Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Mother's Day Gel Manicure Kit!

Last year, for Mother's Day, I asked for my very own trapeze bar (installed in our high ceilinged living room)! This year, with a baby on the way, my requests were a little more practical.

A friend was given a gel manicure kit for Christmas. I was intrigued by the idea of polish that wouldn't chip or wear down in a really short amount of time. By this spring, I had seen a few gel manicures and was impressed that they seemed to grow out long before they wore out. I asked for a starter kit and received the Gelish polish system for Mother's Day.

At the time, I didn't realize that there were multiple brands (Gelish, CND, OPI) to consider. Gelish was sold locally at Sally's Beauty supply, so it was easy to explain to the husband where to go and what to ask for. (Even so, I'm still fairly certain that her made my sister go pick it out!) Either way, he (they) got me the Gelish starter kit and then a separate UV light. I was generously given an LED light instead of a UV which requires less drying time than UV. I was also given the light that fits all 5 toes, making gel pedicures a possibility.

The picture above shows everything thing that I got. I was a little overwhelmed by the number of tiny bottles in the kit. There were six bottles to start with, many of which get used multiple times in the process. There were also printed directions and a DVD tutorial highlighting the SEVENTEEN steps to your new gel manicure! I was beginning to get a little worried.

Luckily, I read through all those directions before starting and figured out that for all those little bottles the Gelish starter kit does NOT include a starter polish color. I enjoyed picking out my own shade from the 72 that they offered (and my sister included a gift card in my gift to get the polish) but I was still a little bummed that my first manicure had to be postponed a few days until I could get to the store.

So, a few days later, I was all set to give it a try. The color I selected is Exhale. You can find it on that chart, but it looks NOTHING like the finished color. Apparently, most Gelish polishes look lighter than advertised. Good to know, but if you know that, then why not use actual pictures of the finished product in the color charts? (I'm talking to you Gelish corporate conglomerate!) Also, it was a really small bottle with a really big price tag (about twice what I pay for OPI polish). Everything in my kit is labeled as Gelish Mini. I can't seem to find the maxi size, but based on what the mini costs, I probably couldn't afford it anyway!

Other than a little sticker shock and color shock, I was pleasantly surprised by how quick and easy the process was. I am used to doing a base coat, a few layers of polish, and a top coat. This system just adds a cleaner at the beginning and at the end (apparently the gel is sticky until cleaned at the end) and a ph bonder liquid (I have no idea) before the base coat goes on. You need to already be able to paint your own nails pretty neatly and then keep in mind that it is a little harder with those tiny brushes in those tiny bottles. I painted both my fingernails and my toe nails and I was amazed that they were INSTANTLY hard and dry and SUPER shiny! I usually bump mine within a few minutes of painting them and then wear them down after only a day or two of constant crafting and cleaning both at work and at home. I am also used to trying not to touch anything for a few hours after a DIY manicure (difficult with kids) but with the gel it was solid as soon as I was finished!

Two weeks later, and the painted part of my nails still looked GREAT! I have NEVER had a manicure last so long that it needed to be changed because it grew so much! (Lets blame prenatal vitamins, for the sudden growth and hope I can eventually make it to 3 weeks as promised) My pedicure was also holding up well, and not growing so fast that it needed to be redone. I did have one toe suddenly loose ALL polish (it peeled off I suppose). So, I did the full process on the one toe and then added a new layer of top coat to make all my toes extra shiny again. I am going on 3 weeks for the pedicure with only minimal maintenance.

My finger nails were not so sime and required much more work. The removal of "soak off" gel polish, like the application, is also a multi-step process. The soaking requires holding the special removal chemical to your nails for 10 minutes, hence the aluminum foil. I discovered that trying to wrap ALL my fingers in foil.... While all my fingers were WRAPPED IN FOIL... Was really difficult. So in the future I need to plan 20 minutes to take off the polish one hand at a time.

I did test to see if the special chemical (mostly acetone) was any better than my cheap drugstore fingernail polish remover. The left hand is after 10 minutes of the chemical that came with the kit. The right hand was the regular polish remover (mostly acetone also). Not a huge difference between the two. What IS different is that the gel polish doesn't dissolve like regular fingernail polish. It loosens and flakes off, so be prepared for flakes and chips of old gel coating to fall off and make a mess. Also, be prepared that it won't all come off. I had to re-soak and scrape a few nails.

So, I survived the entire process from start to finish over a two week period. Even with the extra steps, I still thought that the time I spent was comparable to a regular DIY manicure. I LOVED the lack of scuff marks, dings, chips, etc! Mostly I LOVED feeling like even with kids and a lot of crafting (hands always covered in clay, paint, cleaners) I could have nails that stay nice looking.

My biggest complaint is about those weird small bottles of polish. I'm looking online for a non-mini size. In the mean time, I did one more experiment. As long as I needed to paint my nails again anyways, I tried using the gel ph stuff, then the gel base coat, then my REGULAR OPI non-gel polish, then the gel top coat. I used the LED light between each coat as instructed (including between polish coats with the non-gel polish). So far (5 days later) it still looks good! It has a tiny bit of wear on the edge that the gel did not have (the edge looks like it has rubbed off a little) but I am probably the only one to notice. This is the last week of school, so my hands have done TONS of cleaning and no chips or weird spots yet! I am a VERY happy girl!

