Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Tutorial for Four Inch Monogram Medallion

Making a Four Inch Rosette Medallion
By Christine Kepler (Please credit me if you use this – Do not use this tutorial for profit)
This rosette will have three layers of paper: Layer one is a four-inch diameter pleated base rosette, next on top of the base is a three-inch diameter ruffled crepe paper rosette, and the final, or third layer, is a two-inch diameter pleated rosette. The layers I listed do not include any embellishments or other layers you may choose to add to your finished medallion. The layers I am listing and showing photos of are general guidelines only. You may choose to substitute tulle or lace ruffles for any of the layers, or you may use specialty papers such as mulberry paper or metallics for your rosettes. You may make the paper strips narrower or wider to make your finished medallions larger or smaller. Again, this tutorial is for a four inch finished medallion.


One strip paper 2” X 18” hot glue gun small piece of cardboard
One strip paper 1” X 16” glitter
One strip crepe paper 1-1/2” X 18” tacky glue or equivalent (not glue stick)
Various embellishments such as gems, pearls, leaves, flowers, ribbons, and a chipboard initial or letter if you are making a monogram medallion. You may also want a compatible color of ink to ink the edges of your rosettes as I do.

Step one:
Begin by cutting your strips of paper to the above widths. I use 12 X 12 scrapbook paper, cut two strips of each width, cut one of the strips off leaving about a quarter inch to overlap each other, then I glue pieces together to get the lengths I need.
Step two:
Begin scoring the paper strips (not the crepe paper – we will come back to it later). I use the gridlines on my paper cutter because it is marked off in quarter inches, and a bone folder to crease the paper. Remember that whatever increment you use to score and crease the paper, that is how tall each layer will end up being. I like the quarter inch pleats because we are building up several layers. If you were making just a one layer rosette, you could pleat it in half inch intervals and your rosette would be ½ inch thick. Score both paper strips in the same way. Now is when you need to plug in your hot glue gun so it will be hot. After you have scored your paper strips, it is time to pleat them. Just start folding like you are making a paper fan, back and forth on the score lines. Hold the paper folds together as you go back and forth, making a little bundle.

Step three:
It is time to glue the ends of your pleated paper strip together. Allow the folded strip to come unfolded, and bring both ends together like you are making a bracelet. Using the hot glue, spread a thin line along one short edge and bring the other short edge together and glue, making sure you have two mountain peaks glued together so they look like one crease. Now your strip of pleated paper should form a circle like a bracelet.

The next step seems a little tricky, but just work with it a little to make the medallion. Start folding up the pleats again while holding them together. When you have almost all the pleats folded into a little bundle, lay the bundled part down on the work surface, hold it in place with one hand, and with the other hand, manipulate the rest of the pleats to lay flat so the part that is not folded all together can kind of “spring around” with the bundled pleats to form a circle. I don’t know if this makes sense to you, but your goal is for one side of the pleats to all come together in the center of a circle. Another way to do this step is to stand the “bracelet” up on edge so it is standing by itself. Using your palm, press down on the top edge and press the whole thing down onto the work surface.

This should make the top edge you are pressing on close in together and allow the rosette to form itself. As soon as the pleats are uniformly arranged in a circular shape, put a dot of hot glue in the center, AND

HOLD THE CIRCLE ON SEVERAL SIDES UNTIL THE GLUE COOLS. If you don’t hold it, your pleats won’t hold or your circle will pop out of shape and you will have to start over with laying the circle flat and gluing it.

Turn the medallion over and put a spot of glue on the back, again waiting for the glue to cool. Repeat this step for both strips of paper to form layers one and three of your medallion. After your rosettes are formed, this is when I ink the edges of the rosettes to give them a more finished look. Drag the outer edge of each rosette across your ink pad giving them as much or as little color as you choose. Set rosettes aside.

