Nail polish mugs and The Sure Thing

Craft trials continue.  The other night, I decided to take a crack at these watercolour mugs that I saw over on Poppytalk.  The idea being that you can make pretty mugs by dipping them in nail polish that’s floating on water.  Apparently people do manicures this way?  I have no idea.  I rarely paint my nails anymore because they get chipped within hours and that irritates me.

So, I bought 4 plain white mugs from the dollar store for $1.25 each and I have tons of nail polish. I figured that this would be a cheap thing to do, and if it didn’t work out, then I’m only out $6.  Or not really even, because I could probably still use the mugs.

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Dollarama mugs

 

And, imagine my surprise and happiness when I found out that The Sure Thing was on TV that night!  I love John Cusack.  Love him.  It was on Turner Classic Movies.  I didn’t even know that we got that channel.  So I got to make these mugs with The Sure Thing in the background.

Right.  So I’d done a little experimentation with this technique a couple of days before, and found that I preferred the results when using a metallic nail polish.  So I went and rounded up all of my metallic nail polishes.  Your mileage may vary, depending on the look you’re going for.  Glittery nail polish did not work at all.  Not enough colour.  You will also want to have nail polish remover and paper towel or some other such thing on hand for this.  I also had a wooden skewer, which was supposed to be to make a pattern in the nail polish, but in the end was more useful for removing nail polish scum from the water.

Put some warm water in a little tin foil pan and proceeded to drop nail polish in.

 

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These are the nail polishes I used in my original trial. The purple and blue were the ones that came right off when washed. I liked the effect of the gold metallic one better, and it seemed more durable. FWIW, the purple and blue are brand new polishes, the gold I’ve had for a long time.

 

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Based on the trial results, I rounded up a bunch of metallic colours. And nail polish remover.

 

Here’s what I experienced:

  • Some of the time, the nail polish landed in a ball at the bottom of the dish.  Apparently this was because I poured the nail polish from too far away from the water.  Hold the polish close to the water.
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Nail polish floating. Note the drops stuck to the bottom of the pan.

 

  • I needed way more than a drop of nail polish to make this work at all.
  • The nail polish forms a scum on top of the water really quickly.  It doesn’t seem to matter what kind of polish you use, how old it is, or what, it scums up fast.  So you have to work really quickly on this project.  Really, really quickly.
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Scummed up nail polish.

 

  • The idea of using a skewer to make a pattern in the nail polish didn’t work for me at all.  The polish just spread out over the surface of the water, and if I took the time to dip the skewer in to make a pattern, the nail polish had scummed up already, resulting in the skewer collecting the nail polish scum.  Which is handy if you just want to change the colour.
  • I had a hard time making nice looking designs on the mugs.  I think they kind of look like coloured tongues.  You be the judge.  Apparently there is a bit of a dipping technique here.  The original poster mentions in a comment that she dipped hers straight down into the nail polish blob then rolled it to the other side.  This was in the comments on the post though, and of course I didn’t read those until after I did the work.
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One of my original, test mugs. I like the gold, and the patterns are okay on this one.

 

  • I did a couple of these several days earlier to test things out.  I found that even after 3 days of drying and being left alone, the polish came off with almost no effort at all.  Like with soap and water.  I ended up taking nail polish remover and starting over with one of the 2 mugs I tested the technique on.  The second mug was the one done with metallic paint — it held up better, but would still be very easy to scratch the polish off.  This could be because of the finish on the mugs I bought, or because of the type of nail polish I used — no idea.  This time, I set all the mugs in a 200 degree (F) oven for 45 minutes to see if I could bake the finish on.  Haven’t touched them since though, so I don’t know if it would work.  It later occurred to me that nail polish is flammable, and maybe heating it up isn’t an awesome idea, but nothing caught on fire.  So do that step at your own risk.
  • For once, I actually read the instructions, but it turned out that this is one where I should have read all the comments, because there were some very helpful technique tips from a person named Kayla, which are, in summary:  use a smaller, shallower dish — the polish spreads out and dries too fast if the dish is too large;  using more polish keeps it from drying out too fast; work really fast; drop the polish in from close to the surface of the water.
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The 2 colours actually happened because there was still a little bit of red in the pan when I added the purple. I think it would be more interesting the pattern was better.

