Wednesday, October 15, 2014

DIY: El Dia de los Muertos Reversible Embroidered Necklace

Oh, y'all. I know I shouldn't say this after a glorious Fall Break (of which many of you were unfairly shafted) but I am so stinkin' beat. I dunno if it's the weather, the lack of proper nutrition (last year's Halloween candy for brekky? Don't mind if I do, nom-nom-nom.) or the fact that I stayed up entirely too late working on this here DIY. All I know is that the absolute highlight of my day, THEE single most glorious moment was, are you ready? The removal of my bra. That's right. I do believe the words: "OMG, So. Much. Better." came outs my mouth. And just as I was throwing the blankets over my head for a lil afternoon shut-eye, the hubs says those dreaded oh-crap, I-totes-forgot! words, "Happy Anniversary! Wanna go out for dinner?" 

To which I threw off my blankets to expose my super seductive sweatpants and inside out t-shirt and said, "Why would you wanna go anywhere when you can stay (patting the bed) right here?"

This was understandably met with silence which was then followed by, "So. Halloween candy dinner?"

Das right. I know how to do a 13th year anniversary, y'all.
Mitch (the man who actually hates that I refer to him as "hubs" which, of course, can only mean one thing: refer to him as "hubs" as much as possible) and I began dating my first year of teaching some 17-ish years ago. So many things have changed since. I no longer wear ill-fitting mom jeans or color my hair (both things the hubs talked me out of, thankfully) and that dude no longer shaves. Everrr. 
Oh, pardon me, was this a DIY post? I just can't believe I got sidetracked with a sidebar conversation, that's just soo-oo-oooh unlike me (cue fake laugh and hair flip). Ahem. Let's chat abouts this DIY already, shall we?
When anniversary man and I were on our recent trip to SoCal (excuse me, but I gotta know, does calling Southern California "SoCal" make me sound as a-hole-ish as I think it does? Yeah, that's what I thought), we took a trip down Olvera Street. I absolutely loved it there especially all of the Dia de los Muertos goodness.
Like these happy dudes. Knowing that we had a long plane ride ahead (and many rounds of traffic jams. It's LA, people. No matter what time of day you travel, one thing is for certain: you will be sitting in your car on a highway at a dead stop for no visible reason.), I brought some fabric and my embroidery supplies along. After being inspired, I drew a rough idea in my sketchbook and then proceeded to draw out my idea on fabric in colored pencil. 
And after a coupla hours (okay, prolly more than that, I'm super slow and picky. I take out more stitches than I put in!), I had this complete. Oh! I forgot to mention...
This here was the wooden blank I used as the template for my necklace. I picked this up (along with several other woody-goodies) from Rock'n Wood. Super great shop and lightening fast delivery, y'all! When I bought it, I originally thought I'd be painting on the base but then the idea of adding embroidery popped into my extraordinarily small brain.
To adhere the embroidery to the wooden base, I use my trusty Tacky Glue. Y'all I love this stuff. So much so I even hypothesized what the REAL Aleene might be like here. After adhering both my little embroidery pieces, I added some ribbon (from some old Anthropologie gift wrap) around the edge. I had a really groovy old broken necklace that found a new life in the form of this here piece.
And since traffic proved to be extra trafficky, once finished with one side of my necklace, I decided to do the reverse. So, in honor of the hubs and I's anniversary, I did a dancing couple (just kidding, this idea had nothing to do with our anniversary, I'm not nearly as sentimental and thoughtful as I'd like y'all to believe. Hence the sweatpants and inside out t-shirt.)
This time I actually have photographic evidence of the process. Here's my wee sketch.
 And my lap whilst sitting in traffic. You can kinda see the white pencil lines on the fabric here.
I got all cray with the teeny tiny stitches. Surprisingly, for someone who doesn't loooove embroidery, this was actually super fun. Well, "super fun" might be a bit of an exaggeration. Enjoyable? Satisfying? Fun-ish? Better than wanting to throw myself out of a non-moving, stuck-in-traffic car? That's prolly more like it.
 Oh, look, me pre-sweatpants. 
Thought bubble: How many hours until I can take off this stinkin' bra?!

