hobbies

10
Mar
2014

Spring Break and Scrap Yarn

Posted by Nicole

Finally, we're on Spring Break, which is kind of dumb considering we haven't had a normal week of school since December. There have either been trips, conferences, auditions, or snow days messing up our schedule for two months, so to have a week off now is going to make the end of the year feel like a nightmare. I'm not complaining about having a week off, but I like routine. I'd LIKE to get into the routine of posting here, but you know me. I'm not very good at being consistent. Well TOUGH, self, I'm gonna do it anyway!

Today I decided I'm going to figure out my pattern for my scrap yarn blanket. I have quite a bit of old Red Heart lying around. Some of it is quite old- it's either been handed down or picked up at thrift shops and garage sales. Some of it's fairly new. I'm finding that solid colors are quite a bit thicker than any of the multi-colored yarns. My original plan was to do make granny squares of the scraps and piece them together. I started working and got through about 15-20 squares before realizing they were turning out different sizes. They differed up to 3/4 of an inch all the way around, which is a pretty big difference. I think you can block them, but that seemed like a lot of work- crocheting hundreds of squares and blocking each individual one. No thank you.

So I've looked and looked and looked for something I can do with different sizes of yarn. I really like this blanket and have wanted to do a hexagon blanket, but I know it wont work at all with different sizes. I played all morning with different squares, hexagons, and other shapes and finally settled on a hexagon pattern I liked. In order to combat the different sizes of yarn, I've decided to double everything up to kind of even it out. So far, it's worked pretty well! After a little while, I had a few hexagons to check and make sure they're all the same size, make sure the pattern looked good, etc. and I'm pretty happy. 

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Hopefully, in the end it will look really fun and bright. I'm just picking colors at random for now while I try to use up what I have. Inevitably, I'm going to buy more yarn to finish my stash-buster. That's the way things work in the crochet world! I don't have much orange, purple, or green, so it won't be long before I'm due for a trip to the craft store. Now, my next project will be figuring out how I want to connect them all. Sheesh!

 

08
Mar
2014

GUYS! GUYS! I DID SOMETHING COOL!

Posted by Nicole

I just got my Makey Makey in today. SO EXCITED. What on earth is a Makey Makey? Well, here's a pretty simple explanation. It's a USB keyboard that you can assign anything that conducts a charge to be a key. I'm gonna let the video do the explaining. 

So of COURSE I bought one. I mean, a banana piano? Who can resist that!? Well, it came in today and I'm all out of bananas. I started playing around with it using carrots, strawberries, and apples. My apples didn't seem to work, but the carrot piano and strawberry bongos worked like a charm. Then, I decided I needed a project to really test my knowledge and to see if I could make something cool. My husband plays a game called Haxball quite often online. I thought, what a perfect starter project. The game is played using WASD and either Shift/X/Space to kick. I decided to try to make a mouse/mousepad combination that would replace the WASD keys.

So off to the hardware store we went. Picked up a ball-bearing caster thing for about $2 and grabbed the cardboard box the Makey Makey came in. I started with the caster by covering it in electrical tape so it could be used as a mouse. It was surprisingly ergonomic, but I ended up adding some cardboard panels so you could rest your index/middle fingers and thumb on it.  Image
You have to ground the controller to your body if you plan on using your hands for part of the keyboard, so I put one wire from the caster to my index fingers as the ground. I made a little foil patch so when I held on to the "mouse", my fingers rested on the foil and grounded the whole thing. On the thumb patch, I connected the wire to the space bar function. The nice thing is I can quickly change what it's connected to in just seconds, so it's easy to manipulate for other games.

Next came the mouse pad. It wasn't ideal, and I'd like to re-do it eventually to allow for pressing two directions at once (up and left), but that'll be a lot of extra work. For today, I just wanted to throw together something functional. I lined up foil so that as you rolled the ball over parts of the mouse pad, your direction would change. On the left, you can see the failed first attempt, and the right side is the working model. 