 

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Went for a 2 colour technique here. The second colour is actually a purple nail polish, but looks black on the mug. I like the combination, but again, not the pattern. And you can see how the nail polish scum affected the mug here, but I was able to pick it off.

 

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This red nail polish actually formed the most interesting patterns on the water. I think with an improvement in my dipping technique, I might have liked this better.

 

Bottom line on this — meh.  They’re okay.  Not as nice as the ones in the original post, which is maybe because I don’t have the right touch.  I also kind of rate crafts on how relaxing they are to do, and this one isn’t all that relaxing.  You have to work too fast.  The marbled clay dishes on the other hand, were relaxing to make.

So for me — watercolour mugs — not a Sure Thing.  It would not be tonight 🙂  I enjoyed the movie though.

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That looks easy – Marbled Clay Ring Dish

So in my must do ALL the crafts frenzy, I came across this tutorial for making marbled ring dishes out of clay.  They looked pretty cool and I figured “how hard can it be?” so I decided I would make some of these myself.

I should start out by saying that I have never made anything out of clay.  The closest I have come to using clay is playing with PlayDoh.  I remember having a PlayDoh set that was a barbershop,  where you could squeeze PlayDoh hair out of these little figures that had holes in their heads.  Kinda looked like worms growing out of their heads.  And then of course you couldn’t get the PlayDoh out of those little holes and you’d sit there poking each one with a toothpick.  Or give up and just let it dry and harden.

Anyway, the point being, my experience with clay was previously limited to PlayDoh.

So in a mega shopping extravaganza on Sunday I decided to buy some clay.  I bought this exact sample pack of Sculpey clay.  There are 12 different colours, each of them 1 oz.  It had lots of purple and I like purple.

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Clay. Notice the lack of white, grey and black.

 

Of course, I had failed to thoroughly read the instructions in the tutorial, where it was suggested that each dish should include grey, black and a lot of white.  Ooops.  There was only 1 oz of white and grey in the pack and no black at all.  I used up all of my white in my first completely failed attempt, which I won’t even go into here.

Anyway, I figured, what the hell, I will make these dishes without white or black and it will be fine.

I pretty much followed the instructions in the tutorial, substituting whatever the lightest colour I had remaining was for white.  I am reasonably happy with the results.  I used up all of my clay and I made 4 dishes.  Would have been 5 if I didn’t screw up the first one.

I did this on my coffee table with a cheesy Lifetime Christmas movie on in the background.  The movie was called Love at the Christmas Table and it starred the girl (Danica McKellar) who played Winnie in The Wonder Years (which shows you how old I am, because I’m pretty sure I was over 20 when The Wonder Years aired) and a guy who I recognized but couldn’t place and he turned out to be Dustin Milligan who grew up in Yellowknife (which is pretty crazy) and was the love interest/friend of Annie in the first season of 90120.  Not the original Beverly Hills, 90210, but the new one that came out in 2008 or whatever.  Which shows you how immature I am, because I binge-watched the whole damn thing on Netflix not all that long ago.  Oh yeah, and the movie also starred Lea Thompson but it took me a while to recognize her, because I was expecting her to look like she did in Back to the Future.  Again, I am old.

Anyway, you may want different background noise, or a different movie, or wine or something like that.  But for me, it was Love at the Christmas Table.  And Fresca.

Here are some of my observations, which might be useful if you’re a newb like me.

You probably should read the instructions.  While I’m happy with my dishes (especially the blue/green one), I think I’d be happier with the others if I had more white in the mix, and if I’d had some black.  I’d also have avoided some frustration if I had re-read the Sculpey package and baked my first 2 bowls at 275 rather than 200, which caused me to curse my stupid oven for taking longer than necessary.

Before you get going, do search out a bowl that will serve as the mold for your dish.  I had only one bowl that really suited, so I had to bake them one at a time.  A 6 inch diameter circle is bigger than you think.

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The baking bowl

 

When you’re doing the step where you roll the clay snake out long to mix the colours and then re-twist and re-roll it, my advice is to do this until the colours look marbley.  I’m pretty sure I did it more than 2 or 3 times.