Step four:

This is where you will form your crepe paper ruffle. Using a small piece of cardboard or stock, trace about a one inch circle and cut it out. Lay the circle flat on your work surface, and put a little dab of hot glue on one side about ¼ inch in from the edge of the circle. Lay the edge of your strip of crepe paper into the hot glue, then start bunching it up into that glue, gathering it into that spot to give it fullness. Add another little dab of glue onto the circle where you left off ruffling the first section, and then keep ruffling the crepe paper on around the circle until you have evenly created a ruffled rosette similar to your pleated one. The end of your crepe paper strip should meet up and overlap the spot where you began making your rosette and the cardboard circle should no longer be visible. Don’t worry if it looks a little rough - you are just going for a fluffy look and no one will see the center of this layer so it can overlap and be a little messy in the middle. Next, if you want, you can glitter the outside edge of the crepe paper. To do this, simply put a mound of glue on a piece of scrap cardboard or paper so you can dip the edge of the crepe paper rosette in it. Just barely dip the edge in the glue, and then dip it in a dish of glitter. Shake off the excess, dip the next little section of the edge in the glue, then glitter, and keep going all the way around the edge. Hold over the trash, shake again, and set aside to dry for a bit.
Step five: Putting it all together!

Gather the embellishments you think you want to use. In this example I have a small piece of feather trim, a beaded rose about ¾ of an inch across, and about a six inch piece of antique tatted lace. I also have a one foot piece of green silk organza ribbon, ¾ inch wide, that I am going to use for a hanger on the medallion. Lay the largest rosette flat on your work surface. Using the hot glue, put about a dime-sized glob of glue into the middle of the rosette. Lay the crepe paper rosette onto this OR, if you are using an embellishment that you want to be peeking out from under the edge of the crepe paper ruffle, glue that down first then lay the crepe paper rosette down. Add any embellishments you want to layer under the top rosette in place, then add a dollop of hot glue to the center of the crepe paper rosette and lay down the last, smaller rosette. You will need to find a small pearl, gem or jewel, paper flower, or some other small thing to glue onto the very center of this third layer to cover up the glue you used to make it into a rosette. Next, take the one foot length of ribbon, bring both ends together and knot them making a hanging loop. Turn the medallion over and glue the knotted end into the middle of the back with some hot glue. Then, smooth the hanging loop so it lays flat and tack the two sides of the hanging loop to the upper edge of the medallion so it will hang flat. The last step is to add any final embellishments or, in this case, a large chipboard initial.

Some Final Thoughts . . .
• Paper works better than cardstock. It is harder to get good, even pleats into cardstock, but it can be done.
• You can pleat your rosettes without marking, but it is hard to get them even. Just think about folding those childhood fans!
• The larger and farther apart the pleats are, the taller your rosette will stand.
• You can change up the middle layer. Instead of crepe paper ruffles, use gathered lace, feather boa, tulle – whatever you want.
• The more you practice, the better you’ll get!
One more note: there is another, somewhat easier way to make the rosette, but I don't think the rosettes look as sharp and neat. Cut a strip of paper the same width as you want the finished diameter of your rosette to be. If you want a four inch rosette, cut a four inch wide strip of paper. Halve the length you think you will need. To make the above four inch diameter rosette calls for a 2 inch by 18 inch length of paper, so to make the same rosette in this manner, you would double the width of the paper strip to four inches, and halve the length to nine inches. Follow me so far? Pleat, using the paper fan folding method, back and forth in quarter inch intervals. When you have it all folded, tie a sturdy piece of string or bend a little wire around the exact middle of the bundle of pleats and and twist or tie to secure it tightly. Starting with one side of the bundle of pleats, run a line of glue along the side, and glue an edge to its mate on the other side of the midline of the bundle of pleats. hold until it dries. It should look at this point like a paper fan - a half circle. When it is dry, repeat on the opposite side so you have made a full circle. Again, this does not make as neat a medallion, IMHO.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Livin' is Easy

It's summertime around here, and the livin' is EASY! Well, sorta, anyway, if you don't count all the yard work and gardening work. It has been a week since I returned from a fabulous, sixteen-day vacay spent visiting some of my sisters and a wonderful Internet friend.

The day of my return I harvested some gargantuan zucchinis that my hubby should have picked the day after I left! No worries, though - those went into a monster recipe of zucchini bread I made a few days ago. I ended up with five big loaves, a half dozen large muffins for hubby's lunch, and a mini loaf. For one of the loaves I used my Pampered Chef stoneware loaf pan that makes a BIG loaf. I'm not sure how many cups it holds, but I think I used about five cups of batter in it. So that's the loaf we've been eating. I took a loaf to my regular Friday night play date with the girls at the the Shack, took one to the neighbors, and have a couple more tucked into the freezer along with the tiny loaf and the lunch muffins. This should last until the next baking day day!