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After a little tweaking, I got everything working as it should. It's a bit clunky and not ideal, but it was fun to make something that actually worked! It has given me some really great ideas for the future. There are people on YouTube who have used their Makey Makey to make a foam Minecraft sword actually work in the game, or set up a sort of Occulus Rift to play Skyrim with. There really isn't a limit to what you can pull off with this thing.

I'm so eager to try it out at school. I want to make piano stairs soooooooooooo bad. I'm even thinking of doing some DDR pads or something so I don't have lug mine up to school. The younger kids can even make their own instruments and we could hook up foil buttons and let them play it. Maybe I'm way too nerdy about this, but I don't really care. What's better than making a piano out of bananas? Maybe the possible uses this has for the upcoming talent show... BWAHAHAHAHA.

 

10
Feb
2014

Baby Blankets, TCEA, and Google

Posted by Nicole

First and foremost, I finished a baby blanket for my college friend who is expecting in April. This was my first attempt of a chevron pattern, and I loved the way it turned out. I guess technically, this is more of a ripple, but they're made just about the same way as a chevron, give or take a stitch. Compared to my only other baby blanket I've made (an awful, AWFUL first attempt where I learned many lessons), I'm so very happy with the way this turned out. You'll have to forgive my cell phone photography skills. image

Believe it or not, I do have a nice DSLR camera and can take some pretty decent pictures, but I just didn't feel like messing with the whole set up tonight. I have to hunt down the SD card, charge the battery, mess with the living room lighting, blah blah blah. So sorry, you get a cell phone picture. :)

I got home from TCEA on Friday afternoon and hit the ground running Friday night and all day Saturday with work and my brother's 21st birthday (oh goodness). Now that it's Sunday, I'd better organize my thoughts before I pack up and do the whole convention thing all over again this wekk.

TCEA was a really neat experience, and I would like to go again someday. I learned an awful lot, and it was all extremely overwhelming. I have an entire bookmark folder filled with great resources about technology in education, and I'm working on the slow, tedious process of going through it all and finding what is the most useful. I'm also trying to sift through what will be useful for the upcoming training I'm doing.

I've decided to get my Google Certified Trainer certificate, and in the blink of an eye I found out I'm going to get to do our district's Google inservice sessions... twice... While I am incredibly excited, I'm also slightly terrified. We're going entirely to Google Apps for Education in our district, so this means I'm going to be responsible for teaching the whole district how to set up their gmail accounts and organize their new Google lives. On top of that, there's an insanely good chance I'll get to present at the region level as well. That will hopefully be a specialized session for music teachers (and maybe coaches, ag teachers, other weird teachers) and how to incorporate Google tools in our unconventional classes.

If those three sessions go well, and I start to feel confident, I'm even considering doing a session at next year's TMEA. Hnnggggg I would be so nervous. Like, right now, I feel like I'm top of the world and I know more about this stuff than a large percentage of teachers. But the thought of standing up in front of other band directors I respect and look up to (not to mention my friends that would be there), I'm already getting butterflies in the pit of my stomach. I may hold off another year before I feel brave enough to take that plunge.

It's going to be a busy week. Two days of school, then I leave for San Antonio to judge All-State auditions and enjoy three days of friends, food, music, and maybe a little bit of education.  ;)

 

 

02
Feb
2014

Snow Day Sun Day, and nail polish

Posted by Nicole

We're currently experiencing a minor snowpocalypse today in North Texas. It's really quite beautiful outside, but I'm dreading this week at work. If it keeps going like it's going, We probably won't have school tomorrow and I have the school suburban left over from our weekend band event. The nice thing is that they don't make us drive back to the school to return it and drive back home unless someone needs that. Since I commute, that's an extra hour at the end of a very long day. Now, if someone needs it tomorrow, I'll have to drive there and back down a slick highway, which I'm not too excited about. I kind of hope it all clears up so we can have school on Monday, because on Tuesday morning I'm leaving for the TCEA conference in Austin. I really, really, REALLY don't want to be snowed out of this great chance to see what's going on in technology education. 

