//Paintings as Gifts for Friends

This year, I was all about the DIY gifts for friends. Along with some filled glass ornaments (and several failed attempts at marbled clay ring dishes), I gave each of my girlfriends a painting that I had personalized depending on the recipient.

I started out with five 8"x10" canvases and used the same technique and similar color schemes to create a background.

That involved selecting my paints--I used a blue, light portrait pink, and gold (all by Liquitex Basics)--and using a thin plastic card to apply the paint.

I squirted some of the paint on a plate (mine is a cheapie little plastic thing from Target that I saw another artist use and thought was simply adorable). I then tapped one end of the plastic card into the paint and used a squeegee-type application technique, essentially spreading the paint onto the canvas in thin layers that dry quickly. A little paint goes a long way with this.

I worked on all five canvases side-by-side, creating sister versions. I found this made the process go by faster and I appreciated that. I worked lighter colors to darker colors and used the gold to give me an accent color and also to provide me a workable background for the other painting I was going to do.

The painting at the top was for a certain friend, but other paintings were comprised of a hand-painted sentiments that were chosen for that particular friend. I had a lot of fun with this, but choosing the phrase that would perfectly fit my friend and I's friendship was easily the best.

//DIY / Wishbone Ornaments

Hello, all! Christmas is aaaalmost upon us (can you believe it?!) and in honor of that, I'm going to post some holiday-themed whatsits that I've been working one! First up, a wishbone ornament made out of clay.

I saw similar ornaments for sale at Anthropologie and appreciated their handmade look. Which made me think, "Maybe I can make them?" So I decided to give it a shot. The end result, I think, is quite nice and this project is super easy. Make several and bake them all at one time for a tree FULL of wishes! I also think they make sweet "extra gifts" by tying them to a wrapped gift, maybe layered on top of a gift tag.

What you'll need is:
-small block of clay, in whatever color(s) you like
-a skewer (or something to poke a small hole at the top of your ornament)
-a baking sheet
-a spoon
-gold paint or liquid gold leaf

1. Take about 1/4 of your block of clay and roll it out into a snake, approximately 6" long. I did this on a plastic plate because I knew the plate was clean and smooth and also wouldn't get my kitchen counter dirty.

2. Form an upside U with your clay rope. At the top of your U, in the middle of the rope, take your thumb and forefinger and pinch the clay together as shown. Also pinch the bottoms of the U a little to flatten them slightly. If necessary, smooth the clay to cover any seams in the clay. Also buff out--with a finger--the bottoms, where the rounded portion of the rope joins the flatter part. You want it to smoothly transition into the flattened part, if that makes any sense.

3. Take your baking sheet and lay a spoon on it, so the convex portion is facing up. You want to rest the top of your wishbone on the rounded part of the spoon so that when it bakes, you have that delicate rounded shape characteristic of a wishbone. Arrange the "legs" of your wishbone so that they are bowed in a little, and so the flatter portion is turned up a bit. Take your skewer and poke a hole at the top so that you can put some baker twine or ornament hanger through there.

4. Bake according to the directions on the clay package. Every oven bake clay I have seen says to bake at 275 for 15 minutes per 1/4 inch thickness. I baked my wishbones for about 40 minutes each.

5. Let cool before removing it from the baking tray and spoon. Oven bake clay, by its very nature, will not ever be truly hard and will retain a little bit of its "rubbery" quality. But don't be like me and test that by trying to bend something. It will break. And you will be bummed.

6. After it's totally cooled, take your gold paint or liquid gold leaf and paint the bottoms of the U. Let the paint dry and VOILA! You're done!

The whole process (not including baking time or paint drying time) took me about 15 to 20 minutes. Make them in the favorite colors of your loved ones and you can knock out a bunch in one afternoon!

