Thursday, September 30, 2010

Ribbon Rewind

Do you remember once upon a time when I first got this Making Memories set-up? It was nearly two years ago and I think there were only about ten people visiting my site at that time, so I won't be offended if you don't remember. 

Since you probably weren't there, I'll tell you, I was so excited, and I couldn't wait to fill it up with all kinds of good stuff. I started with my ribbon because I love ribbon. It was love for the first month at least.

And then I started to become disgusted with the whole shebang. If you own one of these, I'm sure you know why, but if you don't, let me just share a little negativity with you.

The ding dang dowels that hold the ribbon on are too fat! That means some spools of ribbon don't fit on them unless you gouge bigger holes out of their spools with your craft knife, thereby nearly maiming yourself in the process because, maybe you're ungraceful. Like me.

The ding dang dowels have to be removed every time you want to add a new spool of ribbon. That means you have to pull all the spools off if you are an OCD freak and you like your ribbon to be in rainbow order. Not that you are like that, but some of us have special needs.

Because the ding dang dowels are too blinking fat, there is much dropping and launching of ribbon spools in the interchange process, which then results in unspooled ribbon pooling at your feet and possibly tripping you. Because of that whole lack of grace thing.

And yes, I might be bitter because my mom would never let me take ballet lessons and I so wanted to take ballet lessons. I don't care that I have always looked like a football player in a tutu. Even at my thinnest, I had healthy thighs. That's beside the point though. I could have been graceful.

And now I'm not.

Anyway, that pretty much sums up my complaints about the Making Memories set-up, with some of my emotional issues that I'm sure you do not care about.

I don't like to come into the blogosphere and just whine about my petty problems, so I now feel the need to share with you how I solved my ribbon problem. It was such a big problem.

First, I started by clearing off the bottom three shelves. Originally, there were only two shelves for ribbon, but I decided I wanted three, so that's why I have three shelves naked here.

I needed Peanut Head to help me with this project because I have an unhealthy fear of power tools. On account of I lack grace because I never had ballet. 

Poor Peanut Head gets roped into so many of my projects. And just between you and me, he tries to run but I have ginormous muscles in my healthy thighs and I catch him before he can get away.

Plus he loves me. For some reason.

Okay, so what Peanut Head is doing here is he's cutting some yard sticks that I bought. I painted a little more than the first 24 inches with a couple thin coats of white paint, so that they would go better with the shelf. I didn't want full coverage though, because I wanted to still be able to see the inch markings and be able to use them when cutting ribbon.

The shelf itself is roughly 24 inches, so that's what that measurement is. Peanut Head cut three yardsticks for my three shelves. Before he made the 24 inch cut for the length, he cut about a quarter inch off along the entire length of the yardstick. The whole point of the yardsticks is to form a little fence to keep the ribbon from rolling off the shelves. Since Peanut Head cut it to be slightly skinnier, it's short enough that you can still get the ribbon in.

Next, Peanut Head cut some little half inch pieces off the extra bits of yardstick. These little pieces are to hold the fence out a little bit away from the bottom of the existing shelf, so that I could slide the cut end of ribbon through that small opening as a guide.

He finished the cut with an X-acto knife because . . . oh heck, I forget why. I know there was a good reason for it, but I can't remember what it was. Was it to avoid splitting the wood? Somebody that knows, please pipe in here anytime.

We, that is the married "we" which means "him," then glued one of the little pieces to the back of each end of the cut yardsticks. We cut six pieces total--two for each shelf.

After we glued them, Peanut head clamped them together until they dried.

While the glue was drying, we drilled the holes to attach the yardsticks. 

And here's a little heads up, these units are made out of particle board so it's not the easiest stuff to work with. We learned here that we had to drill smaller pilot holes first. Peanut Head let me do some of this part. I'm okay to use a drill, but I'm slow and I mess up a lot.

Peanut Head also drilled some little craters in the ends of the yardsticks for the screw heads to sink down into so they would be flush and pretty. I'm sure there's a technical term for it, but it seems to have escaped me. Sorry. Next time I'll try to take better notes.

See, isn't that pretty? Um, actually . . . no. It's ugly. Not only did we split the wood a bit, but the screw really is not pretty. It needs something.

There. That's better. I whipped out my glue gun and some pretties and got right to work. Pretty nifty, eh? Well, except for the leftover glue gun snot. I still have to go pull all those stringy bits off.

This is what it looked like after all the little fences were put on. I could hardly wait to get all my ribbon on it. In my giddy eagerness, I might have knocked Peanut Head over before he was finished tightening that last screw. Oopsie.

