Thursday, June 30, 2011

Teacher's Gift - Wordle with students thoughts

When my kids are preparing to sing the old song "No more pencils, no more books, no more teacher's dirty looks" I struggle with what to give their teachers as year end gifts. I personally try to avoid traditional teacher's gifts like mugs or pens or even gift cards. I will admit I do use gift cards as my last resort because I know teachers spend so much of there own money to stock their classrooms and this gives them a little to spend on themselves.


This year my daughter had 2 new teachers so they both got my Name art. I think this will be an annual tradition for all her teachers. My son on the other hand, will always be two years behind her with the same teachers; therefore, I have to think of new and exciting things for them.

So for my son's teacher this year, I asked permission to talk to the kids in his class one morning while they were signing in. I asked each of them to give me three words or phrases to describe their teacher. Some struggled a little bit but with come guidance, they all were able to give me something . Some were really cute, like "I like her hair" but most said what they felt in their hearts (just like 4 and 5 year old kids do). 

Note: In case you were wondering what the blurry gap was in all of the images, I blurred out the name of our school. 

I typed every word the kids gave me (even the repeats) into a word file. I then went to the Wordle site and created a new Wordle. For those of you who don't know Wordle, it is a free program that creates word clouds.

A few tips when entering the words into Wordle. In order for there to be a space between two words, use the ~ symbol. So for "I like her hair" I had to enter "I~like~her~hair". If you enter a space, the words will appear separately.  Every time a word appears/is entered, the word get larger in the cloud. In other words, the larger the word, the more times it appears in your word file. So I entered the teacher's name the most, followed by the school name next.

I copy and pasted all the words the kids said into the 'create' page on the Wordle site and selected 'go'. Wordle creates a custom word cloud with a random design. The best part is, you can customize almost every aspect of design, including the background, fonts, directions the words appear, etc. The possibilities are endless.

One thing I do not like about Wordle (or perhaps I haven't figured it out) is you cannot save the image as a jpeg or giff. I had to print the file to PDF in order to save it.

I color printed the file on photo paper and framed it in an 8x10 frame.

I love that it is personal to the teacher and gives her an amazing perspective of what the children think about her.

I realize this is too late for you for this year, but perhaps it might be something to do next year. My kids teachers know I write this blog so I didn't want to ruin the surprise.

What do you think?

Stephanie
Linking to some great parties including: Story of A2Z

Saturday, June 25, 2011

How to cut contact paper (to look like vinyl) with your Cricut

 Do you ever do a craft and you are not 100% happy with it. It look good at the time but not great. That is how I felt about the monogramming I put on our mailbox a while ago. At the time when I did the project, I was borrowing my mom's Cricut and had a limited selection of fonts. Well now that I have my own Cricut (insert an image of me smiling from ear to ear here) and the Sure Cuts A Lot software I have no limitations.
 I was on the My Vinyl Designer website and saw some absolutely beautiful monograms. You get 15 different images for under $5! Here is the monogram set that I loved and got:
If you have not been to the My Vinyl Designer website before, please venture over they have some truly amazing images. I am not being compensated to promote them, I just really do love their products.

For this project, I love the first monogram on the top left and decided that was what I wanted to do. I downloaded the image onto my computer, resized the monogram (with the a separate program) to be approximately 3inches square and set up my Cricut. I have white vinyl but have been curious whether or not contact paper/shelf liner would work the same. So I thought this was my opportunity to test it out. Not surprisingly, it worked great!

Here is how I substituted Cricut vinyl with Dollar store contact paper / shelf liner! 

The contact paper I purchased from the Dollar Store is called "Adhesive shelf and drawer liner" and comes in a roll that is approximately 40 inches by 18 inches. The Cricut vinyl is 12 inches by 48 inches. The contact paper is not nearly as thick as the Cricut vinyl but for $1 vs $10, I was willing to try.
I am sorry I don't have a picture of contact paper, I was so excited to try it out I ripped off the label before taking a photo. I am just like my kids...I can't wait to open things.


I trimmed the contact paper to be 12 x 12inches so it would fit into my Cricut. I placed the piece of contact paper onto the cutting mat, making sure it was secured and there were no bubbles between the paper and the mat.
Isn't the apple green pretty :)
I set the pressure to low/medium and the cutting blade to 3. My blade is new, so I am not sure if this will need to be changed if you blade is older. But for $1 you can play around without worrying about messing up.
 The contact paper cut great!There was no pulling or spots where it didn't cut.
 