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On an unrelated note, I'm loving my new nail polish addiction. It's really kind of a problem for me, but I'm okay with that. It could be a much more expensive addiction! I tend to stick to my favorite cheap-o nail polishes because they're dependable and often times, much nicer and better than one would think. I particularly like Broadway and LA Colors at Dollar General and Dollar Tree. They are $1 and always look great. I promise I'm not getting paid for this!

On the other hand, I've bought some very expensive nail polish recently as well. I had a Kohl's reward and have been eyeing essie's Lots of Lux since I first saw it. I've been looking for a good TARDiS-ey style polish for a while. This one is it! I used my reward and got the price down to $3.50 (because who spends $9 on polish!?). I was so excited... until I painted my nails. 

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It's a texture polish and I didn't know it. Now, I was very disappointed because I didn't get what I was expecting. I didn't hate it, but when you think you're getting a cute sparkly polish and you get sand, it's kind of a bummer. Well, since I already bought it, I went ahead and painted all of my nails with two coats. After wearing it for two days, it has totally grown on me. The texture is fun and different, and I've been converted. I won't use it all the time, but it's something fun and different. 

This morning, I topped one of my nails with my OTHER new nail polish, Spectraflair, to see how it would look. Spectraflair is a beautiful holographic top coat that looks great over anything. It added a subtle extra level of sparkle to an already sparkley nail polish. It's hard to see without good sunlight, and the snow just reflects harsh white rays. 

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Now, here's the part where you burn me at the stake for being a hypocrite. Spectraflair was like... $10. Now, I would pretty much never pay that much for polish, but the creator, Digital Nails, has some of the coolest polishes I've ever seen. They're all geek-themed and represent some of my favorite fandoms like Doctor Who, Harry Potter, and The Fifth Element. 

Digital Nails is owned by a fellow Texan, and I totally dig what she's doing, so I was more than happy to support her small business. As if I wasn't excited enough to get my nail polish, it came in the most adorable packaging! 

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This was a group order of six polishes. She threw in a nail file, mustache glitter, and snowflake glitter for free! Too cute! Anyways, I've been totally impressed with this Etsy store. The owner probably has no idea I'm plugging her stuff, but I just can't help it. When I have been truly impressed by something, I want to brag on them! Go check her out!

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30
Aug
2013

Poppin' Tags and Chicken Pizzadilla

Posted by Nicole

I don't have any jean capris. This is a problem because I have to go to a football game tomorrow and the high temperature is about 103 degrees. My typical uniform is jeans and a staff polo, but full-length hot denim jeans just won't cut it. So what does any crafty girl do? 

I went to Goodwill (wut-wut-wut-wut) and lucked into finding some pretty nice Old Navy jeans in my size. Now, most people get all weird about buying used thrift shop clothes. But honestly, when you think about it, I know LOTS of people who donate perfectly good clothes to Goodwill. They just don't like the style, they don't fit, or they aren't needed anymore. That means not all thrift clothes are super nasty. Yes, there ARE super nasty clothes there, but you've got to be brave and know what you're looking for. Be patient and keep your eyes open and you can find some really nice stuff. I nabbed the jeans for $4 and got a nice dress shirt for work as well for the same price. Protip: Wash your thrift clothes before you wear them or hang them in your closet. Always. 

Now, I'm all prepared to make capris. I pulled out my sewing machine which I only have a small knowledge of and got to work. First step- I stood in the mirror and eyeballed about the length I want. Hold your breath and cut off the excess. I know I only spend a few bucks, but they are good jeans and cutting them cuts into my cheap soul a little bit. 

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Now that there's no going back, I fiddled with the cuff I wanted. Fold, try on, adjust, take off, fold, try on, adjust, repeat. Once I got them where I wanted them, I ironed a pretty good crease into them. I made sure the cuffs lined up as best as I could and added a good bit of steam. 