Ahhhhhhhh. I could just drape some twinkle lights over it and lay under it like it was my Christmas tree. It's so pretty.

I glued buttons and flowers over the screws. Because I could. And the knobs that used to hold the dowels on? I just glued them over the unsightly holes they left behind. I fed the dowels to the Gunny Man Who Thinks He's a Woodpecker.

I went back to IKEA over the summer and got enough of these CEEEEEEEE-UTE little jars to hold all my buttons. Um, buttons that I didn't have yet, but had to go and buy immediately upon acquiring the super cute jars. Don't they just scream "Fill me with buttons!" to you? Me too.

I've been living with this set-up for a couple months now and I have to tell you, I LOVE IT. It was the perfect fix.

And I don't miss the dowels one little bit.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Vinyl Tutorial

As promised, I'm going to show you how to cut vinyl on your Cricut. If you have a different cutting machine, the application process should be the same.

The picture above is a quote that I put in my classroom this year, and I love it.

The tutorial that follows is for doing smaller projects. To do something like the quote I have above, you probably want to use a software program like Sure Cuts A Lot. It will use less vinyl that way because you can squish your letters closer together. You can also stretch and squash them vertically and horizontally. Also, you'll want to use the 12" x 24" cutting mat for the larger projects.

But for our purposes today, I'm just using the 12" x 12" cutting mat.

Once you decide what you want to cut out of your vinyl, you just smooth your vinyl down onto your cutting mat the same way you would with card stock. Please, do not peel the sticker backing off your vinyl sheet. That would be baaaaaaad.

Next, load your mat into your machine. So far nothing should be different than what you're used to doing with paper. Well, except that you're using vinyl. Doy.

This next step is so very important, so pay attention, okay? You are going to want to do a very small test cut on your vinyl. Just one little one inch letter would be sufficient. I want you to put your machine on low pressure, then do your test cut. 

The test cut is so you can make sure the blade cuts through the vinyl, but not the sticker backing sheet behind it.

Very, very important. Once you've tested this, you are free to cut. Here is a picture of my test cut. 

You can see that the sticker backing paper is still there when I peel away my test cut letter. Feel free to use a scrap piece of vinyl for this step. Vinyl is expensive and you don't want to waste it. I've cut a lot of vinyl on my machine, and low pressure is my sweet spot. Yours might be different. I'm sure it depends on how sharp your blade is.

Here is a word I cut on a piece of vinyl. After I cut it, I cut a rectangle around the word so I know how big a piece of Transfer Tape I need to transfer my lettering.

The Transfer Tape is on the left and the vinyl is on the right. You can find it wherever Cricuts are sold. Lately I've been buying my vinyl at Wal Mart because it's $9 a package there vs. $10 at Michael's. I've been buying the Transfer Tape at Michael's because my Wal Mart never has it. It makes me crazy. My Michael's also has a serious problem keeping it in stock. Lucky for me, Girl Genius works there so I just have her snag it for me when the truck pulls up. I'm a Transfer Tape Junkie and she's my pusher. I love her so much.

The next step is my favorite part. I grab my Cricut Captain Hook tool and start pulling away the extra vinyl. You have to do it slowly and pull at a 45 degree angle so you don't tear your letters, but it is oh so satisfying. I like to peel skin from sunburns though, so that might just be me.

I'm easily entertained.

Here you can see my image with all the excess pulled away.

Here I've cut a piece of Transfer Tape that is about the same size as my image. Sometimes I piece scraps together. You don't have to have a continuous piece of Transfer Tape like you do vinyl. Feel free to be frugal.

Next, start peeling the Transfer Tape from its sticker backing sheet. Don't pull it all the way off though. It's like Fly Paper and it sticks to everything. It's kind of like the clear scrapbooking stickers in that when you get close to something with it, it has a magnetic force that sucks it into exactly the place where you do not want it. It's extremely annoying.

So, as I was saying, just pull back enough to get it started.

You can see here how I've started sticking the Transfer Tape to my lettering. Take it slowly and ease it onto the vinyl.

I didn't take a picture of this next step because I don't have three arms, but you want to use something to smooth the Transfer Tape onto the vinyl. Okay, that's a lie. I forgot, okay? Nobody's perfect.

A credit card would work fine. The idea is to run the edge over the surface to make the Transfer Tape stick to the vinyl so it will pull it off the sticker backing sheet without tearing the vinyl. It's a tricky, slow process.