When transferring the image, the only problem I had was the design I picked was a little too delicate. I don't have the transfer paper (I am too cheap but I do have a cheap trick for this too...stay tuned it will come soon) so I had to fiddle a little bit with the design when I was adhering it to the mailbox. One little piece of a loop tore off but and I didn't get it perfectly centered (just slightly off) but I am happy with it.
 
Here is the before if you didn't see it:
Isn't is so much nicer?

I am extremely excited to be able to cut contact paper as a substitute for the pricey vinyl with the Cricut. For those of you who have Silhouettes, I would assume this would work the same for you too...it is worth a try for $1.

I love that you can get contact paper in so many different colors and the price is fantastic too!

Has anyone else done this? Does anyone have any tips?

Stephanie

Friday, June 24, 2011

Dried Lavender Arrangement in Moss Pot


I have to say one of my favorite scents, besides orange, is the smell of lavender. It has to be real fresh or dried lavender and not the artificial scent. Isn't it one of the most wonderful smells of spring?

I saw this basic and not very nice dried lavender arrangement on the Pottery Barn site and was not impressed. I loved their lavender wreaths, but this arrangement is pretty boring and dramatically over priced at $29 for a small 4 inch pot! That is really small.
Source Pottery Barn
 Here is the Pottery Barn description:
"Carefully harvested and dried in bundles, our natural Provence lavender makes an ideal gift that showcases the vibrant purple color and soft fragrance for which the flower is known. Accented with a hand-tied raffia bow; comes in a terra-cotta pot with green Spanish moss. Lavender is grown in Northern California."

 Here is my description:)
"Easily snipped with kitchen scissors and dried by hanging upside down in the laundry room for a week, this naturally grown Canadian lavender makes a beautiful piece showcasing it vibrant purple color and soft fragrance for which the flower is know. Accented with a hand-tied sheer ribbon bow found laying around in the craft box; comes in a moss covered pot with left over sand colored Spanish moss. Lavender is hand grown in a beautiful back yard garden in Southern Ontario, Canada."

Now that I had my fun, here is what I did.

Knowing I could do a lot better for a lot less, I headed to the garden and snipped some lavender (free I might add) and hung it to dry. I dry my lavender by tying it into one large bunch and hanging it upside down. This keeps the flowers in an upright position when they dry.

I found a really beautiful pot at a local store (not free but reasonably priced at under $10) and knew it was perfect for this project.
I had floral foam, ribbon and moss on hand so they cost me nothing.
 I stuck the floral foam into the bottom of the container and started sticking the lavender stems in one at a time. Making sure to keep them straight up. 
 Once I was happy with how full the lavender looked, I covered the floral foam with moss (gluing down the pieces that didn't want to stay). I then tied a ribbon with a bow around the stems.

I did not spray the lavender with any sealant, but I have heard you can do this to prevent dust from sticking. I have used dried lavender in other arrangements and have never had a problem with this before.
I have put the lavender container behind our couch in the family room and I love smelling it while I am watching TV or reading a book.
 
Oh, if you are wondering about the table behind our couch...my husband and I made that. I will post that next week. Another thing that I love!
 
Are any of you enjoying the flowers from the garden yet?
What do you think?
Stephanie
Linking to some great parties including: Story of A2Z

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Printing on Tissue Paper - Have you tried this!?!

I realize printing on tissue paper is not a new idea, but it is something I had not experimented with until recently.  After making my subway art with a laser print transfer, I knew there had to be an easier way of achieving the same results without having to scrub off all the paper. I tried many different methods and here is what I found to be the easiest way. Printing on tissue paper and then gluing the paper to canvas.  The tissue paper goes almost invisible and it appears the text is printed directly on the canvas.

The actual printing on the tissue paper is simple. Well it is now that I figured out the best method for me :) . Here is the simplest way I found  to print on tissue paper.

I bought the long pieces of tissue paper so there were fewer fold lines.

Lay one piece of tissue paper on a flat surface shiny side up. (I found all the tissue paper I used, had a shiny side and a rough side. For me the printing looked nicer on the rough side. You might want to experiment with this yourself.)