//Scrapbook Layout / Hot Chocolate 5K with Mom

My mom happens to be an experienced runner. She has run a marathon, a half-marathon, a crazy thing called Ragnar Relay, and countless 10Ks and 5Ks. I am decidedly not a runner, though I dabble. Yet, we signed up for the Hot Chocolate Run in Chicago together and she actually kept pace with me the entire time (which was beyond kind of her given that I think she could've finished about 15 minutes sooner, no matter what she says). The race was special because I got to share it with her when I know how close running is to her heart. It was also special because I managed to finish under 45 minutes--a personal record for me!! So while it was absolutely freezing, I would have done it again in a heartbeat (and not JUST for the cocoa at the end *wink wink*).

This layout actually began with that blue polka dot patterned paper you see in the middle. I was punching circles out of it for use in another project and I didn't want to just get rid of it because that's a lot of paper left over. I noticed that the circles were fairly evenly--though unintentionally--punched around the border so I layered it over another piece of patterned paper as a giant mat. Then I started grabbing things from my various Studio Calico kits--just whatever caught my eye! I'm not necessarily big on making sure everything matches, so I pull out a ton of items and see what I actually end up using. It may not be the most efficient process, but I find it to work for me.

The "Hot Chocolate Run" title element in the corner was created using a chipboard frame that I backed with some patterned paper and then stuck alpha stickers on. The middle utilized layering of different papers, including a cool book page I received in one of my kits. I know I had a lot of elements that had words on them, so I was worried about it looking too cluttered. But the gaudiness of it kind of appealed to me haha.

I received these bobby pin embellishments in one of my kits and frankly, I wasn't too keen on using them because they just wouldn't be something I would normally reach for. I was determined not to let it go to waste, however, so I used on this layout and think it was actually quite perfect! It's a small touch that is subtle but adds visual interest.

When I had put everything together, I didn't like how the top lefthand corner was kind of bare and empty. I had this kraft tag and used some washi tape and enamel dots to make it pop and stuck it in the space. I think the washi tape in that corner was a good idea because it completed a visual triangle of the pink tones on the page--and I do enjoy a visual triangle.

Sidenote: visual triangles are something I use on almost every page I create. It's an easy way to lend balance and harmony to a layout and also to get more color in there (because we could always use some more color in our lives, amiright?!). Sometimes when I don't know what else to add to my layout, I take a look and see if a triangle can be completed anywhere and oftentimes, that's the answer to my problem :)

Also, I'd just like to say how smitten I am with those enamel dots! Every time they come in a kit, I get so excited because I think they are the perfect finishing touch on almost any layout. If you're interested, these are the ones I use.

//Scrapbook Layout / Halloween 2014

Let me preface this by saying that Halloween is my favorite holiday (though a close second is Christmas because I love me some holiday decorations! And gift shopping. And the food. And the cocoa...you get the idea). I love to dress up and I love giving out candy to the young trick-or-treaters. This year, though, was a bit different because Josh was directing "White Christmas" for the local theater and so he had rehearsal on Halloween night. I was invited to the little party they had (which is where the photo in the above layout was taken) and that was fun!

This Halloween ALSO marked one year to the day that we will be getting married! We didn't plan on getting married on Halloween, it just happened to work out that way since we knew we wanted an October wedding and the 31st was the only date available for the church and banquet hall we wanted. So every time someone hears we're getting married on October 31, they immediately ask, "Oh, so do you, like, really love Halloween?" The answer is a bit more complicated than "Yes!" but it's so much easier to just smile and say "Yep." ;)

So anyway, for this layout I combined shades of green and orange (colors that both Josh and I love) since they evoke Halloween and since I didn't want to use the classic orange and black combo. I centered most of my elements in the middle of the page and just layered some papers until I got an arrangement I liked. The seams between the different papers were accented with different washi tapes, which was another repeated feature on the page. I have been accumulating quite the washi tape collection and I find it to be a really easy product to use on a layout to give it that little extra something.

I used a couple different alpha sticker sets for the title and combined different die cut elements on the top left corner of the layout. On opposite corners I used the same washi tape and stuck a few elements on top, reenforcing the theme of love and happiness (because I'm a total sap!).

