//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.