And there you have it, kids! A reversible Dia de los Muertos embroidered necklace. Thanks for dropping, time to wrangle up last year's Halloween candy. This anniversary dinner ain't gonna unwrap and give us cavities by itself!
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Sunday, October 12, 2014

What the Art Teacher Wore #118 Whilst Fall Breakin'!

Fall Breakin': If they ever decide to take away my fall break, I don't know what I'll do. Aside from take a week-long sick leave, that is. totes ensemble: some thrifted, some new, all Target label 

Kids, I recently discovered some disturbing news: not all the world experiences the magic that is Fall Break. And my heart weeps for those peeps, y'all. With all my glorious days of freedom, I gotta admit, I've totes lost track of time. Therefore this outfit/vacay post will be random and nonsensical. Well, more so than the ushe, kids (yes, I linked you to Urban Dictionary. I'm tryin to keep you young -n- hip, yo). I kicked off my fall break by traveling to and presenting at Bowling Green State University. It was so much fun even if I was nervous/excited/happy/spazzy all at one time (again, just the ushe). 
I was SUPER stoked to (finally) meet Beth Sheets who orchestrated the whole affair and Laura of the fantastic art teacherin' blog Painted Paper (follow the link, Laura has all of her super fab fall projects up right now!) as well as the fabulous students, art educators and professors all linked to Bowling Green State University. Y'all. What a beautiful campus that is. Brought back so many happy (albeit super stressed) memories of college life. 
 Knott's Scary Farm: Which is a complete lie as Knott's was pretty stinkin' scary. They always manage to spook the hubs and I early in the night. But as the eve goes on, we're all, "yeah, you have a chainsaw and a mangled foot hanging out of your mouth but could you please pardon me, I'm on my way to the restroom. Cute third eye, btw." jacket: Modcloth, old; dress: picked up in Burbank at a cute shop called Audrey K. Click here for some cute Halloween attire on her website; crinoline: amazon; sandals: Chacos. My theme park footwear of choice. 

On Wednesday, hubs and I flew out to sunny So-Cal for our annual Halloweenin' adventure. I had my suitcase stuffed with every Halloween garment I've created (um, what'd they do multiply? Holy creepy clothes, Freddy Krueger, I have a ton!) and we were on our way. First stop: Knott's Scary Farm. 
If you've never been to Knott's Scary Farm and you are local, you should totes go. The "mazes" (what I call "haunted houses") are great fun with fantastical sets and atmosphere. There were close to a dozen mazes and each one had it's own unique theme and storyline.
The Trick or Treat house was one of my faves. Don't you love the outside? How fun was that set to create, right?
Our fave part was easily the Elvira show. You know that lady is like 63?! And every bit as hilarious, gorgeous and busty as ever. At one point she rapped a ditty about herself to the tune of Iggy Azalea's Fancy and nailed it. 
Olvera Street is My Jam: Suriously, y'all. I coulda spent all day there. The atmosphere was super fun what with el Dia de los Muertos approaching. Not only that but I absolutely love the style of traditional Mexican clothing: the embroidery, the bright colors, the vintage style. I managed to scoop up several fun pieces that I'll be sharing with y'all in outfit posts to come, I'm sure. sweater and dress: Halloween DIY by me
I hadn't been to Olvera Street in several years and since my students are currently learning about the culture of Latin America, I thought now would be the perfect time. I really loved every aspect of the street, especially the clothing.
 Oh, and the masks!
AND the Day of the Dead goods. There was so much to take in, I wish my students could field trip there! I snapped a ton of photos to create a prezi to share with them after break.
That night we went to Universal Studio's Halloween Horror Nights in Hollywood. Y'all. I filmed a lil video of what they call the "Opening Scare-monies" just for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy.