Finally, I added my journaling. I hate, HATE, hate my handwriting but it's all I've got, so hey. Maybe next time I'll use my typewriter ;)

My favorite feature would probably have to be all the gold acrylic stars and the wooden heart that's toward the center of the page. At first, I only placed three stars but it felt so empty and boring. So I kept adding stars until the area was more full and placed a heart around one of the stars and I ended up loving it! I find that happening a lot when I scrapbook. Does that ever happen to anyone else? You go with what you had in your mind, it doesn't look "right," so you end up changing it and it is just so much better than what you had intended? I think those moments are the best! :)

//Study Central in the Palasiewicz-Smith Household!

Tomorrow brings my first final exam of the semester. I am simultaneously terrified (because c'mon, it's FINALS!) and excited (because I'm that much closer to being done!). My first exam is Agency and Partnership Law and as you can see, I have all the necessities nearby. Though I AM really tempted to run out and getting a different pen for these notecards...will power, Justyna, will power! Then Monday I have my Criminal Procedure final and the following Thursday I have Intellectual Property, and then I'll only have one more semester to go before graduating law school!

Being done with finals also means that I can move onto other things, of which there is plenty! I have Christmas gifts to make for friends, projects to make for my wedding, other wedding planning stuff to do, scrapbooking, CLEANING, organizing...sheesh! To think that finals are interfering with all of that! ;)

//Meet the Newest Member of the Family!

A friend of mine is a foster mom for our local animal shelter and a few weeks ago she picked up two puppies--including this half-Yorkie, half-wethinkpoodlemaybe. Josh and I have been looking to get a second dog but our list of requirements was pretty specific: 

1. Must be hypoallergenic so that Josh doesn't die.
2. Must be a rescue pup.
3. Must be male because our current dog doesn't do well with females.
4. We preferred a puppy.

So when I saw the photo of this little guy, I immediately messaged her and asked what kind of dog she thought he was. That same day, Josh and I met him and he stole our hearts (Josh's especially!). Even though we kind of weren't supposed to, we had the little guy until he was "officially" released for adoption as a sort of trial run and we fell in love. Even the resident curmudgeon, Miss Svedka dog, wasn't being totally awful (she has never really had to get along with dogs, so any small amount of progress with her is amazing!). Finally, on November 20, 2014, we officially adopted the puppy formally known as Chachi (the other pup he was rescued with was named Joanie, hence...). We changed his name to Chewie, after the Wookiee our pup looks like he could be a descendent of.

Welcome to the family, Chewie!! We love you.

Sidenote: I don't want to get on a pedestal here, but I want to encourage ALL of you to adopt rather than buy a dog (or other furbaby), if possible. Don't get me wrong, I have gotten a couple of dogs from (reputable) breeders and even one from a pet store but I didn't really get the choice until this time around. I knew I wanted to adopt this time because I have seen the horror that faces many unwanted, abandoned, tortured, and misunderstood critters. Being a bleeding-heart animal lover, it absolutely breaks my heart. Also, being friends with someone who fosters dogs and who tells me of the misery they escaped...well, needless to say, it really makes one think. So please, please please consider adopting your next companion. Thank you all for reading. 

//Paper Source Holiday Card Contest

I received an email from Paper Source featuring all of their great holiday goodies (*swoon!*) and at the bottom, they mentioned their Holiday Card Contest. At first, I thought, "I have zeroooo time for this!" but then I figured what the heck? I might as well try! And maybe this would inspire me for my holiday card this year (which I was second-guessing because c'mon, I'll have to make about 30 cards in the next month but I'm a sucker for handmade cards). The parameters of the contest are to use Paper Source products and enter the submission on Instagram using the hashtag #papersourceholidaycontest. Submit your entry by December 15 and that's it!

I was brainstorming creative ways to use Paper Source products and when I saw this wrapping paper, I was inspired! I put that paper and this washi tape in my shopping cart and waited for the goodies to arrive.

