Teacher from the Black Lagoon Wednesday: I didn't think about it, but with the hair and the heels, I probably reach 6' hence the "yer so tall" comments. necklace and tights: Target; sweater: a Goodwill find from my college days; belt: gift from a friend; shoes: Opposites Attract; dress: my favorite vintage shop in Orlando, Paris Market. Check them out here: http://www.shopparismarket.com/

Close up of my belt buckle. It reminded the kids of Narnia.

Red Hot Thursday: I was informed by one of my second grader girls that I needed to start wearing Red Hot Lipstick. When I asked why, she said, "It will make your face look fashion-y." Er-kay. I'll have to give it a shot. sweater and skirt: Goodwill; tights and black shirt: Target; shoes: Dolls by Nina

Is that you, Friday? It's me, Almost Insane: sweater: Goodwill; dress: vintage find from Orange, CA; belt: from my belt-gifting friend; boots: Seychelles; tights: lovely tights shop on etsy found here: http://www.etsy.com/shop/TejaJamilla

Whoooooo's glad it's the weekend?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Weird Science

The kids always know when we are going to perform a science experiment the moment I slip on the lab coat I picked up at Goodwill.
 
When we began our study of Ancient Egypt at the beginning of the school year, I stumbled upon a lesson on how to mummify an apple. Despite our short art classes (30 minutes), I decided that we would make the time for this "science experiment". So, I picked up a bag of apples, baking soda and salt from the grocery, brought in my food dehydrator, and donned my lab coat. The kids enjoyed that experiment so much that I've managed to tie in several during the course of this school year.

Lady Liberty. Did you know there are 168 steps to the top? And that she has chains under her feet to represent the stomping out of slavery? Also that one of her fingernails is as big as your lap top? Me neither. She's quite fascinating. 

Our most recent experiment ties in with our study of the Statue of Liberty. We learned that she is made of copper and that when copper oxidizes it changes from the color of a penny to a patina green. I noticed the kids where a little more than stumped by this concept. They needed to see it in action to actually grasp what in the heck I was blabbering about.

Turns out the P.E. teacher at my school is just as nuts as I am. Here we are as Lady Liberty and Frederic Bartoldhi, the sculptor behind the statue. We appeared on our school's morning sharing info on the artist and his masterpiece.

So I did a little research online and found the supplies needed for oxidizing copper could be picked up at Home Depot. When I went there, I found a couple more-than-curious employees that helped me find my supplies. I guess they don't have too many crazy art teachers coming in with requests for "just a little copper tube and some stuff to make it turn green". They sold me a tube but then referred me to Michael's for a patina kit. Muriatic acid is what is normally used to patina copper but it is highly toxic. Thankfully Michael's came through with a patina kit...however, I recently learned that Windex may have worked just as well.

The collection of pennies I happened to have in my wallet. They were a great example of the oxidation process to show the kids.

Right before the kids walked in, I decided to dig through my change for a couple of pennies. I know they handle pennies daily, so I thought that showing them the change would hit closer to home for them. I struck gold, er copper, with my collection. I love the varying change in oxidation as did the kids. We chatted about how the surface of the Statue of Liberty was covered in copper just like the pennies.

The copper tubing I picked up for a couple of bucks at Home Depot before the patina chemical was added.


Then I showed them the tubing. Using a sharpie, I divided the tubing into sections so each class could see the results of their experiment. I explained to them that the chemical I was putting on the tube would oxidize the copper, changing it to a patina. They were told that we now had to wait a week to see the results of the experiment.

After this first step in the experiment, I asked the kids the following questions: what supplies did we use? Who can trace the steps of the experiment we just performed? What do you predict the results will be? What they dictate to me is always fascinating. We have had interesting conversations on why the copper patinas instead of rusts (which I got a little lesson on from genius hubs); how chemicals cause a reaction and how this all relates back to our Lady Liberty being green like The Hulk.

After seeing this result, I realized I needed to sand the surface of the pipe to scuff it up a bit. This helped the chemical adhere to the tubing better and made the patina more even.
 One week later, we returned to our tube to find that it had indeed changed. As a wrap-up, the kids answered the questions on the second half of the sheet. You can see some of their answers below.
In all, I think it was a good experiment. It was inexpensive, short, educational and fun. Aside from this experiment and the mummified apple, we've also tried our hand at making papyrus out of rhubarb. And I've already got our next experiment in the works: dying yarn with Kool-Aid ice cubes, an idea pulled from pinterest, of course! I'll keep you posted on those results.