I'm not braggin' when I say I'm like a haunted house vet because we've gone for years. But, honestly, this scared the crapola outta me! Hence the shaky camera. We were at the front of the line with about 100 plus people behind us. Where the film ends is where we took off running away from the chain-saw wielding maniacs. 
The following day, whilst out hitting my fave vintage shops, I found this! WHAT?! There's a Mood in Hollywood?! Don't mind if I do!
I loved that the window featured dresses that had been painted on. Each one was incredible. 
Before you ask, I didn't buy a single thing. Not a stitch. Here's why: a buddy of mine and I always joke that IKEA gives us fits because it's just so overwhelming. Well, here's Exhibit A that Mood is just the same. There were aisles upon aisles just like this. And after the little dog tried to bite my hand, I was all THANK YOU, MOOD! and out the door.
That eve hubs and I hit Disneyland with our first stop at California Adventure to see our fave band The Mad T Party. They put on four separate shows, each with a Halloween theme. The final show featured an incredible rendition of Thriller complete with zombie dancers. 
And now it's all over. Back to the real world soon. I hope that y'all have had a fantastical week! I'll be back with ya soon. Until then!

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Thursday, October 9, 2014

In the Art Room: An (Awesomely Candid) Interview with a First Year Art Teacher

If this beautiful face looks familiar to you, that's because it's the always-awesome Rebecca Tenpenny, my student teacher from last fall! Since leaving my (super sad and sobbing) side, Rebecca has moved to Salt Lake City, Utah where she currently teaches art at two kindergarten through sixth grade schools. At one placement, she is on a cart and at the other, she's got her own art room. Being a new art teacher, I thought it would be fun to interview Rebecca. She's also included some photos of her art room, her displays and the lovely landscape that is Salt Lake City. Without further ado, here's Rebecca!
Rebecca hiking with Kingsley, her 85 lbs lab.

During your first few months of teaching, what has surprised you the most? 

I AM SO TIRED ALL THE TIME! I was definitely not ready for how physically affected I would be.  I am surprised by how emotionally, mentally, psychologically and physically draining teaching is. And allllllll of those things combine to make me the most exhausted human being in every way possible. I always thought I was one of those people who could stay up late and then get up whenever, because, well when I was in college I did just that. But now that I’m a little bit older, my body is not as resilient as it used to be. And don’t give me that stuff about how I’m still super young and have no idea what getting older is really like. I know I am young and have a long road ahead. I’m just saying that being about a year away from 30 is a lot different than being in your early 20s. 
Display outside of Rebecca's art room.

This whole situation is like when people say“you’ll never know what it’s like to have kids until you have them,” and people who are expecting think “ok well I’ve heard that a lot so I won’t be too surprised when the baby comes and it’s nuts” and then they still are surprised once they do have the kids. Well, I don’t have any children of my own…oh, but wait! I already do! Imagine having about 1100 kids, and they all want your attention and need your help because they’ve never had art before, can’t speak English, just moved to the country a week ago, OR are just so excited that they can’t sit still. THAT is why I am so exhausted. Phew. Rant. Over.

(Oh my goodness, you guys, don't you love Rebecca? Teachers everywhere are sayin', "right on, sistah. Preach.")
What do you feel the most comfortable with?

Hmmmm…..I feel the most comfortable with my 85 lb black lab on my lap, a drink in my hand, and reruns of Parks and Rec playing on the Netflix. Wait, oh you mean with teaching? NOTHING! Just kidding. Kind of. I think if I had to pick something (because honestly I know that in every way I have a TON to learn and shouldn’t be too comfortable) then it would be not taking stuff too seriously. Does that count? I mean, when I am in front of the kids, I am super goofy, I make mistakes, I laugh at myself with the kids, and also just go with the flow. They seem to appreciate that maybe because, well, they make mistakes all the time too. I mean…NONE of them are perfect (WHY AREN'T THEY PERFECT???), but neither am I. I try to remind them of that all the time. AND I remind them that this is a good thing, because this is what makes us all unique.
However, that makes me sounds like I’m this super chill art teacher who lets their kids get away with anything. I’m NOT (Or maybe I am but don’t tell my students). One thing that goes along with being relaxed is that I don’t let them walk all over me. Because in the back of my mind I always know that this is a job, but it is not who I am. I mean, part of my identity now is definitely “crazy art teacher” (You’re not the only one described as such, Stephens. Just the other day a sixth grader wrote an entire journal entry for her teacher about how Ms. Tenpenny’s clothes never match. I love it!). Still, I know that this isn’t the only place where my happiness comes from. So, I don’t put up with them treating me or my art room like badly because I’m aware that there is more to life than teaching and in any situation I wouldn’t let people treat me poorly. That all sounds a bit confusing, but I’m a visual person so don’t blame me for my words.  I think this is what most people call “classroom management.” Those dreaded words. But yeah, I think I’m pretty comfortable with classroom management. I make sure the kids know WHO I am, how I feel about things and how I will react when they don’t meet expectations. And this leads to a pretty comfy environment, I hope. The kids seem to like it in my room and I usually like them….except when they laugh at another kid who farts. IT WAS AN ACCIDENT! (and totally not me!)
Disclaimer: I totally didn't pay Rebecca (that much) for her next comments. Aw, shucks, buddy.