I cut out a couple of the snow globes from the paper and mounted the larger one on some thicker paper (I used mixed media paper, but you can just as well use some card stock).

I then played around with the positioning of the two snow globes and adhered the smaller one first (oh and I also put some crepe fringe paper I had lying around on the bottom of the card, though you can't see much of it on the finished product. I would just skip this step next time). The kraft card is actually part of a pack I bought from TJ Maxx and came with the scalloped edge. So cute! But also easy to do with an edge punch. I then "tied" some bakers twine with a hangtag around the larger snow globe and wrote a little sentiment with a black marker. I say "tied" because I actually taped down the ends of the twine instead of actually tying it. This has two benefits: 1) it doesn't add as much bulk as a knot would, and 2) I don't have to worry about it coming undone or anything. Then I stuck foam squares on the back of the larger cutout and adhered that on the card as well.

The next step was using the washi tape in a cool way. I decided to turn it into a banner to grace the top of the card! I used this technique before on a scrapbook page and LOVED the effect it gave, so applying it to this card was a no-brainer! The bonus is it's actually really simple to do (and can be done in front of the TV! HUZZAH!) and the effect is pretty darn cool, if I do say so myself.

What you do is you tear or cut pieces of washi tape, approximately 1.5" long, but the length really depends on how long you want your pennant flag to be. Stretch a piece of bakers twine (I actually tape it down on the tops of my knees and keep my legs a bit apart...as I sit on the couch watching Gilmore Girls. Don't judge me.) and place the washi tape over the twine and fold the tape over on itself. You want to position the tape so that the twine is essentially bisecting the piece of tape to ensure that you don't have a lot of the sticky part of the tape exposed. When you get all the washi pieces on your twine, cut a "v" into the bottom of your flag to turn it into a cool pennant and VOILA! BANNER TIME!

To adhere the banner, I simply put some glue on the back of each flag--towards the top--and glue it down on the card. The reason I put glue on the top of each flag is to let the ends/bottoms remain kind of free and loose. I should note that before you put any glue on your banner and adhere it, make sure you have an idea of placement. You really should try and get a sense of that before you even make your banner because that will more or less determine how many flags each banner will have, but if you don't do it until after the banner is assembled then oh well. The world doesn't end. The banner just may have to be positioned somewhere different from where you originally wanted it. No big deal.

The final thing I did on this card was add the bit of green washi tape to the inside edge. I absolutely love the scalloped edge on the front of this card and wanted to emphasize it. I chose a coordinating color of tape and carefully put it on the inside edge of the card. This way, when the card is closed you can more clearly see the scallop and it also adds another pop of color (which is always awesome).

If I were to make multiples of this card, I would definitely sit down in front of the TV and cut out all of my snow globes first. After getting a pile of those, I would write out the sentiments on the tags and "tie" those around the larger snow globes. Then I would set about making all the washi tape banners. After that, it's a matter of assembly. In all, the card only took me about 15 minutes to make (not counting all of the creative time spent playing around with positioning and all that).

So not only is this card TOTALLY doable but the cost is also very reasonable once you factor in making multiple cards. The reason? I used wrapping paper for the snow globes, remember? There are so many great designs on wrapping paper these days and if you choose a paper that has a bunch of great shapes you can use as cut-outs, you can have the main elements of your card (or scrapbook page or art journal or Project Life spread) for basically pennies per piece!

I hope this project will help you look at some supplies out there in a different and cool way! Please share your projects if you use either of these techniques!

//Paint.Plan.Play with Ashley G.

I got into art journaling a couple years back when I was in a real funk and stopped scrapbooking for awhile. I even got one of my good friends, Kim, interested in art journaling and we would get together every now and then with a bunch of supplies and just go to town! The beauty of art journaling is that it isn't one particular thing--it's whatever you want it to be. It can be simple or involved and there is something really freeing about sitting down and getting lost in just creating.