ImageI have the leg pulled back so you can see both cuffs. I promise they aren't that uneven. From there, I headed to the sewing majigger. I started at one of the thick seams and went across the top of the cuff. As I approached the seams, I knew my machine couldn't go over them, so I went as far as I could, then backstitched a little. I don't know if that's the proper protocol for sewing denim, but that's what I did and I'm pretty sure it looks just fine. 

ImageOverall, I'm very happy with the way they turned out. I want to add some lace trim I have lying around to the back pockets one day when I'm a little braver with a needle and thread. I also wanted to show off my half-priced Sally Hansen nail stickers. I found the music print at Tuesday Morning for $4. My other nails have black polish with a sparkley gold top layer. Tomorrow is our first football game of the year, so I wanted to have a bit of school spirit. Please ignore my chubby stubby hand. I do have a thumb, but it's holding the jeans. 

Before I sign off for the evening, I'd like to introduce you to the Chicken Pizzadilla. Unfortunately, I don't have a picture of the original version, but it would give you heart disease just by looking at it. I discovered this glorious food in the little town where I work at one of like three places to eat. It's technically a gas station, but they serve sandwiches, pizzas, fried chicken, and the like. 

Original Chicken Pizzadilla. Start with a large pizza crust, top with lots of ranch dressing and mozzarella cheese. Cover with grilled chicken strips and bacon. Add more cheese and ranch and fold the crust over. There is absolutely NOTHING healthy about this, but it is every bit as delicious as it sounds.

I decided that I wanted to attempt to make a slightly healthier version. I started with a pizza crust mix from Walmart, which despite being part Italian, I could not make look like a round pizza should look like. Ugly is still edible. I spread some Walden Farms Ranch Dressing over the crust after it had baked a few minutes. Now, if you haven't heard of Walden Farms, it's time you had. They make dressings and toppings that are calorie free. WHAT?! Calorie free Ranch dressing! Now, you can taste the difference for sure, but it isn't bad tasting at all. It's kind of nice because it doesn't taste like you're drinking your arteries full. (Side note: I love their BBQ sauce, other salad dressings, and I'm eager to try their ketchup and chocolate syrup.)

After the thin layer of ranch, I added shredded mozzarella cheese and a premixed/precooked chicken topping I had already prepared. Back when I made Bacon Pancakes, I saved 3-5 slices of bacon. I pulled all the fat off and crumbled the bacon into a bag. I then cut up a chicken breast into teeny tiny bits and sprinkled a bit of ranch dressing mix (the powdered kind) onto the chicken. I put it all in the bag and mixed it up to store in the freezer. When I stated the crust, I pulled out the mix and cooked up the chicken. 

Top your pizza crust with ranch, mozzarella, chicken, bacon, and a little more mozzarella and put it back in the oven.

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Oh man. It was so good, and it really made a whole lot of food. I didn't calculate specific calories, but without extra grease, butter, oil, and fat, I don't think it would be too bad for you.

I hereby declare today a huge win. Now if I can just survive tomorrow- 8 class periods, a pep rally, a 1.5 hour bus ride to a football game, said football game, bus ride back, then the additional drive home. I'd better take my Tardis blanket and get started crocheting! 

 

 

25
Aug
2013

The Blanket of Christmas Future

Posted by Nicole

Image It may be August, and it might be the first day of school tomorrow, but today I'm planning for Christmas. That's right, Christmas. Now before you go all "One Holiday At A Time Please" on me, just know that I've paid my dues by working in a very large craft and hobby store. I've hung more Christmas ornaments up in one year than you have in a decade. I've gotten full body workouts lifting plastic garland and ceramic Santas onto racks high over my head. I've become a professional ladder walker while ducking under support beams and holding splintery baskets full of stockings. So yeah. I get it. You don't want to hear about the commercialization of Christmas. Well I won't talk about it. In fact, this project you see above is going to be a made-from-the-heart present for my brother. It isn't a surprise because he picked it out, but he won't get to see the finished product until Christmas morning. My little brother loves Doctor Who almost as much as I do. When he saw this blanket, the very unmanly noise he made told me what I should plan on him for Christmas. Why so early you ask? I'm a planner. I'm always planning ahead. After checking out this pattern, and judging on how busy I will be this marching season (it's an advancing year for our band), I'd better start crocheting now. I printed out this pattern from Ravelry, and I'll try to update every so often on how it is going. I'm already planning on one addition to the pattern- I'm going to add a gray border all around the Tardis so that it's a true rectangle blanket with smooth edges. Wish me luck.