Monday, January 23, 2012

What Not to Wear 3

Monday: Having the day off usually means I don't look presentable until around 2pm. Unless I was going to the Walmarts, in which case my slippers, pajamas and ratty hair would have been the standard. top: embroidered top by Urban Outfitters, under top by Target; skirt: Goodwill; tights: probably Marshall's; shoes: sale at Urban Outfitters
Hey, kids. I really don't think I can attach much commentary to this here post as my brain is officially toast. I'm just in from a wonderful visit to the beautiful city of San Francisco to see one of my favorite people. I'm still so warm and fuzzy from my experience, and exhausted from the flight home, that I can hardly string a sentence together. And I just don't wanna do that to you. So! Here's what I wore this week (and what I recommend you don't) and I'll chat with you when my mind returns to it's normal-ish state. Later!
Big-Bun-Looks-Like-a-Hat Tuesday: Kindergartener: Mrs. Stephens, I know what we can make today! A hat just like the one you are wearing. Me: That's my hair, not a hat. Kindergartener: Oh, Mrs. Stephens, you are so silly. That is a hat! sweater: Ann Taylor find at Goodwill; dress: Egyptian-print vintage dress found on etsy; tights: Target; shoes: Indigo by Clarks

Wednesday: So I had to take a kid out into the hall for a little chat. But I noticed his eyes kept rolling up toward the top of my head quizzically. So I told him, "if you can get it together, I'll tell you what's inside my big hair." I had no more problems after that. dress: a gift from a sweet art teacher friend that actually made and wore it back in the day; tights and undershirt: Target: shoes: Indigo by Clarks (what?! They were having a sale!)

If You're Going to San Francisco Thursday: Off to see my best friend from high school! dress: anthropologie; sweater: vintage Goodwill purchase; leg warmers: amazon; boots: Frye

Friday: This photo makes me sad because I'm not living it right now! I had the best time in San Francisco with my friend Ian, his mom and all of his amazing friends. sweater: Ann Taylor picked up at Goodwill; dress: BCBG; fishnets and tights: Marshall's; leg warmers: souvenir from Germany a couple of years ago; boots: Frye

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Egyptian Style

Portrait of the Ancient Egyptian goddess Isis created by one of my fourth grade students. I love that the artist embossed the goddess' name in hieroglyphics at the bottom of the frame.
For the record, let me just say that this lesson is not mine. I found it on pinterest, which lead me to artsonia. The image I found there showed that the middle school-aged students had watercolor painted their gods and painted their frame with metallic paint. As you can see, I altered the lesson some. It has taken my fourth grade students quite a bit of time but they are finally seeing the light at the end of the Never-Ending-Project tunnel. The kids and I are both pleased with the results so I though I'd share my version of the lesson.

Don't let the picture fool you. This photo was taken at the begin of the year before the dementors, er, students entered the scene. Now there's a drum kit where the rugs were and the third grader's half-painted sarcophaguses (sarcophagui?) drying all over the floor.

Our year long theme is the study of Ancient Egypt (really? I had to tell you that? I'm kinda like Mrs. Obvious, if you've not noticed). I chose this theme because of the Egyptian exhibit at the local art museum that the majority of my students field-tripped to.


Portrait of the Ancient Egyptian god Horus.
 This particular unit began with a sit down in Ancient Egypt where the students were told the story of the two gods portrayed on my window, Isis and her son Horus. In case you don't know the story, it goes something like this: Jealous brother Seth decides to take down his brother Osiris. Builds him sarcophagus, convinces him to climb inside and suffocates him. Wife of Osiris, Isis, sends her eagle-headed son Horus to avenge his father's death. That's what she's chatting with him about on my painted window. Confused? Well, the Ancient Egyptians believed in hundreds of gods, some animal, some human and some a combo of both, all with strange tales of their own. Needless to say, to the average 10 year old, the stories are fascinating.   
Ancient Egyptian god Osiris who is often depicted the color green. We're guessing it has to do with all that suffocating business.
After learning about the Ancient Egyptian gods (with an emphasis on the fact that these are false gods), students were given a handout with a list of about a dozen gods, their back story and their image in profile. After they chose one that piqued their interest, they began to sketch out their god in pencil and trace their lines in sharpie.
Learning the fine art of metal tooling.
From there, I introduced colored pencils. I briefly chatted with the kids about coloring and let them have at it. It was a total disaster. After creating such beautiful drawings, I was disappointed that their coloring skills were lacking. Or, rather, their art teacher had failed to teach them some important things about shading, value and blending.
So I backtracked. I created a colored pencil coloring sheet (don't stop reading, hear me out) that involved creating a gradation of values. There was also a little review on color theory. Some got it and applied it to their drawings and some didn't. But it did improve their application of colored pencil greatly.