Besides the zucchini, we have been livin' easy eating some other varieties of squash from the garden, too. I have been pan-sauteing yellow and white patty pans and yellow crooknecks and serving them with just a little butter and S&P. I harvest them when they are just about a couple inches in diameter - SO stinking good. Yesterday I sprinkled a cookie sheet with some EVOO and sliced about six small patty pans onto it, then roasted them in a 375 degree oven while I was baking some crumb-crusted lemon scrod. YUM!

Then there is the Swiss chard. That's good, too, if you like greens with a little bite to them. I planted regular white chard and rainbow chard, both. Since I planted them rather close, they needed thinning, so when I thinned them the other day, we got to eat the thinnings! I washed them and trimmed the root off and let them dry overnight in the fridge wrapped in paper towels inside a baggie. Then I sauteed them in bacon fat, added a little S&P and mmmmn! they were good too. That's what I mean about the livin' is easy - I love eating out of the garden in the summer! My green beans are about ready to pick, so I am already thinking about how to serve them and what I else I will have with them.

I usually don't plant cucumbers b/c they take so much room, but my neighbor keeps me supplied with all of those I can eat. That's why he gets zucchini bread! We have tons of tomatoes coming on, as well as the coles - broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage - which we had to plant twice b/c of the garden thieves. We have a couple of kinds of pepper planted also that I will use with the tomatoes to make salsa to put up for the winter. Besides the salsa, I will can the tomatoes to use all winter long. I use canned tomatoes in all kinds of stuff, and I hate paying almost $2.00 a can!

My vacation down south was tons of fun! I started off on June 22nd by flying to my youngest sister's house in Tampa. I visited with Juliet for a few days, and while there, got a new tattoo! It is a gorgeous blue swallow with its wings spread and sprays of pink cherry blossoms in the background. I had it placed on my right outer ankle and it is about three inches across. I love it! No tattoo remorse for this girl!

After visiting with Juliet, my sweet BIL, Ed, drove me to a meeting point on I75 where I met up with my Internet buddy, RyeRye. We met last summer through Swap-bot and became fast friends. RyeRye and I felt as if we had known each other for years, and in fact, call each other "Sistahs from another Mistah!" We embarked on a super adventure within about an hour of meeting each other: we went para sailing! That was so much fun, and not scary at all. And this is coming from a person who is terrified of carnival rides and roller coasters! During my five day stay with her, we went yard sailing, to the beach, bead shopping, and ate a bunch of great stuff. Also, the snot beat me at my own game, Scrabble, twice! One of the highlights with my visit with RyeRye was her hubby's bird, Conrad. She had taught him to say my name, and he has driven them crazy saying my name all the time before and since my visit.

Next, my sister Diana, came to pick me up and took me back to her place in Naples. she just bought a new home in a gated community. She has her own pool and her house is as cute as can be. She has great decorating taste and even though she's only lived there for a few months, she has it almost all decorated. My newest addiction after spending time in Florida? Sushi! Diana and I ate it almost every day I was there. After spending a few days eating sushi and drinking wine and lounging in her pool, I began to feel pretty darn privileged! Saying again - it's summertime and the livin' is EASY!

For the last leg of my trip I flew from Naples to Charlotte, NC, to see my sister Susan on July fourth. I hadn't been to her house ever before, nor had I ever met my niece's children, so I was glad to be able to visit there. The first night, being the Fourth, they had a barbecue so their friends could meet me. Afterwards, we sat outside forever enjoying the great weather and the (illegal) fireworks displays put on by their neighbors. Ken took me for a ride on his bike the next day so I could see the area a little. The next day Susan took me to an arboretum in the area. We had a wonderful time, and on July 7th, I flew back home. I had a wonderful time visiting everyone, but I think that will be my last grand tour for a long time. I really missed my hubby and my lil spotted dogs.

