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They make stuff for that?!

Heidi Shenk "art" "cards" "crafts" "envelopes" "tools"

My crafting tools and a handmade envelope.
Yes, I am in the dark age when it comes to my crafting of cards. I am at the top of my game when it comes to design software, computers, and printers. But way far behind when it comes to the tools I use to create the final product. I design, then print, and then yes, I hand cut all of my cards. You may say that doesn't sound unrealistic because paper trimmers are quick and easy to use. Paper trimmers? What are you talking about? They make stuff for that?!

No paper trimmers here. Just a cutting mat, an X-acto, and a craft ruler (you know, one of those see through rulers with all of those wonderful measurements on it). And luckily, after having worked on this hobby for some time, I haven't chopped off any fingers or had any trips to the emergency room. So here I am, printing off my designs which takes no time at all. Then next I head over to my drafting table and start cutting-- which takes FOREVER. I became even more frustrated as I ruined three consecutive sheets of cardstock while making teal envelopes for my new NYC Map Note Cards.

NYC Map Note Cards
It did not even cross my mind that there just might be some tools out there to make life a little bit simpler until I came across this at Michael's the other day. Of course I knew that paper trimmers existed-- as a teacher, I use one almost every day at school. But for whatever reason, I did not think about purchasing one for my crafting purposes. Anyway, I'm not going to lie, although the paper trimmer that I saw at Michael's was sort of what I want, I would love something larger that could accommodate large photos as well and would gladly take recommendations! And while I was quite happy with the final outcome of my envelopes as cards that I had made, my level of frustration would certainly have been lower had it been for a darn paper trimmer!

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And so it began...

Heidi Shenk "Bar Pilar" "Umphrey's McGee" "Van Gogh" "Washington DC"

Every year in November, one of our favorite bands, Umphrey's McGee, has a two night stop at Washington, DC's 9:30 Club. We make an event of it-- book a hotel for two nights and have a leisurely weekend in DC. This year, we stayed at The Dupont Hotel in Dupont Circle. Dupont Circle is one of our favorite areas of DC because of its numerous restaurants and boutiques.

A shot of Umphrey's McGee from our balcony spot at 9:30 Club.
Now you may be wondering if I have a point to this story that happened three months ago. And so it begins. The night before our second serving of Umphrey's McGee we headed out to dinner at a fantastic restaurant called Bar Pilar, located around the corner from 9:30 Club on 14th Street. We enjoyed a tapas style menu and glasses of red wine during a lengthy and relaxing two and a half hour meal. It was at this point that I was stating my satisfaction of a get away weekend that took me away from the drudgery of teaching. Yes, drudgery. There was really no better way to say it at this point in time. I was feeling burnt out several months into my fourth year of teaching in Baltimore City. My school is fabulous, my students are even more fabulous, but I was beginning to feel stretched to my limits of sleep, energy, and creativity-- school creativity that is.

Over dinner, I began talking about all of the things that I love and my hopes to eventually start something new when I am done with my time as a teacher. At this point, Andrew had the brilliant idea that I simply need to start a new art endeavor that can also act as down time away from the pressures of teaching. Something that I could put creative energy into, rather than state testing draining all hopes of creativity in the classroom. "You should make cards!" he suddenly exclaimed. I raised my right eyebrow in a perplexed fashion. He went on to quickly explain that it could encompass many things that I enjoy-- photography, design, paper, art and so on. Not to mention, my friend Michelle, who is a graphic designer, had recently been trying to convince me that I needed to do something of the sort.

And so it began. I started with a few supplies, finally bought the new laptop, printer, and software I had been saving for and got the show on the road. So far, I would deem it a success-- small steps at a time. And so I leave you today with one of my newly created cards, one that is made from repurposed artwork by my favorite artist Vincent Van Gogh. They are of course available on my Etsy site as well! Happy browsing! :)

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Just for the record...

Heidi Shenk "albums" "art" "Baltimore" "cards" "High Fidelity" "Los Lobos" "music" "Nick Hornby" "records" "The Bridge" "vinyl"

Just for the record, in case you didn't know, I love music.  Oh, and I also make cards. Today I was doing both and came up with these fun ones that'd be perfect for any serious music lover! I was listening to Baltimore based band The Bridge this morning while sipping away at my coffee, of course! And as I begin designing, I came up with this sort of High Fidelity-like design. Why High Fidelity, you might ask? Well simply because Rob, the main character, is obsessed with vinyl and music-- a music snob at the least. Plus, High Fidelity is only my favorite book and only written by my favorite author, Nick Hornby. And so it is, my favorite design of the moment was created.

Now to go back to another important item on the list. I mentioned listening to The Bridge. I had not listened to them a whole lot-- only here and there. However, they are expecting a new album out on February 1st and they have been getting all sorts of airplay on my favorite radio station WTMD. So naturally I wanted to check out the album. The new album is called National Bohemian, no doubt after Natty Boh, our beloved Baltimore beer. It is produced by Steve Berlin of Los Lobos, another fabulous band that is an absolute must to include in your music repertoire. Currently, The Bridge are streaming the full album on their website. Enjoy!