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Starting to marble. Boo to the blurry picture.

 

I probably rolled mine out thinner than 1/4″.  Maybe 1/8″ for some of them.  They worked out fine.

I used a regular rolling pin.  I tried with glass jar but I couldn’t find one long enough and it kept making weird lines in my clay which pissed me off.

When you’ve rolled out your clay, flip it over to see which side you like best and want to be the inside of the bowl.  The two sides will look very different, and in my case, there was almost always an obviously nicer side.

You really do need a decent exacto knife or something of the sort.  I tried with a standard kitchen knife and the edge was too rough.  Be careful when you cut, because if the edges are rough, you will see it.  Some roughness is fine, but you don’t want too much.

I used a scrapbooking circle maker as the template for my bowl.  It happened to be the perfect size.  Again, 6 inches is wider than you think, and I didn’t have much around the house that was a 6 inch circle to use for a template.

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Creative Memories custom cutting system to the rescue!

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After cutting. I like how it sort of shimmers.

When you put your clay in the bowl, make sure you get the edges flat, otherwise you’ll have weird ripples in your bowl.  Also, all of mine are a little bit higher on one side than the other, in spite of the fact that I was sure I put them in the bowl evenly.  I’m okay with that, but if you’re not, you might want to be extra careful.

Combine the cutoffs from your bowls to make one final bowl.  I had enough cutoffs from the first three to make a fourth.  Even if it’s ugly and you end up throwing it out, well, you were gonna throw out the clay anyway.

Consider making other cool shapes.  I made one using a sort of wavy vase.  I don’t love it as much as I thought I would, but it’s still pretty neat.  I think baking the clay in an interesting shell or something would make for a cool bowl, especially if you used some delicate, shell-like colours.

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The wavy one. This was made with the cutoffs of the other bowls.

 

Red Sculpey clay likes to release its colour.  Which is okay on your hands and table (or maybe not, depending on what your table is made of) because it washes off easily.  However, in making a bowl, red takes over.  I will probably limit the use of red to a small strip with lots of white if I make more of these.

I used gold acrylic paint (from the dollar store) that I already had to paint the edges.  It worked fine.  It needed 3 coats.  I decided to paint the bottom of one of the bowls gold.  It also needed 3 coats.  No picture, because I didn’t finish it.

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With a gold edge

My boyfriend was at work, and I sent him a picture of my creation.  He said “what does it do?”  So I sent him a picture of it in action.

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The bowl, hard at work, holding some rocks.

All in all, I think these are nice.  I especially like the green/blue one.  I do believe I’ll buy more clay, with a heavy emphasis on white, and make a few more of these.

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You can see in the red bowl how much the red takes over. And the brownish-multi-colour one is nicer than expected, given that it looked like dog poo when I was rolling it.

Back soon, with more adventures in crafting!

 

 

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So many things

Wow, it’s been a while.  So many things going on in the last few months.  Kids back to school, trying to launch a business, work work work, renovations, Halloween (which is always an event at our house).  Cleaning up after Halloween.  Putting out Christmas stuff.

Avoidance of writing.

Somewhere around mid-November, I start to feel like I want to do ALL THE CRAFTS.  So I spend lots of time on Pinterest looking for stuff I can make, Christmas related or just neat things, preferably that aren’t geared towards toddlers.  I’m somewhat crafty, but I have the propensity not to read instructions very well, and not to be very patient when I do stuff.  And let’s face it, some of those tutorials on the interwebs just aren’t realistic.

I did make over 100 paper flowers for my Day of the Dead party.  The tutorial was good (although it says you need crepe paper, which to me is that crinkly stretchy stuff that comes on rolls and you use it to make streamers for parties.  I used tissue paper.  Bought out the dollar store).  This is a very time consuming process though.  It takes forever to make these flowers.  I ended up making only half of the number I intended because it took so damn long.  Wine helps with this process immensely.  Open a flower, take a sip of wine.  Open another flower, take another sip of wine.  Of course there is a point at which the wine starts interfering with productivity, but by then it’s probably time to stop anyway.