So, my summer is going very well, and I hope YOUR livin' is easy, too!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

So Disappointed in Somerset Gallery Summer 2010

I am so disappointed in Somerset Gallery 's Summer 2010 issue. I submitted a piece of artwork 19 months ago. After receiving the runaround for over a year and a half, my work was finally published. With an incorrect title and attributed to the wrong person!! It is absolutely sickening that such a high-profile publication and company has something like this happen. Especially since they have held onto my work for so long! And, what is even worse is the fact that they haven't returned the piece yet! I contacted them several times by email and finally, by telephone, because I thought they had lost the piece. They assured me it was safe in their offices, but now I am having serious doubts. If they can't attribute it correctly and even get the title of the piece wrong - which incidentally was ON THE COVER! how on earth are they going to be able to manage such a complicated thing as to get it in the USPS and delivered to the right person? I am sick, just SICK. Kudos, Stampington, for such a dismal effort.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

New Fun

Okay, I've posted on here before about my Swap-bot group and some of the things I've done, but I just tried something new this past Friday and had the most fun with it! I'd been wanting to try making a pincushion out of an old piece of china for years. In fact, I used to sorta kinda collect old creamers and sugar bowls. But I don't really collect anything anymore (except dust and craft supplies . . . and junk, and well, you know, stuff) and I didn't have any of the odd sugar bowls or creamers at this house (as opposed to our other house, the old house where a lot of my stuff is still stored). So when I saw a swap for a pincushion made out of a teacup or creamer or sugar bowl, I knew it was a match made in heaven. Hadda do it! The one pictured here is on its way to a special friend in Florida.

First step was to go to a flea market to find a piece of old, chippy china. Did I content myself with just one piece? Wellll, I think we all know the answer to that one - I came home with about six different pieces - and other assorted odds and ends, of course. Most notably a bag of nine assorted old millinery birds. Very cool, too, I might add! Next was a visit to JoAnn Fabrics to buy some velveteen to use for the pincushion part. Nothing else would do except the velveteen as far as I was concerned! I was a wee bit embarrassed to make the lady cut only a quarter yard each from the four rolls I chose, but she was really very nice about it. And of course I had to tell her what I was doing with it because I was so excited about my project! After that, I had only one more excursion to complete my list of supplies necessary for this fabulous undertaking; a trip to the dollar store to buy turkey skewers to use to create faux hatpins. Unfortunately, the Dollar Store skewers were junk and so that necessitated a trip to Hobby Lobby to look for the "real" stickpin blanks to make your own, but they did not have any of those. I ended up using "good" skewers Deb and Jack already had at the Shack.
This one was sent to my swap partner.

ANYWAY! By this time it was around seven P.M., but who's counting? When we got back to the Shack, it was time to have a little nosh . . . Okay, Okay already! I worked the rest of the evening and ended up with these three fabulous (IMO) creations. The birds on the last one is a new bird purchased at JoAnn's for an altered bird swap I was in a few weeks ago and which did not get used for that swap. So it's not one of the vintage ones like the one pictured decorating its nest above. My friend in FL will be mad she didn't get a bird on hers, but I will deliver her a bird in person in a few weeks, hehehehehe! The bottom one is mine! All mine!!! And on it I used some reallllllly nice old antique buttons and some antique jet trim (because it's mine - all mine!). I really like the old cup and saucer because it's so chippy and especially because of the sentiment, "Remember Me" on it. I can see that being passed on to my granddaughter and her saying, "This belonged to my grandma and she used it every day." Or something to that effect! More likely, "Can you believe the shit my grandma used to have setting around?" Whatever!!! I like it and that's what counts!

So this is what NEW FUN I've been having. What have YOU been doing?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

What's New With You?

Hmmmn - many things are new around here. New plants growing, new babies, too. Birds laying, hatching, fledging - birds humming at the feeders! Squash growing, weeds growing, grass growing - hope to get my 'maters in soon!


What else? Not much! Getting ready for the school year to wind down - doing ordering for supplies and new manipulatives.

Having some fun with my students reading Frog and Toad Together (first grade) and memorizing poetry with my second graders. Now that's fun! And they are so good at it that I am amazed! Without me having ever alluded to any of the higher level poetic devices like personification, metaphor, etc. one of my second graders recognized a comparison between human jaws and pencil sharpener jaws in a poem. That was very cool, but immediately we talked about it for a hot second, and another student piped up and said hey, the poem right under this one is doing it too! So that was a perfect segue into a discussion of personification and one that I think they all "got." I love it when that good ol' light bulb goes off without a lot of blood, sweat, and tears!

