Friday, January 30, 2015

Tree Card

The last set of cards that I made for my grandfather (here are the links for the first and second) was using another SVG from Miss Kate Cuttables. The original image actually had one more pink layer. You can see that when I made the card, there are some spots that should have had a heart, but I figured it wasn't necessary. 

Though the image is fairly simplistic in that it's just adding one layer on top of the other, it required a lot of work in terms of gluing it together because the branches get rather thin. If I didn't have Zig glue and Tweezerbees, I don't know how I would have handled it!

I kept the rest of the design very simple by just using a piece of green patterned paper to be the grass. The sentiment is from Pink by Design's "Faith" set, which is one of my all-time favorites. 

I love how all the layers give the card dimension without my having to pop anything off the card. It's a simple card yet really pretty, in my opinion!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Me in a Bag: Mini Cooper

Last week, I posted something that I wrote as an example to read to my kids for the "Me in a Bag" assignment. You can find that first post here. This is the second one that I wrote and read to them.


The screeching of those tires is one of the sounds I will never forget for the rest of my life. It not only caused a physical impact on my life but a mental and spiritual one as well. I never would have thought that a car accident could have that much of an effect years later. 

On one mundane Sunday morning, my family and I were on our way to church waiting at the traffic light right after the Manhattan bridge. When the squealing sound first began, I immediately turned around to find the source of the noise. Once I realized that the work van behind us was not going to be able to stop itself from crashing into our minivan, I quickly faced forward and braced myself for the inevitable collision. We were hit so hard that we also rear-ended the car in front of us, which unfortunately meant that my back hit the seat twice. Because I was sitting in the third row, I was the only one who sustained injuries. 

The police officers and EMTs who arrived on the scene told me that the pain would get worse before it got better. I didn't fully grasp that concept until hours later when the adrenaline that was in my system protecting me from fully feeling the pain wore out. My parents took me to the hospital to confirm that it was "only" whiplash and nothing more life threatening.

For months after the accident, I was required to go to physical therapy. Lifting heavy objects was out of the question, but that was difficult to avoid considering I was a college student at the time. There were nights when falling asleep seemed almost impossible because I couldn't find a comfortable position that wouldn't put stress on my back. When I stood in front of a mirror, I could actually see that one shoulder was raised much higher than the other, and it was constantly sore. The only thing that entertained me throughout this whole ordeal was that for years after the accident, I was able to tell with 99% accuracy whether or not there would be any precipitation in the forecast. I was actually more precise than the weather reports because one particular spot near my spine would throb before it was set to rain or snow the next day.

However, the physical struggles after the accident were nothing compared to the mental struggles. While all of my friends in high school were eager to begin driver's ed, I never had the same burning desire to drive. I had actually waited until that year of college to take private lessons. In fact, I had recently completed a number of lessons with my instructor and had my road test scheduled a few short weeks after the incident by the bridge! Though the pain in my body was problematic, the anxiety about getting behind the wheel again was devastating. Though I was not the driver on that unforgettable Sunday morning, I was terrified that if I did drive, I might one day be in a car accident again or even worse, be the reason why someone else had to suffer through the pain and anguish I had experienced.

Thankfully, I was able to take my road test despite the difficulty I had in turning my neck when checking my surroundings. I passed with a perfect score and became a fully licensed driver. Once I got that paper indicating that I could legally operate a vehicle without another supervising licensed driver, I refused to sit behind the steering wheel again. The fear was crippling. 

No one in my life seemed to truly understand my predicament. It was exhausting hearing people tell me that the only thing I could do to overcome my fear was to get behind the wheel and deal with it. Unfortunately, each time I would try doing that, the panic that coursed through my veins was insufferable, and I was never able to turn on the ignition. Some people seemed to minimize my feelings, which made the issue even more challenging to face because half of me was convinced that I was overreacting while the other half of me was insistent that I was the only one who was being logical in this situation! The apprehension I had lasted years so even though I was a 22-year old adult when I got the job teaching here at Gateway Academy, I was still a kid in that I needed my mom to drive me to and from work.

One might think that the only option that I had that would help me conquer my trepidation was through God's help, and in reality, that's exactly what it took for me to get to where I am today! Among the discouragers who thought they were being encouraging, there were a few who let me be and didn't push me one way or the other. Instead, they quietly prayed that one day I would be able to shove the fear aside and get behind the wheel again, and that's exactly what happened. I can't pinpoint the exact day, but I woke up in the morning thinking, "I can drive now." If that's not divine intervention, I don't know what is!

There's no reasonable, worldly explanation as to why that occurred. When fellow Christians talk about how the Lord lifted burdens off their shoulders when they fully submitted to Him, I couldn't quite comprehend that notion myself, that is, until it happened to me. That screeching sound may always be a part of my memory and something I had wanted to desperately to forget, but now when I think about that ordinary church morning, I am reminded of God's awesome power and how He used it to provide a moving testimony for me.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Addiction of Clearance Hunting

While tidying up the apartment yesterday, I decided that I would put all the clearance baby and kid clothes inside one of our suitcases because the bags of merchandise were starting to pile up. I don't need any of it until months from now for a baby shower and first birthday, so there's no need to keep it out. I have definitely accumulated a bunch of adorable clothing from the Disney Store, Old Navy, and Target!

I've talked to a few moms or soon-to-be moms who said that stocking up on other items like diapers is more worthwhile because everyone gets clothing. I completely understand that, but some things are necessary, I think. I purchased some onesies, sleep 'n plays, burp cloths, and really nice bibs because the babies DO need those things, and I don't feel bad buying them because I got them 50%-70% off. I've found fleece tops for $0.97 and Disney items for $1.99. Other gift givers may still buy clothing items, but as an aunt, I find that it is my duty to bring any of my nieces and nephews into the Disney sphere, haha. That's why you can see some adorably cute Disney gear!

It seems weird spending the money on things now even when items might be too big in size, but I will continue doing it this way so that when the occasions come up, I don't have to go out to shop. I can just "shop" from this suitcase. I have about 4 toys too put away for the proper time. You know how difficult it can be to search for a gift when it's needed. It's the same as having to find a dress before a party or wedding; it's just so difficult and can get expensive! But because of my feelings of buying things on clearance, I haven't had to do any last minute shopping for either of those things, and in the long run, it saves me money.