So when I heard that Studio Calico was offering an art journaling class, my interest was piqued. When I found out the class was going to be led by Ashley Goldberg, I knew I had to sign up! Ever since she collaborated with Studio Calico on some of the kit elements, I fell for her style and continue to be inspired by her. The class is called Paint. Plan. Play and it's a work-at-your-own-pace course that goes over putting together an art journal/planner, allowing you to eventually use some of the learned techniques in your other art.

The first class was about mark making and I had a TON of fun sitting down with a stack of cardstock in front of the TV and working on these.

The next lesson was about painted backgrounds. Practicing this has allowed me to try a more abstract style than I'm used to and I combined some colors that I normally wouldn't. 

Basically, the experience so far has been extremely freeing and FUN! I'm stoked to see what the rest of the class brings and I hope that it stirs that excitement I used to have with scrapbooking. It's not too late to sign up, by the way, so feel free to check it out! 

//What's Been Going On? + Halloween Wreath DIY

Hello, all! Despite evidence to the contrary, I am still alive and (mostly) well! My third year of law school is well underway and I have been getting slammed with back-to-back assignments...but that's my fault for taking three classes that are writing-heavy this semester!

I have, of course, been busy collecting supplies for the wedding. Etsy has been my absolute best friend as of late, but there is also a lot that I want to make myself. It's been a little overwhelming at times, but it's such a wonderful outlet for me when school gets too stressful. I can't help but thank my lucky stars that I am such a stickler for detail and organization or else I would probably be a nervous bundle of anxiety about now!

//just a sample of some of the items I've already ordered...does Etsy have a frequent buyer program?//
This past Sunday, Josh and I had our parents over for dinner. It was the first time they met and the evening couldn't have gone any better! We were both pretty shocked when it was all over, although I figured they would get along swimmingly. Although our parents are almost 20 years apart in age, they definitely found common ground and were able to just chat and get to know each other without much interference from either of us. PHEW!

Earlier that day, I completed my Halloween wreath! Let me just say, Halloween might just be my favorite holiday--yes, it even tops Christmas (though I LOVE Christmas shopping and gift wrapping!). Josh and I are even getting married on Halloween next year! That was more as a result of the circumstances but I am STOKED about it, whereas Josh is just happy to be getting married in autumn. I digress...

I saw a wreath on Etsy and just fell in love. What I didn't love, however, was the $70 price tag. There was no way I could justify spending that much on a wreath, no matter how over the moon I was. I decided to make my own after seeing some of the focal pieces used in the Etsy wreath at my local Pier 1.

It took me several hours worth of work over the course of three or so days. But I finished it. Aaaaand I LOVE it!!

I adore all things slightly macabre and playful and this wreath hit that nail on the head for me. I purchased the two figures from Pier 1 (I guess they represent Josh and me) and they were originally Halloween ornaments! They were the exact same figures I saw on the Etsy wreath and I assumed they were handmade by the wreath-maker, so when I spotted them in the store I snatched them up and KNEW I had to make a wreath myself.

The "burlap" material came on a roll from Joann Fabrics. I cut the 14' long roll into approximately 3- or 4-foot lengths and then cut those into strips about four inches wide. I then began to loop the fabric through the wreath form (pictured below) using a tutorial I found on Pinterest, but here is a video that shows you the same technique. The tutorials showed a different burlap material but I had a hard time finding enough of it in the same color at my local Joann's, hence why I bought the roll of material. This is a messy project, with the fibers falling out a lot as you work, so bear that in mind.

Putting the burlap into the form definitely took the longest but once that was done, I had a blast choosing the elements to decorate the wreath! I ended up going with some fall-colored faux flowers, some glittery raven scrapbook elements, purple spiderwebbing and plastic spiders, a purple bow accented with a glittery spider, and the two figures (of course!).

If you decide to make your own wreath--or already have!--please share! I would love to see everyone's creativity...especially if it's related to Halloween ;)