And spare me your false humility because you better include this next part: I only feel this comfortable with myself in the classroom and with classroom management in general because I learned from you! To those who are reading this blog: Cassie may be super humble sometimes, and may have false humility at other times, but when it comes to people bragging on her teaching…no one is over-exaggerating! I am the luckiest of lucky for being able to student teach with her and learn from her every day. Cassie, you didn’t give me explicit instructions about how to be a good teacher or connect with my students, but in every way on every day, you led by example. When district people or other teachers out there compliment me on my super sweet skillzzzz, I always say, it’s because I learned from the best. And then I direct them to your blog, and they’re like “Oh! You’re not actually just good at this because you’re just copying everything from this fantastic lady.” It’s true. Seriously. If all art teachers could student teach under you, then the world would be a better place.
Talk a little about your unique teaching situation. What's that like?

Well, I am currently employed under the Beverly Taylor Sorensen Arts Learning Program grant. Look up that kids, she is amazing and has done INCREDIBLE things for the kiddos of Utah by getting art into their schools. They seriously wouldn’t have it without her. The core of the grant centers on how arts INTEGRATION (key word) helps student achievement. So, as part of my job description, I must integrate other subjects into each project to support classroom learning. I also have the classroom teacher in the room with me at all times as a side-by-side teaching model in order to reinforce whatever core subject I integrate. So, that is a blessing and a challenge for sure. I totally agree that art should integrate other subjects to show students (and the rest of the world) that art is an essential part of life and learning, BUT it does feel like there is quite a bit of pressure on me to make my projects as “helpful” to the students core subject learning as possible. So, I couldn’t just teach an art for art’s sake project which I want to do. All the time.
Having the teacher in the room with me at all times has been great for learning kids names, classroom management and integration because lets be honest, I can’t remember what different micro-organisms there are! I have formed some great relationships with all of the teachers I work with because of this. We really do have a blast! And it is super awesome because they are able to see some of their students shine that normally don’t in the general classroom setting. Some people might think that it would be stressful to have another teacher in there, but it’s not! Even if a teacher thinks I’m crazy for doing things a certain way (refer back to previous question’s answer), I literally couldn’t care less. Meaning, their opinion matters to me to a certain extent, but in the end, it’s just my job. Not my life.
Rebecca's students' display for International Dot Day. I KNOW. Amazing!

Other than what the grant requires, my job situation is pretty unique. Well, it’s very different from what I was used to back in TN. I actually split my time between two schools. They are similar, and then extremely different at the same time. Both schools are Title 1, and have about 95% of their students on free lunch. They are both VERY diverse when it comes to the students’ ethnic backgrounds. Which I LOVE.