Of course, there are some things that are just too cute and so incredibly inexpensive that it's worth saving for little Luke or Leia. I bought two of those Pixar shirts and gifted one of them already, but that other one you see is for me! I will save it for as long as I have to! 

Monday, January 26, 2015

Calm Before the Storm

It's so strange looking outside right now and seeing the snow that's on the ground. It's not much really at this point although it is sticking. It seems kind of peaceful as there aren't many cars on the road, but if we really do get as much as the weather people say, it's going to be a totally different view tomorrow!

Just earlier I got an email from CVS that mentioned getting items from the storm in preparation for the storm. I'm guessing that at the point of the email, the CVS by me would have been sold out of essentials already because it's right by a lot of apartments and houses! I said that I should go to the store and get upset with them if they didn't actually have bread and water and say, "You sent this email directly to me!" Then we started joking about how we would recreate a "Jen from Bath & Body Works Appleton" scene. There's a parody of it on YouTube that I won't post here because there's a little bit of foul language in it, but it is something that has made us crack up time and time again. Howard was like, "I went to Stapleton, Westerleigh, Todt Hill, up Grymes Hill and down Grymes Hill ..." Man, we are easily entertained!

Here are some pictures that Howard took on his way home from work today. I'm super glad he got home safely. Public transportation was crowded because a lot of people left earlier than normal. 

This bus one is probably my favorite from all of the pictures. It looks so much like it's a character that needs to wake up and wipe his eyes!

Sometimes we can't tell whether or not it's snowing, and we rely on the parking lot lights to help us figure it out.

It'll be extra quiet tonight what with the travel ban and the fact that all 4 bridges are closed starting at 11pm! I wonder what we'll hear outside since we're right off the highway and normally hear the cars, trucks, and sirens! For most of you NYCers who have a day off tomorrow (or are working from home), have a great snow day tomorrow!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

"Historic" Blizzard?

The news that keeps circulating today is the amount of snow the Northeast is going to get on Tuesday. The mayor already mentioned possible school closing for Tuesday, which rarely happens for public school. That means my school would definitely be closed because we have snow days a lot more often due to the fact that some of our teachers and students drive from the other side of the island. Some of them even drive in from NJ!

After church today, Howard and I made a stop at Home Depot to buy a shovel since we don't have one. The benefit to living in an apartment is that we don't have property to shovel, but considering the amount of snow that is supposedly on its way, we will have to dig the car out! I don't know if the parking lot will be cleaned very well either, which is a scary though to me considering the crazy experience I had in the car fairly recently on an icy morning. So purchasing a shovel was just one way to ease my mind. Since we have absolutely no room to store an actual full-sized shovel, we purchased the car shovel that can be folded in half to fit in the trunk. I'm sure it will come in handy in less than 72 hours.

Here's hoping to safety during this blizzard! I have my fingers crossed that we don't get a blackout. It's more than just a minor inconvenience for us because no electricity means we lose water too! Being on the 9th floor means we really need the pumps for the water pressure. Last Saturday when we had a blackout, we lost our water. Once that happens, I feel as if everything I want to do requires water, haha. 

Now it's time to prepare ourselves for everyone's snow pictures on Instagram!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Me in a Bag: Engagement Ring

The latest writing project that I am having my 6th graders and my 8th graders (I didn't have this current 8th grade class when they were in 6th grade, so that's why they're working on the same assignment) is called "Me in a Bag." This is the prompt that I gave them:

Choose 5 items that are meaningful to you that will fit in a brown paper bag. You will then write about 5 separate life experiences or moments in your life that helped you grow as a person or that explains how and why you see the world the way you do. A photograph can be used as only 1 of the 5 items.

When possible, I try to write a sample for the kids because I think giving them a model of what I expect of them, so this is the first example I wrote and read to them about my engagement ring. I figured I could post it here because I spent a good amount of time writing it!


"Oh, it's so ... small!" Initially, I thought that when my student asked to see my engagement ring at September orientation just two short months after I got engaged in the summer, she would comment that it was "pretty," or "sparkly," or even "cute." However, her sudden outburst about its size was clearly more indicative of how she truly felt regarding the size of the diamond on my left hand. For the majority of girls, a remark like that might be embarrassing, but I didn't find the need to defend my half carat diamond ring. It fit me and my personality perfectly, and no amount of outside pressure about what was considered an acceptable size for an engagement ring would alter that.

Anyone who has spent more than a few days with me can probably attest to the fact that I'm a rather simple girl. While my peers value jewelry and accessorizing their outfits, I instead value the $40 watch I purchased during my first year of teaching to stay on schedule since the classroom clocks were always too fast or too slow. While I see girls post "selfies" on Facebook of new hairstyles or hair colors, I personally feel that it's more important that I grow my hair to donate every two years. Instead of using too much heat or any styling product, I pull my one-length hair back into the same hairstyle almost every day in an attempt to keep it healthy. Plus, when it comes to the actual color of my hair, I always explain, "It's what the Lord gave me!" While others think it's a badge of honor to have clothing or a purse that touts the name of some fancy designer, my eyes widen when I find something sensible, comfortable, and modest at a great sale price. In fact, I'm the kind of person who owns the same item of clothing in a variety of colors!

Considering the differences in how I see things versus how the majority of other females see things, it only makes sense that a half carat engagement ring was and is more than enough for a girl like me. While some of my friends have proclaimed, "If he doesn't propose with at least a one-carat ring, I'm not saying yes," I, on the other hand, was the one who actually went back to the jewelry store with my guy to exchange the three-quarter carat ring for a diamond of a smaller size. 

I don't know when I began feeling this way about things like jewelry. It might have been how I was raised because my mother was never into all things sparkly either because she and my dad were robbed twice when they lived in an apartment in Queens soon after getting married. She lost most of her jewelry and felt that it didn't make sense to keep earthly treasures considering they could be destroyed by moths and rust and where thieves break in and steal (Matthew 6:19). Over the years, what she taught me through her words and through her lifestyle instilled in me a desire to store up treasures in heaven instead even if that means I'm not part of the fashionable, well-dressed population of this world. It's okay by me because I'm content with what the Lord has given me. In the meantime, I'll go about my days in my Disney t-shirts with my hair clipped back in the same barrette hoping that what I do here on earth might earn me a crown in heaven because I know that that will far exceed our knowledge of what we consider beautiful in the here and now.