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Ah, Lazy Morning Coffee on a Snow Day

Heidi Shenk "Baltimore" "cafe" "ceramics" "coffee" "coffeehouse" "cuisine" "food" "Frisco" "Patterson Park" "Patterson Perk" "pottery" "Rocky Mountain Coffee Roasters" "Spoons"

Honestly, there is nothing better than waking up in the morning to find that school has been cancelled due to snow. And the one thing that is better is waking up the second snowy morning to another email announcing a second snow day. I really am enjoying the extended ‘mini vacation,’ so to speak!
Back to sleep I go, but only for a short while as I am awakened an hour later by wet dog kisses from our energetic chocolate Labrador, Lilah. Somehow Lilah knows that she gets to spend another entire day with her mama and is just as excited as I am for this glorious snow day! I lumber to the downstairs of our row house in sweats and start in on cup-of-coffee-number-one. Part of enjoying my coffee is choosing the right mug to drink from, and today I have chosen a hand made mug thrown by potter Fred Driver. The mug was a ‘just because’ gift from my mom when I visited home in Indiana in late October, and it has quickly become one of my favorites. I own several other mugs by Fred and I don’t think there is a mug he could make that I wouldn’t like!
The breath-taking view from Rocky Mountain Coffee Roasters!
Today’s coffee is organic Mexican, a gift from my sister sent straight from her place of work—Rocky Mountain Coffee Roasters in Frisco, Colorado. Roasters, quite honestly, has some of the country’s best coffee. At first I thought that the coffee only tasted better because on the first tasting I was basking in the summer morning sun outside of their shop, taking in the fresh mountain air, and soaking in the amazing mountain view. However, upon tasting the coffee in Baltimore sans romanticized mountain-esque images, the coffee is pretty much just as amazing as it always is in Colorado!
As a former barista for seven years, I tend to consider myself a bit of a coffee lover (or some may say coffee snob) and hope, eventually, to open my own coffeehouse. It’s all part of my big 5-10 year plan. Coffee is a huge deal for me as you can see and so when I moved to Baltimore, finding the perfect coffeehouse was a number one priority.
Perhaps my favorite place to get coffee in Baltimore is a café in the Federal Hill neighborhood called Spoons. Spoons is a fabulous coffeehouse and café which serves freshly prepared food with organic and local ingredients, and their coffee is absolutely fantastic! Unfortunately, I don’t make it to Spoons enough for coffee because they are a drive away. They have become a favorite for brunch or lunch as their sandwiches and salads are always spectacular.  And during the oppressively hot and humid Baltimore summer, I have been known to drive across the city just to pop in for an iced coffee. I am pretty sure they brew the best iced coffee known to man!
During the summer months, we often shop on Sunday mornings at the Baltimore Farmers' Market. Shopping for fresh fruit and produce that is in season becomes more enjoyable with a cup of Zeke’s Coffee in hand. While Zeke’s has a retail location, I don’t make it there often because it is in a different neighborhood that is a bit out of the way.
For my own convenience, I usually grab my coffee from our neighborhood coffeehouse, Patterson Perk. Cleverly named because of its location across from Patterson Park (and maybe perhaps stealing the idea from Friends Central Perk), the Perk is a tiny little coffeehouse in a corner row house. While indoor seating isn’t ideal, the outdoor seating is suitable for spring, summer, and fall. The Perk is dog friendly and so it becomes the perfect stop-off on a summer weekend morning dog walk with Lilah.  In fact, Lilah loves the place so much that she now dashes up the front stoop toward the door every time we pass on a walk, whether or not we intend on grabbing a cup of joe. “Silly girl!” we exclaim. “We’re not going to get coffee today!” Labs are incredibly smart and she must certainly remember the tasty dog treats the Perk gives their loyal canine customers!
And while my second cup of coffee of the morning comes to an end, I have been inspired to continue sharing my favorite coffeehouse around the world. I will certainly share more of my favorites in the future! But for now, I leave you with a silly little coffee cinquain poem that I wrote with my students in class last week.
CoffeeCreamy, smoothBrewing, steaming, sippingOh so very tasty!Latte

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Snow Days are Project Days

Heidi Shenk "art" "crafts" "projects" "snow"

Snow days are a blessing in disguise. Somehow they always manage to pop up right after a long stretch of stressful events. In today's case, my snow day arrived the day after second quarter grades were due. There is no better feeling than that of having a surprise visit by an overnight winter storm on the day after such a day. It is as if the snow was purposefully sent to provide me with rejuvenation for the mind, body, and soul.

On days like today, the first priority is to enjoy extra time lounging around the house in soft and cozy sweatpants. The second priority is enjoying my cup of coffee rather than rushing it as I usually do-- and of course then have a second and possibly a third. Then on to the projects.

Snow days are project days. It is blissful just to think of having an entire day to myself with no obligation of any sort! It is the ideal time to start new projects or finish ones that have been left by the wayside and consumed by the daily grind of being a teacher. But a snow day! The possibilities are endless!

My recent endeavors have taken me to an architectural drafting table that is tucked away in our cozy basement. I spread paper of all colors, textures, and patterns in front of me and carefully choose a pleasing assortment and begin crafting a new set of cards. Paper has quickly become one of my favorite mediums and cold, snowy days are perfect for creating new designs and cards. Today, however, I start with a new project-- a writing project. And here I am, curled up in my reading chair, beginning this new blog.  Here I hope to share with you my own passions-- travel, music, food, photography, design (and, yes, maybe a little here and there about education). But for now, I'm off to that cozy basement full or wonderful and vibrant paper!

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