After smoothing the Transfer Tape down, you can start peeling the Transfer Tape away from the sticker backing sheet, making sure that the vinyl is coming up with it. Again, go slow at a 45 degree angle. If you have sections that don't come up with the Transfer Tape, back it up just a tad, smooth it down, and try that spot again. Sometimes it's a process of two steps forward, one step back.


Since this piece is relatively small, I was comfortable enough hovering over the spot where I wanted to stick it, then smacking it down before I could lose my nerve.

You could say there's no turning back now.

The final step is to slowly and carefully peel the Transfer Tape away. You sometimes have to back up, smooth, and ease sections off with this step as well.

Whew! That was a little stressful, wasn't it?

I assure you, it gets easier the more you do it. Just dive in and give it a try.

This bucket was a little trickier and I had to notch my word so it would wrap around the curved surface of the bucket without puckering the letters. Sadly, these notches were not enough.

I started peeling my sticker backing sheet away and it was too hard to keep the word from sticking to me and the spot I didn't want it to go.

So I ended up cutting the word into three separate pieces so I could have a little room to work. It worked much better this way.

Pretty nifty, eh?

Now that you've suffered through this little tutorial, I have a little surprise for you. Back in April, I joked in this post about how I wanted to put up a bunch of vinyl sayings in my house, and one of them was going to be "PICK UP YOUR CRAP!" Well, some of you thought it was a splendid idea so I went ahead and did it.

I put it in Peanut Head's Man Cave because it's such a pigsty. Pigsty with a capital "P."

I kid you not. When Stinkerbell was five she walked into Peanut Head's shop and exclaimed "Daddy, pick up all this crap! It's a disaster in here!" I promise you, I am not lying. It even made it into our Christmas letter that year. These are the sorts of proud parenting moments we brag about in our annual holiday letter.

It's that juxtaposition thing that I'm so fond of.

See what I mean about the mess? Actually, this is a horrible example. He just cleaned it up. But it will not stay like this, mark my words.

So what I'm saying is that Peanut Head deserves this little gem.

And he needs to stop talking like a sailor because Stinkerbell has been using inappropriate language appropriately since she was three. And it's very hard to discipline your child when you're laughing hysterically and rolling around on the floor. Very hard.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Teacher Post #3 . . . Another Glimpse into the Mind of an OCD Control Freak

I've been back in the classroom for two weeks now, and I've been meaning to get this post up for the past few weeks. Time has gotten away from me somehow. . . but I'm super excited to share some things with you. I have at least a dozen post ideas swirling around in my head. Some of the pictures have been taken and some haven't. This post is just one of the many not related posts I've been meaning to do.

So, to start, I introduce my brand new hall passes. I've wanted to make these things for at least the last six months, and I finally got around to it.

I found these little wooden paddles at Porter's, and immediately I knew I wanted to turn them into hall passes. Sure, they were probably meant for spanking little behinds, but they don't let us teachers do that anymore. Hee hee. Not that I would ever to that to my little angels. I seriously have the sweetest class EVER. I love them.

Anyway, I just painted the paddles and covered them with pretty scrapbook paper using MOD Podge (I have to force myself to call it MOD since my fall from grace) as the adhesive and a few (maybe five) sealing coats. These things are going to have to withstand lots of abuse, I'm sure. And realistically, they might fall in the toilet from time to time as well. Not a pretty thought, but it could happen.

I cut the lettering out on my Cricut, and I stuck a few scrapbooking stickers on to jazz them up some more. I thought about gluing buttons and such on, but decided against it because of the toilet hazard.

Here they are hanging up in my classroom. I'm only including this picture to drive Anne crazy. You see, I know they're a little crookedy, and this sort of thing makes Anne crazy. She's going to e-mail me to let me know that they're wonky and demand that I fix it and repost the pictures to prove it. And I'll refuse, make them wonkier, and e-mail those pictures back to her. It's just how I have fun around here. I can't wait.

Here's something else that I spent at least two days of my summer vacation on. I took my Cricut to school and went CUH-razy cutting vinyl. It's so bad that it looks like a vinyl factory blew up in my classroom. Except tidily, if you can picture that. A controlled explosion.

I'm planning on doing a vinyl tutorial post real soon, so this is the only picture I'm going to show you today. These are the trays where my students turn in their assignments, and can I tell you just how giddy this vinyl labeling makes me? Ginormously, greatly, giggly, GIDDY.

And this? SKA-WHEEEEEL! I know, it should be squeal. I feel like I should tell you that I do know how to spell most of the time. Seriously though, isn't this gorgeous? I found it at Barnes & Noble at least six months ago, and I've been thinking and thinking and thinking of a way to make it a very important part of my life. I love it that much.