Monday, January 12, 2015

2015 Goals

As I tidy the apartment today, I'm wearing my new bluetooth headphones that Howard got me as part of my Christmas gift! Because the walls in our apartment are really thin, I don't want to bother our neighbors by having YouTube videos or Netflix shows on really loud since I have to turn the volume up if I'm doing something like washing the dishes. I always used Howard's headphones, but they're rather heavy, so hubs bought a lighter pair for me. It means I can actually get more done each day without my head throbbing, haha. 

The videos I've been listening to lately have been about 2015 resolutions. Depending on who it is, I can actually get motivated by the person speaking to get our place clean! I've been mentally compiling a list of things I would like to accomplish this year and didn't intend on writing it down, but I think it'll keep me a bit more accountable to myself if I just jot them down instead of just leaving them float around in my mind.

Goal #1: Do personal devotions on a daily basis, and if a day is missed, go back and catch up.

As a Christian, this is kind of the goal I mentally make for myself every year, but a few months into the year, I always miss a day and kick myself for being a "failure." I think that because I missed a day, God is disappointed in me for not having the dedication to get through an entire year and then I kind of lose hope for being diligent for the remainder of the year. Of course, that's a completely silly thought because I think I am more upset with it than God is. If anything, God's like, "Aww, I missed spending time with you today! Hope I see you tomorrow!" as opposed to the "Pshhh, you skipped our daily meet? Forget you! I don't want to bother with you any longer because you're so flaky!"

Instead of setting a resolution to do my daily personal devotions, my goal will be to do it every day. However, if I miss a day (something that usually happens on the weekend because I don't follow my regular schedule), I will go back and catch up even if it's a day or two later. I know that it would never hurt me to do twice the amount of quiet time in one day or even three times the amount as I had to do at the beginning of last week!

Goal #2: Read 1 book each month.

I'm actually kind of a hypocrite telling my students that they should be reading books instead of spending all their time online or on their phones! I am on my computer more than I need to be because I procrastinate while I'm doing my lesson plans. I tend to work better when I have a TV show on that I know well, which means I don't have to listen to everything or even watch my monitor. But there are still other times when I could be reading instead! I finally went to the library with intentions to renew my library card, but it was so old that I actually had to get a new one!

I posted the picture above on Instagram already. I got that library card when I was 3-years old, and my mom was so wonderful in taking me to the library so often so that I could borrow books and read read read! Even when I was older, I'd borrow Robin Cook books because I liked medical thrillers and then include a bunch of Babysitter's Club Super Series books in my stack. I tell my students and their parents that I think the kids should just read at home whatever they are in the mood to read even if it isn't necessarily on their "grade level/reading level." I mean, I still love BSC, and I'm 30! When I started teaching, I stopped reading a ton. Even when I was in college, I think I read more despite being an English major and having to read a million things for school! So I saw that a lot of people do the book-a-month thing as a resolution, which I think is entirely doable especially now that I have a new library card. I can borrow ebooks again from NYPL to put on my nook. I don't need to buy anything or make trips to the library and borrow germy books, haha. 

Right now I'm in the midst of reading Divergent by Veronica Roth. Howard and I watched the movie recently on HBO Go, so I wanted to read the book. Years ago when I first started getting into Harry Potter, my cousin told me to actually watch the movies first before reading the books because otherwise I'd be disappointed in the movies for leaving out so much of the book! I followed her suggestion and really thought that it was a useful tip. I decided to do the same here and was okay watching the movie first, but since I'm in the middle of the book, I'm kind of thinking I should've read it first because it's not as exciting as I'd like it to be. I guess I'll have to see when I continue reading the series and start Insurgent before I watch the movie. I know I'm not reading it as quickly as I read The Hunger Games or the entire Harry Potter series. 

Goal #3: Drink 2 tumblers worth of water each day after work.

It is bad, but I know I am probably horribly dehydrated. At the beginning of this school year, I kept getting cramps in my toes in the middle of the night and at school! I wasn't drinking enough water for suddenly being on my feet all day long. Being a teacher doesn't really help in staying hydrated because I just don't want to have to leave in the middle of class to go to the bathroom! I go in the morning before the kids arrive then again at lunch. That's it. So that means I can't keep downing water. I don't know how my fellow teachers who drink coffee do it! I don't start drinking water until lunch time, and even then, I don't finish my entire Camelbak water bottle. That is not healthy at all!

When I get home, I know I should be making up for the lack of water during the day, but sometimes water makes me nauseous. Since I started using tumblers at home, I do drink more because I can keep water next to me at all times and never worry about dust falling in or spilling it. Plus, I like drinking through a straw even though people say that it causes wrinkles. Personally, I think staying hydrated is more important in the long run than getting wrinkles! 

I usually have a cup of decaf tea right away if I'm super cold or I'll have one at night after dinner, and even though that's liquid, I still need to up my water intake. So I will try try try to drink 2 tumblers of water after work, so that doesn't include anything I had in the morning with my pill, anything I had during the school day, or any cups of tea.

Goal #4: Write 2 cards per month.

You'd think that with my love for making cards, I'd write them more often for others. The most I do is write thank you notes to my kids and their parents any time they think of me with a gift or when a family treats us to a catered lunch. I always say that I will write more just for the fun of it because it makes me excited to get something special as snail mail!

I actually purchased a Thirty-One Timeless Beauty Bag from the recent flash sale in December. It's regularly priced at $25, but I got one for $6.99. The grand idea I have for it is to put cards, envelopes, addresses, stamps, pens, and all the items I'd need to write cards. I did keep a few cards in a bigger Thirty-One Zipper Pouch during the Christmas season, but I couldn't really trust that they'd stay nice and neat in there. I actually had to keep it in a plastic box too. I think if I keep all the items together, I'll be more inclined to write because I have a tendency to want to write when I'm out and about. I sometimes get the urge to write a quick note when I have a moment of down time at school! I think this'll be a great way to do that.