Place a regular piece of printer paper (8.5x11) on top of the tissue paper. Try to place it in between the fold marks.
Cut the tissue paper so there is a 2 inches boarder around the printer paper.
Using clear tape, I folded down the long sides and taped the tissue to the back of the printer paper.
I then folded down the ends of the tissue paper and again taped them in a couple of spots.
Be sure you tuck the corners in so the paper is no larger than the 8.5 x 11 sheet.
This is what it will look like.
Place the paper/tissue sheet into your printer being extra cautious that the right side of the paper is in the correct position.
Print the image or text file as you normally would.
Here is what my subway art looked like once it came out of the printer. Perfect!
When trimming the image, I find it easiest to cut through all the sheets of paper. This gives you the cleanest lines and prevents the tissue paper from bending. Sorry I only took pictures of me trimming another photo I was testing out.

I painted my canvas white and then covered the entire thing with a layer of Modge Podge. I carefully placed the tissue paper over the canvas and smoothed out the image.

There were a few wrinkles but I liked how it gave it a worn look.
Here are some other things I printed on tissue paper. I found that black and white images printed far nicer than color. But give it a try...tissue paper is extremely cheap, that it is fun to play with.


Have you ever printed on tissue paper? What were your results like?

Now that I know how to do this, the possible crafts seem endless. Coasters with photos, designs on candles, customized wrapping, etc.

Let me know what you think.
Stephanie
Linking to some great parties including: Story of A2Z

Friday, June 17, 2011

How to build a PVC lacrosse net

How may of your sons play baseball? How about football? As you may know from previous posts, I live Canada and because of this, my son plays 'traditional' Canadian sports i.e. hockey and lacrosse. In our family, because of our weather, hockey is our winter sport and lacrosse is our summer sport (we did a couple of seasons of soccer but I hated it). Our son started both of these sports when he was four and has yet to learn how to play baseball or football. Of course he will be introduced to baseball and football soon enough. I don't know how parents with lots of kids manage all the different sports...how do you ladies do it? :)

I am sorry this post probably does not interest the vast majority of you out there...but I wanted to share it in case you can adapt it or if you also have a child who loves lacrosse as much as my son does.

A fellow lacrosse parent first made one of these lacrosse nets and after my husband studied it, he was able to make one of his own with minor changes. They are very easy and quite inexpensive to make (vs buying one).

Materials:
1 1/2 inch x 24 feet PVC pipe
4 x 90 degree corners
'Y' joint (with drain and plug)
PVC cement
2x3inch bolt with washer and wing nut
Replacement hockey net (54 inch)

Method:
Since my son is only 6 years old, he plays with a smaller lacrosse net. The net opening is 48 inches high by 48 inches wide.
 So using a miter saw, we cut:
  • 3 pieces to 48 inches long
  • 2 pieces to 63 inches long
We 'dry fit' all the pieces to make sure they fit together before we even thought about gluing them.
I really did not realize when we were planning this that it would be so big. I am spatially challenged :) So to deal with this massive net in the winter months, I convinced my husband to work his magic so it could be disassembled.

He glued the 2 top 90 degree pieces and the bottom 'Y' piece. He then decided (since it couldn't be glued) to put a large bolt through the bottom 2 x 90degrees and the PVC pipe to secure them. This allows us to take apart the net for storage (or transporting to the basement) during the winter months. He simply drilled straight through the 90 degree and the pipe being extra cautious that the holes lined up.
We put an opening/drain at the end of the 'Y' piece so that if the net needs weight, we can add sand or water into the bottom pipes. At this point, it doesn't seem necessary, but the option is nice.
 
Once all the pieces were glued and dried, we installed the hockey net. To purchase a lacrosse replacement net is rather pricey and hockey nets can be found at any local sports store for a really reasonable price. Using a large 54 inch hockey net and the nylon rope provided, we started by securing the middle of the replacement net to PVC stand.
 We looped the nylon rope through every third hole so that the lacrosse ball would not fit through.
 The net was a little short in the back (not reaching the 'Y' fully) so we just used some extra nylon rope and wove it through the net to keep it pulled back. As the net stretches, we will just tighten the extra nylon rope at the back.

A couple of hours of work and here is what we ended up with. A home made lacrosse net.
 My son has had a great time practicing at home!
 I hope someone will find this useful. :)
Linking to some great parties including: Story of A2Z 

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