Monday, May 28, 2012

A Fabulous Shirt!

Every year, so far, for Lydia's birthday I have made an outfit to coordinate with her party theme. There was a 1 year old butterfly dress, a two year old tea party dress, and a sea inspired dress last year. This year I needed to come up with something "fabulous"!
I saw this shirt on Zulily.com and thought that it had the right feel. Unfortunately, it was a close out sale and only available in size 12. I got the idea to try and make a similar shirt, but with our pink and black color scheme. As long as I was changing things, I figured I could try to make the girl look more like Lydia.
I had some thrift store clothing that I was going to play around with to make an outfit. Then I saw this pink and black fabric with scenes from Paris and I just had to have it for the birthday outfit.
Looking at both the inspiration shirt and the Paris scenes on the fabric, I sketched a few ideas.
When I slid the drawing inside the shirt, I could see through the fabric so I only had to trace the image.
I used a fabric marker, which took a bit of work to get it all uniformly thick and even. Fortunately, Lydia didn't mind spending some time in the studio while I worked on it.
Once the drawing was finished, I added a few appliqué pieces. This was my first time using anything like "heat n bond" prior to sewing and I really liked the results. The "heat n bond" was thin enough that I could just trace the shape and then cut the fabric to fit the right shape.
And here is the finished, FABULOUS, shirt. All I need now is to get a few ideas for a matching skirt and the outfit will be finished.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

A Box of Happy

I saw this idea somewhere on the Internet and knew that I would send it out to a cousin who was having a tough time.
The general idea is to create a "box of sunshine" for someone whose skies are grey.
This was super easy and super fun to shop for. I went to two stores and filled my shopping cart with anything yellow, happy, and fun. My collection includes lots of random yellow stuff like neon drinking straws, a big yellow kitchen spoon, a yellow plastic slinky, assorted toys and lemon candy.
I even found a yellow aromatherapy candle labeled as having a "Happiness" scent! Oh and that cute "Thinking of you" card came printed with "sending you a little sunshine" on the inside. (I found both at Target!)
The goodies got packaged up with some yellow tissue paper and sent on their way to brighten up a good friend's day!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Elephant Growth Chart

Lydia has become really aware of how big she is and also how big she wants to be this school year. With the help of Pinterest and a Sharpie marker I made a "giant ruler" growth chart a while back and have enjoyed watching Lydia measure herself frequently.
I was trying to think of something to make as a gift for Lydia's teacher. I started thinking that if Lydia enjoyed measuring herself, a whole class of three to four year olds might really enjoy a classroom growth chart. Lydia's class has an elephant theme, so I started dreaming up ideas for an elephant themed growth chart.
I found an odd scrap of canvas and then found an elephant image online. I cropped and resized the picture in Word so that the elephant was exactly six inches tall. My idea was elephants stacked on top of each other so that 2 elephants equaled a foot.
Using my printout, I did a simple transfer by rubbing pencil lead on the back.
Then I could just trace the picture pressing really hard to transfer the design. I just traced the outside edge of the elephant shape because I was painting the whole thing grey anyway.
I would trace an elephant and then paint an elephant until I filled the length of the canvas.
Next I traced the details and went over them with a paint pen.
Because the chart had unfinished canvas edges, I wanted to make a sign to finish off the top and create a focal point. I found a wood plaque at Walmart and an image of an elephant balancing on a ball.
Just like on the growth chart, I painted in the shape of the elephant and then used a paint pen to add the details.
I planned out a message about the students in this teacher's class growing "in mind, body, and spirit." I used the same technique to transfer the images and words to the plaque.
I decided that I really didn't like the unfinished canvas edge down the length of the growth chart. I got the idea to attach a fabric measuring tape to add a fun detail while hiding the raw edge. I didn't want to guess about a glue that would stick so I decided to sew the measuring tape to the canvas.
I went ahead and brightened up the the colors on the elephants so that they matched with the bright yellow of the measuring tape. I also added larger measurements (in eleph-eet) so the kids can see if they are 3 elepheet or 4 elepheet.
Here is the finished plaque attached to the growth chart and below you can see the whole thing. I hope it finds a happy home with lots of little "elephants" to check how big they are.

Crafting Some Fabulous Invitations!