If anything, I'll use the bag to hold chargers on vacation and a fifty million other ideas I saw when I looked online, but the more important thing is that regardless of how I store cards that are ready to go, I need to WRITE them! And to SEND them! I think keeping people's addresses together and the stamps in one place will make it much easier for me.

Goal #5: Blog at least 3 times a week.

Last year I attempted to blog every day of the year, but that didn't last. Near the end of the year, I gave up with even thinking about it because I was so busy with work and just so tired. I know I don't need that added pressure, but on the other hand, I'm kind of sad I don't have a written record of a lot of what happened! I will probably still go back and recap some of those things, but there's something about getting the memories down in a more timely fashion so as not to forget things worth remembering for years to come (haha, at least things that I may want to remember). Setting a goal of blogging at least 3 times a week seems extremely doable for me! I know the 4 of you or so who read along will be pleased that I do have plans to write, and I didn't just let it die out!

Goal #6: Eat healthier, exercise, and lose weight.

I have never officially had "lose weight" as part of my resolutions or goals. It's not really something that's related to the beginning of the year but something I need to do in general. Since getting married, I have definitely gained some weight. I don't feel that I have to be a certain weight for society's benefit, but some of my clothes are getting tight, haha. Then when the warmer weather comes around, it will be difficult for me to wear my tank tops since I can't suck in my stomach to be flat any longer! As specific as my other goals are, I won't specify a certain number of pounds I'd like to  lose. The goal is to be able to comfortably fit my regular summer clothes without any issues! Of course, it'll be better for me in the long run if I am healthier, but my short term goal is my Old Navy tank tops because I can't go to Disney World without them! And here's hoping that we'll be able to get there for a trip this year!

That's about it that I have on my mind right now. I could have a goal for finishing at least the following Tuesday's lesson plans on the previous Friday night, but I often fall asleep really early and then end up sleeping until Saturday morning. I could also make a goal of making sure dishes are done each night instead of letting them pile up, but sometimes I shower earlier and don't like dealing with dirty dishes when I'm already clean. There's the goal of taking my vitamins daily instead of waiting for Howard to ask me if I've taken them yet as well as getting the laundry done on a more consistent basis, but doing things by hand requires a rather huge surge of energy that I don't always have after work. I could have a goal that we recycle all junk mail right away instead of just putting the stack of mail next to our printer, and I could say something about grading HW assignments and tests faster than I am right now. However, if I take the time to write all of that, I think it would get overwhelming because my list would get rather lengthy! But those items will still be on the back of my mind even though I think the ones I chose above are more doable. Here's to a hopefully wonderful 2015!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Clearance Hunting!

After work, my mom and I stopped by Target to do a little bit of clearance hunting. I love checking out what people are finding when I browse Instagram. Since my mom had to make a quick stop at Pathmark, I took my time in the Dollar Spot checking out the fun things I would totally buy for a niece or nephew. I would even buy some of these things for my own kids, but I'd save them for road trips to Disney World or their Christmas stockings!

I still get a kick out of seeing My Little Pony stuff. These were totally not the ponies from my childhood! This would be cute even for me if I knew who they were, haha. I only know Rainbow Dash. I also have no purpose for it!

I also love dry erase items. If Toby were older, I would've picked this up. I think these little dry erase activity books or boards are cute to bring along to entertain the kiddos at restaurants. I hope that it never gets to the point that we use our phones to keep the kids quiet.

Since it's January, there are a bunch of calendar options as well as notepad things. I'm actually contemplating picking up a 2015 calendar so that I have it when the next school year begins.

Lastly, I was immediately drawn to these blank books! The possibilities are endless, and I'd like to think that my future kiddos would see the potential and the fun in getting something like this. When I was really young, my family went on vacation to California an stayed with my dad's friend's family. The mom put together these journal-type booklets with paper that had lines at the bottom and a huge space for an illustration. It was stapled between construction paper. She had us write down the fun things we were doing like visiting Circus, Circus. I kept that for the longest time, and I knew even then that I'd want to provide the materials for such a simple activity for my own children.

My main reason for going to Target was to search for clearance in the baby section. The last time Howard and I stopped by was to grab a bunch of baby things on clearance for 50% off. Howard chuckled at me when we were there because he would look around and then turn to find me with stacks of onesies and sleep n plays in my arms! I couldn't help it! As I've said before, I'm all for buying things on sale or on clearance and using coupons if possible so that we have gifts to give when we need it. It's even harder to resist when there are little ones in families! I am definitely having a blast looking for items to be the aunt who spoils the kiddies.

This time, however, the whole section was cleared of the clearance and was replaced with new spring-themed items. I only found one clothing item amid all of it that my mom purchased. I checked the aisles for the other baby items and found a much higher priced item for just half off, so I snagged it! I'm thrilled about that purchase and am pleased that I can give it as a gift!

There was a rack of random cute items nearby though, and this was one of the things that always catches my eye. I love these things with detachable capes!

Part of me wanted to buy these sweatpants just because they were hanging there like that, haha. They're so tiny!

And of course, Disney socks are better than regular socks.

I then moved on to the toy section to check out the Little People Nativity set. It's still $14.98, and they do have a bunch of them so my mom and I are hoping it'll reduce to more than just 50% off. I checked the two aisles filled with clearance toys and scanned a bunch of things with hopes that it was less than what they said, but this Target is pretty good about keeping the prices correct.

Our friend's son likes Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, and this was a bargain for 70% off, but I don't know if he will still like it for his next birthday. Plus, we have no room to store something so big. They had a few of them, so I would totally buy one for Toby too, but he's much too young and we'd have to keep this for maybe two years or so before giving it.

I was immediately drawn to the "Let's Play" items! How adorable that they create these sets for children to have realistic items! I loved the Fisher Price doctor kit my older brother and I had. I played with it all the time.

The words on the box are great: "Everything You Need to be a Real Stylist!" Because we all know it wouldn't be fun to be a fake stylist!