Once the gods and goddesses were complete, I introduced the kids to Ancient Egyptian symbols. We looked at symbols we see and recognize everyday (hearts, peace signs, smiley faces, etc.) and discussed how the Egyptians used symbols as well. Using a 3" by 4" piece of styrofoam, the kids chose a symbol that they felt related to their god and engraved it into the foam.

I love the tooled metal design on this frame.
As you can see from these drawings, the ankh was a very popular symbol with the kids. When printmaking, I set out two trays of ink and brayers for each table of four students. Working with a partner, the kids printed for several art classes. One day we printed with metallics and the next, we tried our hand at rainbow printing, which they loved. It was an absolute mess and sometimes frustrating for both the kids and myself. But by the last day, they were printmaking fools.
Anubis.
Last week, we started the metal tooled frame. I have five rolls of tooling metal in red, blue, green, gold, and silver. We chatted about embossing, looked at Egyptian patterns, recalled hieroglyphics and symbols. With dull pencils and a foam board for cushion, the students managed to complete their frames in just a few classes. I've been dangling the carrot of weaving over their heads, so they are more than ready to move on. I began assembling the works of art yesterday in my excitement to see what they would look like. 

I don't know if you can tell, but the images of the gods are three dimensional. Pieces of foam core were glued underneath to raise them up. I also hot glued the metal frame to the construction paper because the edges are sharp and that metal gets as hot as a mother with hot glue on it. Oh, convection, how I hate you.

In all, I thought this was a pretty successful project. We managed to learn about drawing, shading, printmaking, metal tooling and just a smidge of Ancient Egyptian history. I am so thankful for pinterest and the art teacher behind the original lesson.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Love Letters

The Inspiration: When I was taking down my collection of vintage Christmas postcards, I fell in love with the backs of the cards.
I love getting mail. Especially hand-written letters. But people don't really do that any more. Well, they've not been writing to me, anyway.
Improvising: I racked my brain trying to find a way to create the perforated stamp edge. When I was in my sewing room, I noticed the rick-rack that the cat was chewing on. It worked perfectly.
When I was taking down my collection of Christmas postcards, I noticed the back of the cards for the first time. I loved the yellowed paper, the vintage typography, the flowing script of the sender, the post office seal. I sat down and read all of the postcards. My little collection is from the early 1900's. What I found interesting was how much the content of the letters seemed like it could have been written yesterday. "How are you? I'm sorry I've not written; Send your family my love; The weather here is mild for this time of year."
The Stamps: I have a collection of  vintage used stamps and I thought this one looked fitting. I was too lazy to do the research to see if these were actually World War II-era stamps.
 I'd already had it in my head that I wanted to do a little decorating around the house for Valentine's Day. I don't usually decorate for holidays, but I had so much fun morphing the house into my idea of a vintage Christmas, I decided I wanted to do something similar for Valentine's Day.
My Version: I lightly sketched the shape of the bell and free handed the detailing. I used these great pens by Faber-Castell  that I picked up at JoAnn's for the majority of the drawing. The only painted portions are the background and the stamps.
So with that thought in mind and with my new-found love of these postcards, I decided to create a couple of love letters. My head was still stuck in World War II-era  mode after finishing the embroidery of my sailor dress. I settled on the idea of having a young serviceman and his girlfriend exchange a postcard correspondence.
Penmanship: At the elementary school I attended, we did not have art class. So the closest thing for me was learning penmanship. I was not especially good at math and I totally didn't get that short vowel stuff, but penmanship I could do. Did you know that it is no longer taught in most elementary schools? Such a bummer.
 So I searched for and found some stamp designs. I had already settled on using on of my vintage postcards as the inspiration for the layout and typography. But what would I write? I didn't want it to come across as gag-me cheesy or The Notebook-esque because I'm like the antithesis of sappy. When I get an "I love you" from dear ole hubs, my reply is usually, "Whatever, I'm going to punch you in the face when you're sleeping tonight."
What it says: Dear Michael, I miss you darling very much. You say you won't get furlough that's bad. Don't dream too much now. Hoping to hear from you real soon sweetheart. As ever, Ann Jean
Obviously I couldn't write that punching-in-the-face business on one of my postcards so I googled "love letters from WW II".  I stumbled upon this beautiful story of a family of four siblings that discovered their father's love letters written to their mother during his time overseas. I poured over the site, reading each letter and the narrative that gave the back story. If you have time, I really think you should give it a look: http://www.cbn.com/special/ww2letters/
Typography: When did we stop being so fancy? When we started having everything made in China and stopped caring, I suppose.
I borrowed heavily from this site for the wording on the postcard below. I also used the addresses and what I could make out of the postage seal. These paintings will never leave my home so I am not worried about it upsetting the family. Though I suppose I should contact them out of courtesy. 
What it says: Dear Ann Jean, Please excuse the long delay in writing to you. This delay is in no way an indication of lapse of memory for you have been on my mind from one night in Boston. So much has happened and it is forbidden to tell all that it makes letter writing difficult. Ann I close this short note as I am very tired for I have traveled 125 miles over these rough mountainous roads today. Love, Michael
The website only has the letters that the husband wrote to his wife. And the funny thing is, the husband's name is Mitch (my hub's name). So I decided to change it to Michael. I just thought it would be too weird otherwise. We already get enough comments about the nude painting of the two of us laying on a bear rug that hangs above our mantle.
The Stamp: I found the other stamp design on pinterst. I love the dove with the shadow of the airplane and the letter in it's beak. I think I have Put-a-Bird-on-It syndrome. If you don't know what I'm talking about, you must leave here and go to youtube pronto.
 The writing I used for Ann Jean's letter came from another website with love letters. Again, I had to shorten the writing a bit to make it fit the format of the postcard. You can read a multitude of World War II letters here: http://www.fold3.com/page/1239_love_letters_during_world_war_ii/
Finished: This is how the two postcards look together in our dining room.
Hubs said no one would believe the size of the postcards unless a giant object was photographed next to them. Guess what giant object he had in mind.
Each postcard is about 24" x 18". I wrapped the edges in black satin ribbon and hung them in my dining room this afternoon. Right after the postman delivered the mail...which, for a change, included a little something for me. I'll have to share with you the sweet gift my brother's girlfriend Elsa made for me next time.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