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25
Aug
2013

No, You Can't Jump Through Them.

Posted by Nicole

Growing up, the N64 was pretty much a staple of my childhood. I'll never forget the first time Lakitu flew into the screen and did a 360 around Mario. Video games in 3D?! Wha?! As a second grader, that just blew my mind. Needless to say, I grew up playing video games, especially the classics like Mario and Zelda. In my home office, we've decorated exclusively with "nerdy" things. Those things that people would probably judge us for, but other nerds would envy. I painted Aaron a Tribes:Ascend painting, and it's hung next to paw print art done by our very own Sophie. (Which basically involved me dipping my dog into paint and blotting her onto the canvas.) Behind my computer, we have a huge Middle Earth map that faces a holographic Pokemon card collection on the opposite wall. Recently, our collection has started spilling out into the rest of the house. There are a few marching band prints and pictures as well as the Exploding Tardis over our TV. The most recent addition has been a work in progress for nearly a year. I got the idea to paint the paintings from Super Mario 64. The more I painted, the more I wanted to do ALL of the paintings (I started with 4). So eight paintings later, I quickly got stuck. Without thinking ahead, I didn't plan for the fact that only half of the levels in the game are entered by painting. The rest of the entrances are walls and holes. After getting stuck, I just ended up putting the project aside for a while. Well today, I've finally finished the paintings. It took me a while to decide whether to do a painting that represents a level or the actual entrance. A pyramid is a lot cooler than a green brick wall, but I decided to stay true to the actual entrances. I'm no professional painter, but I am pretty proud of my work. In fact, I have no idea what I'm doing. I just get paint and brushes and do whatever I want. Honestly, I feel like that's the best way for me to learn. It's how I've learned to decorate cakes, crochet, paint, and cook. Anyways, enjoy! Click the picture for a better view.

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19
Aug
2013

Crocheted Ribbon Flowers

Posted by Nicole

These ribbon flowers are my new favorite thing! Now, I’ve never made a real tutorial, so I’m going to do this how I’d like to read it. Hopefully it’ll help. Beware, there will be lots of pictures!Image

I’ve been trying to find a flower pattern I like for ages, and after trying tons of them and making some really awful flowers, I got fed up. I actually totally made this pattern up as I went and it turned out okay. It’s kind of a compilation of many other patterns I’ve used- too many to go back and find them all. I don’t lay claim and say this is MY pattern, mainly because I feel like it’s dumb to try to claim something that anyone could come up with. Feel free to use this however you want! There is only one condition, if you follow this pattern and start to make millions of dollars from these flowers, I want a cut.

I found some spools of ribbon at Michael’s for 50 cents each. (They go on sale 3/$1 every so often.) I started with pink and purple to test this pattern out, and then I found some red and black I already had at home. There are 10 yards on a spool, and a double-layered flower will use just enough that you can’t really make two flowers from one spool, but at 50 cents, I can’t really argue, especially IF YOU USE A COUPON! Always use a coupon at Michael’s. If they don’t have a good one in a particular week, you can pull up the Hobby Lobby coupon on your phone for 40% off and they will honor it. Also, if you’re a teacher, you get an extra 15% off with an ID, pay stub, or insurance card.