At one school I have a classroom, the other I am on a cart. Both situations have advantages (yes, I do believe being on a cart has its advantages) and disadvantages.
The school where I have a classroom is one of the refugee schools in the district. Salt Lake City has a high population of refugees from all over the world, and I get to be a lucky lady who works with a lot of these kids. And I mean it. I love being at this school. There are over 30 languages spoken there. The top five being: 1. Spanish 2. English 3. Somali 4. Arabic 5. Karen (which is represented by our Burmese students). Now, there are definite challenges that come along with being a refugee school, mainly the language barrier. But the most heartbreaking issue is the opinion of the surrounding community. Most families that live in the area assume that it is a bad school with bad kids and a rough environment because of the refugee population and they won’t let their kids go there. This makes me want to go to each of them individually and 1. Punch them in the face 2. Berate them for hours and 3. Let my dogs poop in their yard and not pick it up. Because they couldn’t be more wrong. Now, do we have issues that all schools go through with attitudes and fighting and whatever else? Yes. But you show me a school that doesn’t and I will give you my dog. That’s saying a lot.
Bottom line: my teaching situation is VERY different from what I thought it would be when I finished grad school, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. My kids are awesome, and I love them to pieces. Even when I want to squash them to pieces. The teachers that I work with are a fantastic mix between awesome seasoned veterans and fresh-faced, excited newbies, and I have found some amazing friends. What I would trade is my salary…but I’m SURE I’m the only one who thinks that!
Rebecca and her boyfriend Doug (sorry, dudes. She's taken.) love getting out and enjoying the beautiful surrounds. So jelly!

How are you feeling about your life choices (haha, this question reads so funny but you know what I mean!)?

As far as my life choices, I am feeling great! Moving out here was an awesome decision. I knew that if I stayed in TN and found a job there, then it would probably be in an area that I wasn’t too excited to live in because there were hardly any job openings at all. Except one near you that I knew I wouldn’t get…If I could’ve my life might be so different right now! Haha. So, in order to keep my sanity at my job, I wanted to go somewhere that was new and exciting with all sorts of adventure at my doorstep. Utah has definitely proved to be that place. I actually was trying to move to central Oregon (in which there were ZERO jobs) and went to a job fair in Portland, OR. There I met the wonderful HR ladies from my district here is SLC. They interviewed me that day, sent my resume and portfolio out to the schools and I eventually got the right call! Oh, and let me tell you, I don’t know that I would have gotten the job if it hadn’t been for my ridiculously thorough leave behind portfolio that I gave them. So, a HUGE thanks to Debrah Sickler-Voigt over at MTSU for inspiring and pushing me when I needed it. I would never have left the impression I did on my interviewers if it wasn’t for her guidance and all of the opportunities I had through the program at MTSU.
Rebecca and I back in the day. We had so much fun teaching together!

Since being here, it’s been basically impossible to not find adventure. I joined a bouldering rock gym, got a season pass at the Brighton ski resort for the winter (snowboarding here I come!) and have been hiking as much as possible. The first few weeks here before school started I got to go to the Grand Teton, Arches, and Canyonlands National Parks.  I live down the street from a huge park and just a few blocks from all of the downtown excitement. It has been amazing. Of course I miss everyone in my life though. I knew only one person out here (who moved from TN the same week!). It was a big step, but I’d done it before for my undergraduate school in LA so I wasn’t too scared. It was definitely hard to decide to move away from my mom and dad, especially at a time when my brother was moving to Africa with his family. Basically in one fail swoop we left them with no kids in the area…but to that I say: you have a motorhome and a love for travel just like me, parents! And to which they replied by driving out the first month I lived here. I am very lucky to have parents who are supportive and excited for me…and who expect this kind of crazy behavior from me.
As far as the decision to teach: well if you can’t tell, I’m a little crazy and like to go and do and experience A LOT of different things. So, after college it was hard to settle on just one career/job. I bounced around a lot, but feel pretty at home now that I have settled on teaching. It’s pretty fun to have something different going on every day and to experience different kiddos each hour. Keeps my ADD at bay. It goes without saying that there are PLENTY of days and classes that leave me thinking “is this all worth it?” I sometimes just don’t want to move or talk to anyone for days and days. There are times that homesickness for my friends and family seems overwhelming. So, don’t let me raving about my new life out here fool you, it’s still hard! However, ultimately when I sit down and answer these types of questions, I feel pretty great about where I’m at right now. Career-wise and just life in general. Definitely ask me again later though….because goodness knows my mind might change about everything. But for now, I’m seriously loving it. And sleepy. So sleepy.

Rebecca! Thank you so very much for this amazing interview. Those kids and school(s) are so fortunate to have you. You're the best!

If y'all have any questions or thoughts for Rebecca, please leave them below in the comments. I'm sure she'll be happy to answer 'em (riiiiiight, Rebecca?). 