What Not to Wear 2

Monday, Monday: dress: vintage find at Goodwill; belt: one of mine, available in my shop; tights: black fishnets over maroon tights; shoes: Indigo by Clarks; headband: just a piece of black fabric that I hot glued a flower onto while wearing, thusly hot gluing the flower to my head. Awesome.
I'm just in from a butt-numblingly long road trip to Bloomington, Indiana. Okay, it's not that long of a car ride, just five or so hours, but I don't do well with long sittin's. I like to imagine it's because my tooshie has such a small amount of cushion that it can hardly withstand a lengthy car ride when, in actuality, it's just that I have a sad -n- flat white girl butt. A little back-side shelf space would be nice but I'm pretty sure the booty fairy ain't coming.

Come Sail Away Tuesday: dress: Goodwill, embroidered by me; sweater: Goodwill; belt: made by me, available in my shop; tights: white Urban Outfitters tights over red Target ones; shoes: Indigo by Clarks

This is seriously not where I was intending to take this post so let me back this thing up (and by thing, I don't mean "thang" as we've already established that I don't have one of those). So, uh, I went to Bloomington this weekend which, by the way, is the best college town ever. With the most awesome campus, the sweetest downtown square and the hippest cafes, restaurants and boutiques. At least that's how I remember it.

Rodeo Style Wednesday: bandana: stolen from hubs; shirt, belt, skirt: all thrifted from Goodwill; boots: Frye picked up at French's in Franklin, TN

But when I drove into Bloomington on Friday afternoon, it looked a little different. There were so many franchise fast food joints, banks and new construction that it was just a bit disheartening. I convinced myself that it was because I was on the outskirts of town, that the heart of town would still be home to the unique mom and pop joints that I remember.

On this day, one of my sarcophagus-painting 3rd graders looked me up and down and declared, "Huh, no offense, but you look kind of boring today, Mrs. Stephens." Thursday: dress: Goodwill. I took up the hem (maybe a little too much!); sweater: I appliqued some of the fabric from dress onto my Goodwill sweater; tights: Target; shoes: Anthropologie

And it kinda was. I mean, some of my favorite places where still here. But not all of them. Like the little independent shop The White Rabbit where I picked up Klimt posters for my dorm room is now a Starbucks. What used to be a little convenient store/incense shop is now a massive Urban Outfitters. And the shops that are still there aren't exactly the same. The hippie store that used to only sell South American fair trade clothing now sells dresses made in China. My favorite vintage clothing store also sells new clothing.

Snow Day Friday: Geared up to spend the next five-ish hours in the car driving to Bloomington. Sweater: Urban Outfitters found at Goodwill; Skirt: Free People found at Marshall's; boots: Frye found at Journeys years ago for a mere $39!

And I get it. They've gotta adjust to the times or else chance going out of business. But for selfish reasons, I just hate it. I felt like I could have been on any ole college campus, not mine. There was a homogeneous to it that kinda bummed me out. 

Butt, er, but, guess who picked up a $3 tea at Starbucks? And scooped up some painfully hip shoes at Urban Outfitters (they enhanced my derriere, I swear!)? That's right, the hypocrite with the flat butt. Suppose if I stopped participating in such commericalism, I could justly complain. Hmm, something to think about. Over a Starbucks, of course.