Lydia finishes up preschool this week. Suddenly I realized that if she wanted to invite any of her school friends to her birthday party, we had to give the invitations to her teacher early this week.
In the past, I have done a lot of photoshopped Images and fonts on invitations. I tend to obsess over that sort of thing and spend WAY to long on small details. ( you can see the Alice in Wonderland Tea for Two invite that took FOREVER here) This year I only had a weekend!
Here is where I started. I found these zebra cards on half price back in September, so I've had a little time to think about it. At the time 50 seemed like a lot. Suddenly, I am struck with the idea that if we invite ANY preschool kids, we need to invite the WHOLE class. So that's 26 or so kids plus the 25 or so invitations we usually send out. Plus I like to keep one for the scrapbook. Plus I always have a few that get ruined in my printer. Thankfully, the zebra card was printed the same on the front and the back. For the preschool invites, I cut the cards in half and made the design on the front and on the back. The cards for family and friends can still be the full card style with the design on the inside and on the outside. Problem solved!
Next, I needed to design the inside.  I did a quick google image search for pink and black invitations and found the basic layout.  I pretty much "borrowed" the idea on the right with a few changes.  I am usually much more responsible about not just copying something, but making it my own creation.  No time for that this year, but I promise to be better about intellectual property and copy write and all that in the future.  I did alter the design some, by getting rid of the zebra print (we already had plenty on the outside of the card) and making it horizontal instead of vertical.  I erased everything inside the pink border and made that my own.  I asked Lydia about the graphic and she chose the Eiffel Tower (or tower of Paris as she calls it).  I was really happy with the fun and funky illustration that we found of the tower.
Then I google image searched fabulous party and glamorous party invitations to study different wording ideas.  I think I also searched "four invitation" and finally found one that listed several things that would be at the party and then rhymed "and more" with "four".  I wanted to give guests an idea of what to expect so I thought that was perfect!  Our card says, "Get ready to be fabulous with glitter, feathers, and more! It's time for a glamorous party, because Lydia is turning four!"
With the inside finished, it was time to decorate the outside. When I first saw the zebra cards back in the fall, I had the idea of doing something with adding pink details to teh front of the card.  Eventually the idea emerged to use a number four and the theme of the party, "four and fabulous". Then I saw some invitations on Pinterest that had feathers in the envelopes. I had some white feathers left over from a long time ago (so long I can't even remember what I used them on) and some thin peacock feathers that I bought at a fishing supply place and had never used. Everything else was made with my printer, some scrapbook paper, and a few Stampin' Up punches.
The biggest issue at that point was that I had to wait until Sunday morning to confirm the date on the church calendar (we benefit from free use of a large parish hall with an industrial sized kitchen). I knew I didn't have time during Sunday's nap to make EVERYTHING, so I did a little assembly line on Friday and Saturday to put together as much as I could before running the cards through the printer.
You can see the process above.  I discovered that it I pulled the peacock feathers through my fingernails, they curled on the ends, so I obsessed over those a little longer than necessary.  The number four was glued on top of the feathers so it stands out and adds a little extra dimension.  I'm glad I printed it all on card stock, so it was sturdy enough to do that.  Here is one of the finished cards.  (The preschool cards have been sent but it will take me a little longer to get all the rest finished, addressed, and mailed) I need to get busy on the rest, but for now I am just basking in how MARVELOUS they look!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

My Favorite Blogging App!

When I got my iphone, I was really excited about the possibility of blogging from my phone.  I quickly found the Blogger app and just as quickly became frustrated with the limitations of the program, or the phone, or safari, or my ability to integrate the above technology.  With the Blogger app, I could easily add pictures and text to my blog, from my phone.  Unfortunately, if I added more than one photo, there was no way that I could figure out to influence the order of the pictures.

Regardless of how I uploaded them, pictures always jumbled into a random order in that strip at the bottom of the screen and were then hopelessly out of order in the blog post.  NOT cool when a lot of what i put on the blog shows a sequenced order.  Text didn't jumble, but it also wouldn't separate with the Blogger app. Whatever I typed went into one long paragraph either before or after my pictures (always the same, I just can't remember which).  When I blog, I prefer to write a little and then have a picture and then more words and then more pictures.  Speaking of pictures, I am now taking almost all of them on my phone, so, not only do I need to use a real computer to update the blog, I also have to get my pictures off of my phone and on to the computer.  This morning I got so fed up with all the extra steps that I did a Google search for blogger issues with iphones to see if anyone else had a better idea.  I found lots of complaints about similar issues and one article on great apps for blogging.  That article introduced me to bloggerplus.

Above is the little icon in case you go looking for it.  The app wasn't free, but it wasn't so expensive that I wasn't willing to give it a try.  Some of what it promises, I don't know that I need.  But it specifically mentioned being able to edit and arrange text and picture for a blogger blog on an iphone! (Something that the Genius at the Apple store told me could NOT be done) It also touted the possibility of rotating pictures once uploaded to the blog, something that I struggle with even on a computer.  I have now used the bloggerplus app to write two posts and I AM IN LOVE!
It was easy enough to use, that I figured it out without any help or frustration.  My FAVORITE thing is the screen above.  When you write a new post a little empty box appears with a blue arrow.  Click the arrow and you have several options including adding text or a picture.  Finish adding what ever you wanted and a new empty box appears below that one.  You build your blog post with with all these little boxes so I can easily alternate between text and picture and back again.  I haven't found a way to move around the boxes once they are filled, but that may be operator error!  So far it hasn't been a problem because I generally know the order of the pictures that I want.  Typing is still a little awkward on my phone, but I should be able to also use the ipad with the same app, and really the typing issues are also operator error!  Regardless, NOT having to wait to get home and pull out the big computer should mean easier and hopefully more frequent blogging for me!  Yippy!!!