I laughed at this one though. A dish-washing play set? Haha, it's not advertised as dishes that come with a drying rack, but it's a dish-washing play set. Hey kid, practice washing these fake dishes. You'll have to get used to it because once you can reach the sink, it's your job.

This wasn't something that intrigued me though. In fact, it kind of creeped me out that there were two  multi-colored unicorn heads just hanging in front of me.

Behind a bunch of boxes hidden away in the back, I found this Star Wars set for 50% off! Of course, Lego sets are expensive and Star Wars ones are even more expensive so half off still means it's $72 or so. I took this quick picture and sent it to Howard to see. I know that if it were a more important set, it would've been worth purchasing at 50% off like if it were the Death Star or the X-Wing! I think I got those names right ...

Other than that one baby gift item, I bought Sabra hummus with a coupon, haha. I definitely had fun searching for clearance though! I know there's retail therapy, but just browsing through clearance can be pretty rewarding too when you hit the gold mine!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Penguin Thank You Cards

At the end of the year, I know I'm always going to have a large custom order to make ... for myself! My students and their families are generous during Christmas so I get a handful of gift cards and presents. To thank them, I like to make thank you cards especially since I'm off for the break. I'm pretty sure I did it every year since I got my Cricut. This was the first year that I made them using my Silhouette.

Initially I was going to use a penguin from an online coloring sheet that had a winter hat and scarf on, but then I figured I'd use a non-Christmas and non-winter penguin just in case I made extra. That way I could keep it for future needs. The penguin was from Krafty Nook, which was a group on Facebook that unfortunately has shut down at this point. I liked how it was simple with only 4 colors.

I downloaded a font from called "Une Grenouille Le Soir." I had my Cameo cut out the white layer and the word "thanks." I layered a piece of patterned paper behind it to make it pop. I had to look through a lot of paper pads because it had to be the right pattern that would make it easy to see the word. This is the first card that I've made where I actually layered the white mat on a white base, and I actually really like how it looks. I think I'll do it again on a future card!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Teaching with a Blanket

Today was my first day back at work after the Christmas break. Although I was dreading it because I didn't get as much done as I would have liked, I actually had a decent day. Of course, I was feeling tired this morning, but I wasn't as exhausted as I thought I would be. When I did my devotions in the morning, I was uplifted and also kept repeating Psalm 118:17 in my my mind over and over again. I knew that I just wanted to view the day with a better attitude, and it really did help. I know God gives me each day for a purpose even when it's a bitterly cold day too! I was so arrive at my mom's house to hop in her car because she has the heated seats. My mom cranks that up for me before I even get in because she knows I need it!

I have to say that even though I can start the day off on the right foot, I do get really upset when all my posters have fallen down, haha. I do like my walls not to be busy because I know that if I were a kid, I wouldn't be able to pay attention to the teacher if there were a thousand colors on the wall. I used to sit there and memorize things on the posters when I was bored in class. The fact that everything falls down is the other reason why I don't put too much up either. But I guess I can't complain because the reason for it is the change in temperature in the room, and my room was WARM today. 

I put painter's tape on the wall and then affixed the posters using regular table since other things would pull the paint off the wall.

Thank the Lord for the warmth or the day would've gone by so slowly! I was wearing a tank top, a 3/4 sleeve sweater on top of that, and one of my favorite purchases of 2014. About two months ago, I bought 3 open-front cardigan type sweaters from Old Navy of varying thicknesses because I have turned into an old lady who needs to have an extra layer for school. I used to wear hoodies or fleece zip-ups, but they were definitely a bit messier than the rest of my work clothes, so I needed something a little bit more appropriate. This particular one that I was wearing today made me feel as if I were being wrapped in a blanket, and considering how much I wanted to be under my blanket at home, this was definitely comforting.

Well worth even the full price (even though I got mine on sale with a coupon code too, haha).

Hmm, part of me is even thinking about purchasing the black one in a large since they no longer have medium. I do, however, have a similar top in sweater material so maybe it's not necessary. There's just that part of me that's like ... NON-SNUGGIE WEARABLE BLANKET! I WANTS IT! MY PRECIOUS!

Throughout the day, my students were watching the snow fall down and getting excited probably because they were thinking about snow days. I had a few of them ask if school would close early because it has happened maybe on two occasions in the past when a storm hit harder than expected. I disappointed them in saying that it wouldn't happen because it wasn't even that much snow! The little courtyard can be seen from my classroom window, so as the bell rang for the kids to change classes, the kids would scoot over to the window to check to see if it was sticking. Oh kids, I'd like a snow day too! Just don't get your hopes up just yet!

The snow was light and powdery, so that meant it didn't require a lot of energy to clean off. I had actually parked up the block from my parents' house this morning, so my mom dropped me off so I didn't have to walk up with all my stuff. I had gotten the snow off the driver's side of the car before I stopped to take this picture. Suddenly, a man was standing next to me with a weapon! 

If we aren't getting a snow day, I don't know that I want to see you at all, snow!

I'm kidding. It was my dad with another brush to help me finish getting the snow off my car! What a sweet popsicles to walk up the block to give me a hand! On the way home, I kept thinking that it's so funny that my dad shows his love in his actions and will always continue to take care of me (especially because I'm his only daughter ... although now he also has a daughter-in-law and my parents take care of "in-laws" as if they were their own biological children), but he's a typical Chinese man in that he doesn't say, "I love you." But I've gotten used to it at this point even though it took me years and years to accept that that's the way it is in many Asian families.

Well, I guess I can say there were three things today that warmed me up then!
  • the seat warmers in my mom's car
  • my blanket-like cocoon top
  • my daddy's loving gesture of helping me clean my car

Hope you were able to stay warm today too!

Monday, January 5, 2015

And So It Begins ... Again

It's that time again. It's the night before the return to school after Christmas break. I'm aware that I definitely got a great deal this year considering my vacation was actually over 2 weeks since I don't work Mondays due to being part-time (although from a financial standpoint, it wasn't the greatest since I don't get paid unless I'm at work!). My colleagues had to go back today, and I'm relieved that I had another day to myself especially since I only did work on the last Friday I was at school. Yeah, all my plans to be productive for school purposes during this vacation flew out the window.