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Sunday, October 5, 2014

What the Art Teacher Wore #117 and It's Fall, Y'all!

 Fall Colors Monday: I scored this vintage dress last spring and I've been saving it to wear on the perfect fall day every since. Despite that 1950's Ima-gonna-choke-ya collar, I love it so. dress: vintage, etsy; belt: Anthro; shoes: Frye; pin and bangles: vintage, gift from moms-in-law

Well, hello thar, buddies! I dunno what you are doing this upcoming week but I can tell you that mine is totes kid-free! That's right, I'm on Fall Break. To the creators of said Fall Break, I take my hat off to you (not that I'm much of a hat-wearer but in this case, I'll wear one and, well, take it off). I'm so looking forward to this week cuz it's gonna be a wild and crazy ride. Tomorrow I'm heading to Bowling Green, Ohio to chat with art educators there (deets here, kids. It's free and open to the public so you should totes attend, kay?). After that, the hubs and I are heading out to Cali for back to back nights of haunted fun-ness. I've got all my Halloween dresses laid out and ready to be packed up just for the occasion.

Since it's fall and all, I decided to dress in my fave fall dresses this week. I also thought I'd share with you some of my favorite fall projects that have been posted on this here blog. Just incase you get that crafty itch (which they've yet to make a cream for) and wanna get your artsy on. 

I'd love to hear what you are up to this fall. Anyone else on break? Whatcha doin'? Until next time, kids, enjoy this fallishness!
 This here leaf-relief project is one that I've done with my third grade students (and buddies on craft nights) and they always look amazing. The process is simple, the supplies are cheap and the results are rad. Follow this link-y-loo for the directions.
 Terrifying Tuesday: So on Tuesday night, I went on a lil photo shoot. More details to come unless I made a fool outta myself (um, more so than the norms) and gotta go confiscate all said photos and burn 'em. Seriously, y'all, I take my own pics with a timer or my handy clicker. I ain't used to no one being behind the camera so it's a lil unnerving when there is! Although, I gotta hand it to the photographer, he was great. But I'm rambling, deets to come, eeeh! dress: vintage; shoes: Dolls by Nina
 One of my favorite things about fall is the changing of the leaves. A coupla years back, I collected a million leaves and started squashing 'em between a leaf press. After a couple of days, I took them out and created several paintings like this one with them. 
 Do you even know what a stress reliever it is to tighten the screws on one of these bad boys everyday? I love that the leaves retained their color and still the look the same in these paintings even though they are years old.
 Whuz Up, Wednesday: This week was seriously a busy one. It seems each day of the week I was buzzing off somewhere. I'm so glad it's fall break, y'all. Let the laziness commence. dress: The Limited, a couple years back; sweater: Thrifted
 My kindergarten friends created these leaves-floating-on-water pieces a couple of years ago. One thing I always add to my school supply order are those Rolyco Color Diffusing Leaves (sold in just about any art supply catalog). My kinder kids learned about line, the veins of a leaf and warm colors just in the leafy portion of this project alone. After coloring the leaves with warm color marker, water was added and the magic of color diffusing happened. The leaves were backed in construction paper with a small square of cardboard added to the back for a pop-out effect. For the water, the kids painted concentric circles and added a piece of tissue on top. 
 Big Puffy Arm Thursday: Seriously, whatcha doing there, Big Fat Sleeve? Oh, did I forget to mention that I've been workin out but only that right tricep (or is that a bicep? Maybe my thigh-cep? Whatevers, my arm looks big in the picture. Why didn't I just say that?!). dress: Anthro, found at Buffalo Exchange; top: gift; embroidered necklace: DIY, here

 I love this project so much that I'm actually really excited to return to school after break and to a variation with my fourth grade students. You can read more about this project here
 Fall Break Friday! Not that I'm excited or anything, ahem. sweater, belt and dress: thrifted; necklace: Forever21; owl sandals: Anthro
 I love embroidering when I travel. It's the perfect little craft. In fact, I'm getting ready to start a new stitchin' for our upcoming long plane rides. You can read about this stitched up fall blouse here

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