And now I love it even more because guess what? I came up with the perfect use for it, and I am so excited about it that I don't even know how I lived without it before. Seriously, I am alive now.

And a dork, yes, but let me explain. This is now my Teacher Book. Plan Book, call it what you want, here's what I have in it.

First of all, on the very first page is the district calendar for the school year. It has all the days off (so very important), parent-teacher conference dates, work days, graduation dates, etc. It's something I never seem to be able to find when I need it. Okay, that's a lie, but honestly, now it's right where I need it, in the book where I make my plans.

Right after the district calendar, I've glued in calendar months for the entire school year, September through May. Everything in this book has been glued in, and in order to do that, I had to trim my pages a bit. I could have saved myself a lot of time and done the whole thing in a binder, but I like being able to close the book and have it lay flat on the table while I'm writing in it. I couldn't do that with a binder.

I put the calendar together in iCal, which is on my Mac, and so far I'm not a big fan of the program. For all the things I put on the calendar that don't have a time attached to them, it automatically inserted 12:00 AM. I couldn't figure out how to change it. I liked using a calendar program though, because I was able to go and put things on my calendar that I knew were already scheduled, and I didn't have to go through the laborious task of writing everything in by hand. So I'm just going to have to live with the 12:00 AM on everything. Yeah, while I seethe inside and possibly go back and glue a much better version right over the top. That's for another day though.

There are other calendar programs out there, and I could even see myself pulling apart a wall calendar and gluing it in this book, but when I got the idea for this book, I just wanted it done now. I can be very impatient like that.

The next section in my book is for schedules. I have our P.E./Music schedule, Counseling Presentation Schedule, Library Schedule, and the Computer Lab schedule. Again, these are things I refer to when I'm making my plans each week, and it's nice to have them all in the same place.

The next section is my largest section, and that's where I keep my weekly plans. I used to use a plan book, but my teacher friend, Lisa, told me about how she does her plan book in an Excel spread sheet and how it is such a big time saver. I was intrigued, and since I heart spreadsheets, I was all over that idea. I did my plans on an Excel spread sheet all year last year, and I was hooked. I will never go back to a paper plan book. Ever. 

With the spreadsheet, I'm able to duplicate quickly, and I can cut and paste or copy and paste, which saves me a ton of time. I do not miss erasing things I don't get to, and then rewriting them in somewhere else. It's a big time suck.

Here's the basic idea. I start with my plan sheet template (which I'm happy to share if you want to e-mail me and request it), and I type in all my plans for the week. The next week, I open that same template and "save as" and give it a new name. I usually give it a name with the week number and the dates, that way it's easy to find the week I'm looking for when I want it.

I went through my book and I labeled every two pages with the week numbers and the dates, so that I was sure to leave enough room for all my plans for the year. It also helps me when I have things to plan ahead and I don't want to forget about them. For example, my class is going to help a second grade class learn how to do computer math, so I've penciled that in on the week where we are going to do it. When I do my actual plans, I'll look at those notes and then my plans for the week will be glued right over the top of them.

The next section in my book is for my "To Do" list. You know I can never be without one of those. The things I've highlighted are the things that are done. The green arrow stickers  are things that I should get right on, chop chop. They help to keep me focused and keep things prioritzed when I'm overwhelmed. My "To Do" list is always a big brain dump, and some of the things aren't super important, so that's why I need the stickers to point out the fires that need to be put out.

My last section is labeled "STUDENTS" and it is where I keep things like lunch numbers, user names and passwords for the students, and parent contact information. The picture above is the top of a spread sheet I use for keeping track of my students' ISAT scores. It helps to keep me focused on which students need extra help and in what areas we really need to focus as a class.

I also have these little half sheets glued into the STUDENT section. They've been filled out by the students' parents, and I allow one whole page for each student. I stagger the way the information cards are glued in, so that the plan book isn't bulky just at the top or just at the bottom. When I make parent phone calls, I make the notes for each student right on the page with that student's information card. 

I used removable Post-It Tabs for my labels. This is especially helpful for the CALENDAR and THIS WEEK tabs, which move as time goes by. They allow me to turn right to the page I'm working on currently.

As with any Plan Book or Grade Book, I have to be careful to keep this book out of the reach of others, since it does have personal information about my students in it.  I could see using a book like this for a Home Management or a PTO Organizer, or really anything else that you might need for your job. The beauty of it is that you design it for your needs, whatever they are.