It seems to always happen on Christmas break. The first week is filled with activities and plans as we get together with family to celebrate Christmas, so by the time there's a little bit of a break, I need some relaxation days! Going out and about is rather tiring for me especially when my regular schedule is disrupted. My body is so used to my daily ritual that I start to feel sick when it's altered. Of course, I ended up spending a good portion of this vacation feeling under the weather with regard to my stomach. I wouldn't be surprised if it was the different foods that I was eating that wasn't the typical somewhat bland food we eat at home. Suddenly I was eating richer foods or greasier foods, and it took practically a week before I started feeling normal again and getting my appetite back. I'm sure it didn't help that I wasn't waking up at 6 in the morning to take my medicine and eating breakfast at 6:45 every day!

I guess the one good thing about returning to work is that it means being back on schedule, which my body will definitely appreciate. I'm sure part of my body will be very upset when I drag it out of bed when all it will want to do is stay in bed, but I will hopefully make it through.

No, wait. Hold on a second. This past Sunday, the focus of the message was on Psalm 118:17, which says, "I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the Lord." The main point that really stuck with me was the fact that often times we aren't really living so much as surviving. Tonight before dinner, Howard and I prayed that we would face this year with an attitude that we would LIVE through the year instead of just do things that will help us get by to survive. Each day I know I just want to make it through so I can get home and then finally reach the weekend. Then each week, I want to get it over with so I can get to our next day off or week vacation. In reality, that means I'm wasting each day when I could have a much better attitude as I face each minute that God lets me breathe each breath. 

I hope it wasn't just a before dinner prayer but one that will resonate for 2015. Oh, and speaking of dinner, we had pizza. Haha, I know that's a rather strange transition, but I personally enjoy blogs that include pictures so I figured that was a way to fit something in! Dunkin' Donuts has that free iced coffee promotion on Mondays thing again, and my parents were able to get an extra card for me to use since we don't get them in our mail where we are. Hubs went to get it for me when he got back from work and picked up pizza from a local place that I used to frequent during my high school days called Village Maria II. My friends and I would walk there when we were hanging out at one of their houses and then have a slice and then hop over to Carvel if it was a Wednesday to get buy one get one free sundaes! Just recently, I thought that maybe it would be nice to try it again as I wondered whether I just liked it in high school since it was fairly inexpensive. 

These pictures aren't from tonight. They're actually from December 14th, which was the night we went to the live nativity at church, which I'll hopefully write about in another update. I had Howard take a picture of me while sitting in the booth because it brought back memories!

That night we chose 5 slices to split even though we obviously didn't finish them all in one day! The spinach and mushroom one was really good although a little greasy. The eggplant one reminded me of my teenager days. The buffalo chicken slice had quite a kick to it, but I enjoyed it because of the blue cheese (hubs wasn't too big of a fan of that!). Our favorite was definitely the bruschetta square though. Although it's definitely really onion-y, it just seemed tasty because of the crunchiness and freshness. It's not the kind of thing you eat if you don't want bad breath because boy, that onion lasts!

Tonight I decided to go with the spinach slice and the bruschetta one again. Here's hoping that after brushing my teeth tonight and tomorrow morning and eating breakfast, I don't still breathe onion as I go back to teaching during those 7 periods! I'm sure my kids would also wish that I were still on vacation!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Cupcakes for Birthdays!

Two years ago, Howard bought Crumbs cupcakes home for my birthday. In all honesty, I don't think they were the greatest cupcakes in comparison to other cupcakes, but the fact that there are so many flavor combinations makes it a special treat! Plus, it was a cupcake! It just baffles me how much things can cost when purchased in the city. It's not normally something we'd spend money on, so the fact that Howard went and picked two of them for us to share over the course of two days was such a romantic gesture (especially because she picked chocolate ones!) and definitely a satisfactory treat for a birthday celebration.

Now when I make birthday cards, I feel that there's even more reason to use cupcakes on them! This cupcake was a freebie from Miss Kate Cuttables. I kept the colors the same as the sample image because I thought it was a good mix for a unisex card. Yum to chocolate frosted cupcakes!

The sentiment is from Pink by Design's set called "Birthday, Birthday." If you've been following me for a while, you know just how often I use that set! I wish there was a set like that for "thank you." I might have to place an order with Papertrey Ink to get some of the mini stamp sets that just have one simple sentiment in different fonts. It's nice to be able to choose on to fit the design of the card.

I think this simplistic card would be something my grandpa would use, so I think it really worked for this set of 4 that I made for him. 

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Haul: Bath & Body Works $8 Candles

Last December on the 12th, Bath & Body Works had their $8 candle sale again. It's a sale they have only once a year. They're normally $22 each, which is a crazy price. After coupons, I typically pay $7-8 on each candle after coupons, but since the candles started at $8, I was able to pay $5 each using a $15 off $40 coupon. 

It was still crowded at the store when I went there after work. I wasn't sure if there'd still be a selection available considering this is a huge deal in the BBW world, but I was pretty sure I could grab a few. I had it planned that I'd only get 5 of them, and most of the scents that everyone loves are the ones I actually don't like because they're the sugary scents. An employee gave me a crate when she saw me carrying them in one of their bags, and I went around to smell the new candles with the sparkly lids. I was trying to narrow it down because those were the ones I had wanted, and it worked out well that the scents that were still available were the ones I wanted based on their scent descriptions.

When I grabbed my 5, I went to stand in the long line, but I didn't mind waiting. From what I remember, it was actually longer than the Black Friday line I stood in during 2013! That's kind of crazy, haha. The only difficult part about it is that it requires standing for a while holding candles that aren't the lightest things in the world. When I finally got the counter, the girl asked me if I had to wait a long time, but I said it wasn't too bad and that it was okay by me because it was worth it!

It was even better because the coupon I used was a mailer coupon, which is attached to another coupon that you're allowed to use in the same transaction. I asked the sales associate if I had to spend another $10 to use the free item coupon, and she and another girl said I didn't. So that meant I was able to grab the White Citrus body wash for free without spending anything more out of pocket, yay!