So, what is new with you?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Have I Told You . . .

what a great life I am living? Seriously. I have so much. A super hubby. A nice house. A wonderful job. A fulfilling side life AKA friends and hobbies. An extended group of family and friends to whom I can turn at any time for anything no matter how great or how small.

I just returned from dinner out to celebrate the accomplishments and retirements of some terrific former coworkers. Three people retired from our district this year, so we celebrated their years of work and friendship at a local eatery. I was thinking about being a no-show because I have pretty much been on the run the whole week in the evenings. I decided to go because I have become really rock-solid lately in honoring the commitments I make. It's a personal thing because my philosophy over the years has hardened into a belief that your word and actions are pretty much the only things about you that people remember, and if you don't live up to your commitments, people remember that. I know I do.

So anyway, the food was great, the conversation was sometimes inspirational and sometimes nothing but hilarious, but the feeling of camaraderie was so pervasive that I left feeling loved and valued - even though these are people with whom, for the most part, I have had no contact with for the greater part of a year. Some of them for even longer than that! Beginnings are good - I loved it when these same people welcomed me into their daily work lives almost three years ago, but I loved it even more tonight when we talked and had so much fun. What I really loved was the feeling that these are not acquaintances, but people who value me for being me - warts and all. Many of these people have been known to me for years. Some for as long as I have been employed in the district, seventeen years, but when I switched elementary schools three years ago within our school district, I made some friendships that changed the way I view education, made some others that have vastly improved my teaching, and deepened others that began during my first year of teaching. This has all benefited me immensely. Whether these people have benefited from knowing me is unknown to me. I hope I can enrich their lives in some small way, but I am coming out the winner here. They have given to me, as they have given to many children, the fruits of their knowledge, compassion, and educations.

So thanks to all you ESE teachers. You know who you are, and I am not going to further embarrass myself or you by naming names here.

In other news, I made a new Fish God friend. This is the husband of another coworker, and I will probably wear out the friendship there as I make midnight fish emergency calls to him. He sold me a new tang to replace one that I inadvertently murdered, and with all the wonderful sea life he has husbanded, he is my new "Go to" guy. I am determined to make the marine tanks under my care flourish and thrive, and I am definitely bitten by the bug. I am waiting patiently for the recently set-up Biocube to cycle appropriately because it is where I am going to start my first nano-reef. I wanted seahorses, but after researching I have found that neither of the tanks I have are deep enough for anything but dwarf seahorses, and they require live food which I am not prepared to feed. Someday!!!

So, have I told you lately what a wonderful life this is?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


Golden. I went for my Pap, my mammogram, and a bone density test all in one day today, and I am good to go until this time next year! Yay me for good women's health!

And, my house got spring cleaned today, too. Woo-hoo! Granted, I didn't do it, but it feels so luxuriant to walk in and see sparkling windows, dust-free ceiling fans and vents, and gleaming cupboards, walls, and woodwork. Pinesol, I love you! (Of course I owe a big thanks to Chris and Teresa, the wonderfuls gals who did the hard stuff for me.)

After my doctor visits and before I met my high school friend for a long afternoon lunch, I jumped into a JoAnn fabric for a minute. They had silk flower wreaths on sale two for $25.00, so I grabbed some fresh ones for the front and side doors of the house. The one now on the front door is a grapevine with a couple of summery sunflowers, some lemons, and some fern-y looking greenery. The side door has bunches of big, white sunflowers and daisies. Very summery looking and almost guaranteed to make feel good when I look at them as I'm driving up our long driveway. I'm not big on silk or artificial flowers in the house, but I do like having wreaths on my doors reflecting the different seasons of the year.