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For this size ribbon, I used an F and a G needle. This pattern will use the following stitches

Sc-single crochet
dc- double crochet
tc- triple crochet
ss-slip stitch
ch- chain

With the F needle, ch 2, and in the first chain, make 6 sc. There should be one extra loop in that circle (it’s the second chain from your first ch 2)- ss into it and ch 1Image

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2 sc in each sc around to make 12 sc. SS into that ch 1 from the previous “row”

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Now for the petals. In the first sc from your hook, you need to dc, tc, tc, dc, then ss in the next stitch. Repeat that pattern all the way around and you should have six petals. Feel free to stop here, or switch colors for a two-tone flower.

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Here’s the tricky part. Instead of slip stitching in the front to tie down the last petal, we’re going to start working in the back of the flower. From where you are, ch 1, then ss into the hole seen in the picture. Basically, you’re going between the holes created by the 2nd row and the stitch that each petal is in.

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Once you’ve made that ss, ch 2 and repeat all the way around. As you complete the 5th petal, ch 1 and ss to your first ch1. (Instead of the ch 2 you did everywhere else, you did one ch at the start of the circle and one at the end.) You’ve just anchored a chain circle around the back of the flower for us to add the second layer to.

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On the back side, you aren’t working into the actual chain stitches. You’ll just be working through the loop they make. Does that make sense? Don’t go through the stitch, go under the chain you’ve made. In each hole, you’re going to do the following- dc, tc, tc, tc, dc, ss. Repeat all the way around. Important note- there are multiple ways to do this. On the pink flower, I just kept working with the F needle. On the purple and red examples, I used a G needle for the back petals to make them just a bit bigger. You decide what you like better. You could even go up another needle size and see what happens.

Ignore all of my example pictures and finish off. I am a slacker when it comes to weaving in ends and I always put it off.

For fun, I found some other ribbon I snagged from a craft box at a garage sale. It came in 10 yard cuts as well and is your typical ribbon size. I followed the same pattern with an I needle and stopped after the first layer. I wouldn’t have enough of the same color to add a second layer, but the flower is big enough as it was. I’d like to note that in the smaller flowers, twisted ribbon didn’t really affect the flower at all. In the bigger flower, the first petal wasn’t twisted, but each petal after got twisted. It made it a bit poofier than the other petals.

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I hope all of this was easy to navigate and understand. If I wasn’t clear or if you have any questions, just let me know and I would be happy to help!

Sophie wasn’t impressed with my flowers. 

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11
Aug
2013

My Favorite Color is Rainbow

Posted by Nicole

School is starting back up soon, so I've been doing a thorough cleaning of my house. I stripped down the bed and was ready to change the sheets, but when they sit in my closet between uses, they start to smell like closet. I decided I needed to suck it up and buy some of those magic-smell-good-pellets for your wash. Gain Fireworks, I believe they're called. (Or Downy Unstoppables) It's like adding sprinkles to your laundry. Well, while I was at Walmart on a Sunday night of Tax Free Weekend (meaning PACKED), I picked up a few little nothings for myself. Image

This yarn was NOT an impulse buy, although the ice cream was. I found it at Walmart a few weeks ago and nearly got it, but I decided to think it over and decide if I really wanted it or if it was just pretty. After deciding I wanted it, I went back and it was gone. I checked all the WM's in town and they were all out. I finally put in a request for the fabric desk to hold them for me, and today just happened to be the day they got their shipment in. It's hard to tell in the picture, but this yarn is called Black Light. It's all sorts of neon and black. Yeah, yeah, I know it's Red Heart, but to be honest, I really don't care. That yarn is pretty darn good, cheap, and consistent, so after washing it, I don't have much to complain about. Especially since most of the stuff I make isn't to wear, so it doesn't make much of a difference. Sometimes the stiffer the yarn, the better. What am I going to make with this? I don't know. For starters, I'll probably do some more iPad or phone sleeves. Maybe a headband or two. I'm really trying to make more quantitative items because I'll be selling my work at a craft show in November. It makes sense to have more little things and fewer big things to sell. My mom's in charge of the blankets and big items, and I'm cranking out the phone cases, clutches, bags, headbands, baby dresses, etc. Anyways, that's all I have for tonight. If you have an idea for something this yarn would be great for, please comment below!

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