Here is my relatively small haul compared to last year's $8 candle haul:

The "Light up the Room" is the sparkling apple champagne scent. I burned it once already, and Howard and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It took a long time to pool but the throw was so strong form the start, which I appreciated because I hope that means it'll last longer. It smells like apple, of course, but not the apple that's in all the fall candles. It's lighter and sweeter. When it was burning, it smelled a little bit like a Jolly Rancher but not too sweet. 

The "Wine Down" is the pomengranate sangria. I've seen that people have mentioned it's the same as a vineyard scent from the previous year, but I remember smelling it last year and didn't like it. I might just appreciate the smell now, but I think it's still a little different. It's unlike the "mandles" (candles that smell like men's colgne) and citrus scents I already have, so it'll be a nice change in pace. I haven't yet burned it.

The last candle I chose was "Merry Mistletoe" (a flirty and festive blend of cranberries, pears, frosted citrus and a hint of holiday greenery). I don't typically buy these scents, but on that day, it just really reminded me of Christmas! It has the fruity scent to it, but it does smell like Christmas trees too. I figured I could burn it during the vacation. Of course, I ended up breaking the candle! I was upset because I liked the holder although I later learned it was just a packaging wrapped around the glass. Howard salvaged the wax for me by breaking the rest of the glass off and separating it from the wicks. Right now I have it in a Ziploc bag, and in the future, I'll burn it on a warmer after I get one. If anything, I know that it'll last better since the original holder doesn't have a lid, so now the scent is being kept in the baggie and not escaping into the air.

I'm really happy with these candles! I wonder if I'll still feel justified in purchasing candles after we move out of this apartment and don't have to deal with hallway odors or vent smells (someone who is also connected to our vent system smokes, yuck!). I'll probably still buy them once in a while, but at least now, I don't have to worry about feeling guilty about it, haha.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Bicycle Card

There's a part of me that loves it when people have some custom order requests, but then there's another part of me that kind of stresses out! I don't want to disappoint anyone, and it's not as easy to get things done when I'm in the midst of the semester and need to continue planning and grading papers. Sometimes I just want to craft for the sake of crafting, and this particular set of cards was made with that feeling instead of a anxious, rushed feeling.

A few weeks after the bake sale at church last November, my grandfather asked me for some birthday cards and get well cards. I didn't actually have much left over since I was using the cards myself to write some thank you notes to kids and parents during the first trimester of school. I told him that I could make him some, and I had some time during my Christmas break to make a few for him. 

I knew that I wanted to use some of the free SVGs that I save almost every day from Miss Kate Cuttables. I love that a freebie is offered daily, so that's why most of my free SVGs are from that site. The original image had flowers in the basket as well as the little banner, but I omitted that to simplify the cut since these are incredibly detailed. Plus, these took a little bit longer to piece together because everything was so thin. It baffles me that the Silhouette Cameo can cut these things so cleanly because my Cricut Expression would not be able to handle it without tearing.

I kept the same colors because the blue could be used for a guy or a girl. Wanting the card to be cheerful, I used a polka dot yellow paper for the background. I added the extra step of having a black mat too just because it seems to make the card a little bit more put together.

The sentiment is from Pink by Design's set called "Spring Has Sprung." I know it doesn't seem as if a bike could be related to the sentiment. Haha, it really doesn't, but I think it's difficult to make cards that aren't necessarily cutesy, so I figured anything nature-related or just general cuts would work.

I love the side view of this card because you can get a better idea of all the layers involved in making this. I mean, there are layers that aren't even too visible. For example, there's a darker blue behind the part of the bike that the pedal is attached to, but only a thin strip is seen. However, it adds dimension so the cut isn't so flat.

Because of the complexity of the pieces, I only made 4 of these cards. This is definitely not something I'd want to mass produce! I think I need to go back to making just a few of each image so that I can enjoy the detailing without driving myself crazy.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Remembering 2014

As the new year begins, I thought it was only appropriate to get back into blogging after taking a long, unintended break for a month and a half. I was clearly not successful with my plan of writing something every day in 2014, but I know that I did force myself to write down more than I did in any previous year. For that, I am grateful. I am glad to have memories recorded somewhere so that I can look back on what happened and how I felt. 

There are, however, a few things that I missed. Here are some of the more important things that come to mind when I think about 2014:

I stopped taking one of the medications I've been taking since I was first diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. 

Years ago when I first started taking the pills, my gastroenterologist talked about how he hoped to slowly wean me off the medicine and that I would get better to the point where I wouldn't have to take it for the rest of my life. I actually started cutting back on the amount I took per day just because I had difficulty swallowing them. I was supposed to take 4 in the morning and then 4 at night, but I only took the ones at night. I would wait until Howard went to bed so that I could take my time because I would have to psych myself up to swallow each one. I let my doctor know about this, and his concern was whether or not I was okay with it, and I told him there was no difference in my daily life with my cutting back the medicine. He said as long as I was okay, it would be fine. So I kind of took a risk and eventually stopped taking it entirely!

Since I was home during the 2013-2014 school year, I figured that my health would improve because I wasn't around germs on a daily basis and because I was eliminating one of the largest reasons for my stress! And what do you know! There was no difference in my life on medicine and my life off medicine. Sure, there are times when my stomach bothers me, but the same would happen even when I was on medication. My health is dependent on whether or not I feel stress (I anticipate not being in the best of health as we approach the state tests in April), whether or not I'm eating properly (too much fiber does a number on me as well as things like Chinese food), or disgusting germs from my lovable kiddos at work. Now that things have also changed at work (I'll get into that in a moment!), my health has improved in comparison to past school years too. Normally, I'm absent for the first time in October or so. I made it all the way to just a few days before Christmas break! What?! With that, I know that I should be okay without taking that medication.

I became an aunt.

Howard's sister had her baby on August 5th, so I finally got to enjoy all the perks of being an aunt! I think it's so much being able to play with a baby without having the full responsibility. It was hilarious getting to see how Howard held baby Toby since he hadn't held a baby that small in his entire lifetime. 

This little man has stolen my heart!