Tomorrow is back to school, and I feel good about that, too. My first grade students are having great success reading the last two books I have chosen for them. The books are ones that have a very controlled vocabulary consisting mainly of sight words (Dolsch vocabulary), and rather than just drilling, drilling, drilling on those sight words, the children seem to be internalizing them much better when they are used in the context of a story. But, Duh! That is something that we learned in our most basic education theory classes years ago! My Kindergarteners and second grade students are also making progress in reading and learning, but I seem to be leaning toward liking the first grade mentality much more than K or 2. Hmmmmn. Food for thought there. . .

On Sunday Richard and I worked outside. He mixed up a batch of weed killer for me, and I spot-sprayed dandelions and other pests in my flower beds. I do hope I didn't get any overspray on any of my Stell d'Oro daylily border or on the various colored Achillea I have planted in my dry sun bed. If I did, I have plenty of other daylilies I can divide to fill empty spots, and I think the achilleas have sprouted enough runners that they can survive some parts of the parent plants dying off. Dandelions and sow thistles!!! Two of my biggest gardening banes! I can never get the tap roots out when pulling or digging, and if you don't, the buggers always sprout ten more where there was one before! Anyway, after doing the beds, I walked the goat fence and the posts with bluebird houses where it is hard for Richard to mow and sprayed weed killer along there, too. Once the stuff works its magic, we will have nice, straight-looking fence lines w/o a bunch of raggedy weeds outside the fence. Inside the fence, the goat patrol keeps the weed population in check.

And speaking of goats - the triplets born on April first are in fine fettle. They are now "eating" hay. It is so funny to watch them take a little mouthful of something and act as if they are chewing it. What they really do is just mouth it a little and then spit it out. After that they usually leap wildly up into the air and act very surprised, as if "Hey! How did that get in my mouth?" And the littlest one, whom we've named Slim, is really beefing up. But I am not surprised at all by that because he is a lusty little drinker. Even when he was brand new he nosed right up to the wonderful milk machine that is his momma, good ol' Bessie, and got his fill of her yummy goodness. So I am happy that they are doing well.

And that is all for today.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Today I . . .

Need to get down to the basement and TRY to find my work tables. I have three tables all set up for my own use downstairs and right now they are covered in piles of stuff. I tried to keep separate areas for different activities, but it doesn't seem to work out that way.

We had some water issues down there earlier this winter, and I had to rearrange some of my piles that were on the floor and move them to safer spots - the tables. I haven't put anything away forever, and my art supplies seem to be stealthily creeping up the stairs.

I have a prom dress that I am hemming for a former student and her prom is Saturday, so I need to do the dress tonight. My serger and sewing machine have their own table - sort of - but I will have to clear off a large space around it and cover it with a sheet. No fuzzies or snags on the dress please!

We had Monday this week off school, and it's a good thing we did. I had a water change planned for my marine fish tank and was plannning on using the water I removed from the tank to start cycling a new tank. Halfway through the water change, my filter pump went out and I ended up having to drive 100 miles to get a new one, come home, make some adaptations, and set up a new mechanical AND biological filter. I didn't want to try anything very tricky becasue I've only been in the marine business about a year, so instead of relying solely on the new bio filter alone, I am floating the old bio wheel in the tank for a while. The Pacific Blue Tang hates me and thinks I am trying to kill him. Anyway, that whole business of having that pump go out has left me panic-stricken about having a back-up plan for other fish emergencies. I've been researching like crazy and have a good idea of what I need to put together, so now I just have to put it into action. I wanted to put seahorses in this other tank, but after reading up on seahorses, I find that this new tank is too small. My next choice is a hummingbird wrasse if it isn't too large a fish for this bio-cube. But I am not giving up on seahorses! Just need to learn more and hone my fish-keeping skills.

In other areas, I am testing all my students' reading abilities and writing reports for their classroom teachers. The end of the school year is drawing to a close, and that is always a time for me to reflect on what I've taught this year, what still needs to be taught, and also on the things that we are not going to be able to get to. Right now we are going into state testing times, and that is stressful for students and teachers alike. Teachers are taking their kids on field trips, all kinds of activities are starting up for the kids, and it really makes for a crazy time of year. Soon it will be time to take everything down and pack it up again. Seems like I just did that!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

What Have I Been Doing?