The other benefit of being an aunt is that I can buy things to spoil the little one! When we first found out that my sister-in-law was pregnant, I began doing some couponing for her. Whenever I saw baby deals, I snagged them so I was able to build up a nice collection of small items like baby wash/lotion, baby wipes, and spoons to put together a little bucket of goodies for Toby's birth. I would say that I stop by the baby clearance section more than I do the women's clearance section. When I'm at Target or Old Navy, I am drawn to the little itty-bitty clothes and will snag anything that's a great deal for a boy or for a girl. I think it's ridiculous just how expensive some items can be when the baby will only be wearing it for a short period of time! So I can't help purchasing items on clearance or with a coupon and storing it for a future gift. I did the same thing with some toys. That way when the next occasion comes up, I don't have to purchase things that are full price. I'm all for stretching our dollars so that for the price of just one shirts for baby Toby, I can get three instead! Howard laughed at me when I was at Target the other day buying tons of boy and girl baby clearance especially with the 20% off Cartwheel offer. I don't even shop that way for myself because my arms were literally full of items that I just grabbed in case someone else came and started doing the same. It's so much fun!

We went on a non-Disney vacation.

There are plenty of people out there who think it's strange that Howard and I continue to vacation in Disney World when there are so many other places in the world to see. But in the same way that you don't understand why we would want to stand in lines to get on attractions all day long, we don't understand the lure of laying on a beach. 

Just recently, we heard a message at church that discussed the lion and the lamb, and it definitely touched my heart so I had to choose this photo to represent our Lancaster trip!

Back in August, we finally went somewhere else and were able to enjoy a brief time in Lancaster to learn about the Amish, shop, watch Moses at Sight & Sound, and tour the Wolf Sanctuary. We will definitely do that again in the future! I started a recap of that vacation but never finished it, so maybe I'll get to it this year!

I returned to teaching in September.

After the 2012-2013 school year, I was done with teaching. I had put in 6 years and was tired of the stress that came along with the job itself and dealing with the administration. I wanted a job where I could do whatever needed to be accomplished during a regular 9-5 time frame and then go home to relax. I wanted my weekends back! I wanted to sleep at normal hours and not have my world revolve around teaching. I never fully explained what happened in terms of leaving that job and working elsewhere, so maybe I will go into details in the future. However, in short, the new job that I took was not the right fit for me. The one good thing about it (other than getting paid more) was that it showed me that I can't shake my identity as a teacher because that is what God called me to do. 

Teaching also means going back to carrying big bags to and from work!

There was no way I could have predicted that that would've happened. I did not expect missing the busyness of teaching. Sure, it has its daily challenges, and I probably look forward to days off and vacation breaks more than the kids do. But I was definitely more willing to take on those challenges than the ones at the other job. I missed my colleagues and the kids, and I felt that I wasn't using the gifts God gave me. I am extremely grateful that I had the opportunity to try something else to get a taste of the "outside world."

As mentioned above, I actually made it all the way to December without getting terribly sick. I had a cold earlier in the year, but the worst of it fell on the weekend when I was able to just stay in bed and sleep. I attribute my better health to the peace that I have in knowing I am where I'm supposed to be and because of the good changes that occurred with the new headmaster. I pray that despite the feelings of fatigue and the stress about the upcoming state tests dealing with the ridiculous Common Core, that joy in me never fades.

I began enjoying the art of taking pictures.

Okay, so to some degree, this isn't an entirely new thing for me. When my dad first got a digital camera, I used to take it with me in my bag so that I could capture whatever pictures I wanted to during the day. It was, in my opinion, one of the greatest inventions because before that, I had to pay for film and also shell out money to have the pictures developed! I'd take groups shots with my friends, and we'd take a bunch with hopes that one of them would come out! Since the digital camera was brought into my life, I rarely went anywhere without one in my bag.

Then Howard got me my iPhone the first year of our marriage. I loved it because I was able to take pictures with ease because I didn't have to dig through my bag for the camera or look awkward stopping to take a picture of something that seemed insignificant to others. Random pictures with long captions are the things you'll find on my Instagram feed, and it's just another way for me to continue capturing memories.

Well, the difference between this year and all the years beforehand is that my interest in photography has changed in that I want to start taking pictures with a DSLR instead! I still love my digital camera and my phone and will continue to use those on a daily basis. However, when Toby was born in August and then my cousin Nikki got married in October, I really understood more of why Howard lugs around a huge DSLR to these events. I don't have an idea about settings and don't really want to know about them. I'm fine with Howard setting the camera up to whatever fits the environment and then just taking it from him to shoot. He still does the post-processing, but I am so intrigued with how I can capture things on "film" the way that I see them through my own eyes. I still fully believe in photographs as a means of preserving a specific moment in time, so even if the subject in the photo doesn't look the best (ex. when Toby is making a face because he's upset and crying), I think it should be captured.

My cousin's wedding was the first time we both shot with DSLRs!

I have to say that throughout this year, there are three photos that I'm extra happy about. The first is on the first day we met Toby and I got a picture of him in sunglasses. The second one is a picture of Nikki and Dan on their wedding day during their first dance (I have to say I was so happy when Nik chose it as her new Facebook profile picture). The last one is one that I took when we celebrate Toby's first Christmas with the lights from the tree in the background (the picture I posted above).

We started attending a local church.

It's kind of strange not to be at my home church each Sunday. I never thought that we would worship elsewhere considering Howard and I met at my home church. However, for the past few months, we felt that God was leading us elsewhere. We began attending a church close to our apartment. This is definitely a huge change in our lives at the end of 2014 especially since I really detest change and am uncomfortable meeting new people and altering a set routine, but so far, we have been blessed at this new church. The pastor's messages are convicting to the point where I actually took action on something that was burdening my heart for the past two years. I know, I know. This is a rather vague description, but in the same way that I didn't quite explain everything that happened with my departure and return to teaching, I won't write more on this subject for this post either.

With a new year ahead of us, I'm a little nervous about what's in store. I know God is always present in my life, but I do hope that I draw closer to Him this year and can establish more discipline in my life with regards the big things like more consistent devotional times and the little things like getting the laundry and dishes done before it piles up, haha. I am a work in progress, but looking back at all that I've experienced in the previous year, I'm kind of curious to see what will happen! Stay tuned as I do my best to document more of the life-changing and, more likely, the mundane!