Wellllllll . . . Lately I have been spending way too much time engaged in activities that a friend's daughter says are just mindless activities that give you a false sense of accomplishment - computer games. Most notably, Farm Town and Country Life on FB. Argggh! I quit Farm Town back in the summer because I was spending several hours a day on the computer just playing that stinking game, but I unblocked the application a couple of months ago, and unluckily for me, my farm was intact. Then, being the follower that I am, the same friend whose daughter calls computer gaming mindless activities with false senses of accomplishment (which they are), sent me a request to help her out in Country Life - so I did!!! Now I am sitting here once again with this stupid game occupying me in the evenings.

Sitting here putting this down in black and white makes me feel ashamed of myself. I can really see that it does no good at all, and it does, indeed, induce a false sense of accomplishment since there is no real-life gain in playing these games. Yes, you build up a bank of coins and goods, but what can you do with it? In a way you are competing against others, but there is nothing measurable achieved. As a teacher, I have viewed video and computer gaming as the enemy because many children neglect reading and homework and physical activities in favor of their virtual counterparts. Now I find myself getting sucked into the very thing I have advocated against. Hmmmmn. Time for a change in habits for me, I think.

I can think of about three dozen things that I could do right now to take the place of my little addiction. Coming to the foremost, with the arrival of nice weather, is cleaning out the flower beds around here. That includes picking up the pukey remains of last fall's pumpkins sitting in melted puddles of what-used-to-be-orange, white, and green nearby the steps. Soooo attractive to look at. I always do that - leave them for spring and I always un-enjoy it so much! As long as they are hidden by snow, I let them go, but they are always lurking under the snow and in the back of my mind, waiting for spring! As old as I am, you'd think by now I would be done with it and haul them down to the compost heap (so-called) in the fall.

Another upcoming job is too clean out the veggie plot. That, too, is a fall job that I didn't do this year. But it was kind of neat this winter to look out the back door and see, hanging on for their dear lives, the little pear-shaped heirloom yellow tomatoes that were left on the vines. (Unlike those lurking pumpkins!) I don't know why, but these particular tomatoes really stick to their vines. I bet too that they will self-sow if I don't get too aggressive cleaning that area. I loved those tomatoes in salads this past summer, too.

Another big thing I can do to stay away from computer games is my continuing self-directed professional development. I have spent many evenings this winter reading and researching and relearning many early primary best practices for teaching reading. My big job change at the beginning of the school year prompted this flurry of PD, and it feels as if it has really paid off. I am much more secure lately in my knowledge base and my teaching practices. I think that increased confidence has benefited my students, too. Either that, or just their natural developmental progression has increased their growth through the school year, but I like to think my intervention has helped! I am still reading and rereading my Jan Richardson, Debbie Diller, and Richard Marzano. Another hugely valuable resource that I continue to explore is the Florida Center for Reading Research web site maintained by Florida State University. This database is vast and although I have downloaded and copied all the materials for grades K-3, I haven't read or evaluated it all, yet. Of the eight-ten activities I have tried, I found several worth using again, so I will definitely keep sifting through this treasure trove of materials looking for teaching materials to use with my students.

The other things keeping me busy lately have been hand-made goodies. I am hosting a traveling round-robin swap through my paper doll group on Swap-bot. That endeavor has been semi-sucessful in that one person dropped out after not sending on the dolls she has received for the past couple of months. I think she has deeper issues than the doll swap, though, so I hope she gets everything in her life straightened around. She is a talented artist in real life, but her health and employment issues are not where she needs to have them. The other swap participants have hung in there and are creating some really cute outfits for the dolls. Don't know who has my doll right now, though! I've also been making a BUNCH of jewelry. I finally used the bright red coral nuggets (huge and honkin!) that my hubby bought for me at a bead and gem expo in August. Now I need to think of something exciting to do with the biwa and dentil pearls I bought there as well. Now they are GORGEOUS! I really need to come up with a special design for them. I also have been making a lot of Pandora style keychains lately. They are pretty cool. I've also been experimenting with some fabric creations, but I am not trotting them out for a while. I need to work on my technique! And last, but certainly not least, I finally found out that my flip book of paper dolls is being published in the summer issue of Somerset Studio's Gallery magazine. I can't wait to see how they feature it. I hope it will be a multi-picture spread just so people can see the diverse group of dolls I stamped and embellished. And that, Folks, it all there is for this update!