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Anyway, for the next little while, I’ll be working on making some stuff, and I’ll be posting about my experiences here.  So those of you who, like me, don’t bother really reading the directions and and are rather impatient can see how some of these things might turn out if you were to attempt them.

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Ketchup

When I was a kid, we often had a homemade condiment in our house that my dad called ketchup.  I was never quite sure why he called it ketchup because it didn’t bear any resemblance to Heinz, but it sure was tasty.  It was a sweet/sour/slightly spicy concoction of tomatoes and fruit.  I loved it.  It goes with practically anything — cheese and crackers, meat, tourtiere (meat pie), any savory dish was made better by the addition of ketchup.  It was something one or another member of my family made at the end of most summers because of the overabundance of tomatoes in the garden.

This year, I have an overabundance of tomatoes and I was craving some ketchup.  So I went on a hunt for the recipe, now armed with the knowledge that this condiment is also called Fruit Chow Chow.  I’ve purchased the store bought version many times, but it just doesn’t quite measure up to the homemade stuff.

And weirdly enough, I couldn’t really find a recipe.  All of the chow chow recipes pointed me to some weird fruit, or to relish recipes made with all vegetables.  This was just not right.  Why doesn’t the internet know what fruit chow chow is?

Finally, I found this one recipe, which seemed close.  So I used it as a base, and was pleased with the results.  I also discovered along the way, that apparently this is a French Canadian thing, and the way to find lots of recipes is to search for it in French, where it is called ketchup aux fruits.  Explains why my dad always called it ketchup.  I now have a ton of recipes to choose from, and still more tomatoes coming from my garden, so I may make a few more batches, as some of the French recipes I’ve found are closer to what I remember from my childhood.

Here’s my version of the recipe.  You can adjust quantities to suit what you have.  I believe this recipe is very forgiving.

Fruit chow chow, or ketchup aux fruits

  • 8 tomatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped.  My tomatoes were huge for the most part.  To peel the tomatoes with relative ease, boil a big pot of water.  Cut a shallow “x” in the bottom of each tomato.  Submerge the tomatoes in the boiling water for about a minute, then transfer them to cold/ice water.  The peels should come off fairly easily from the “x” at the bottom.
  • 4 large peaches, peeled, pitted and coarsely chopped.  You could also use plums (you’d need maybe 8, unless they are huge) or nectarines.
  • 4 large pears, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped.  I used yellow skinned pears but I forget which variety.  Whatever kind of pear you like will work.  You could also use apples.
  • 2 large onions, coarsely chopped
  • 4 large stalks of celery, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cups of brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup of white sugar
  • 2 cups of apple cider vinegar (or regular vinegar if you prefer)
  • 4 tsp of salt (or to your own taste, start with less if you’re concerned about salt)
  • 3 to 4 tsp of pickling spice (again to your own taste)

Toss everything into a big pot, stir it up and bring it to a boil.  Then simmer it until it reduces and thickens up a bit.  It won’t be really thick — it’s not supposed to be.  But it should reduce quite a bit and become dark and thicker.  I cooked mine at a good simmer for about 2 and half hours.  This is what mine looked like when it went into the pot (it didn’t look this blurry in person):

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After 2 and half hours, it had reduced by about one third I’d say.  Again, this is to your personal taste — depends on how much liquid you like in your ketchup.

You can preserve this if you want to.  Wash and sterilize your jars as per usual.  The recipe above gave me 9 x 250ml (1 cup) jars, with just a tiny bit leftover for me to taste.  I processed the jars in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.  Some people say they don’t bother to heat process this kind of recipe because it’s acidic, but I figure better safe than sorry.

You can see by the jars how the ketchup is now much darker in colour.  I found it to be just the right balance of sweet and spicy — I went fairly heavily on the pickling spice — but that’s how we like things around here.  If you want the flavour of the pickling spice without the actual spice bits (they can be a bit crunchy) in the finished product, but the spices in a cheesecloth tied bag and remove them before canning.

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I got to hear the satisfying “pop” of the jars sealing.  That makes me happy.

This ketchup is particularly good on top of crackers with brie or other soft cheese, or as a topping for a baked brie.  It’s also awesome with tourtiere (meat pie) which is a Christmas tradition at our house.  And excellent with pork and chicken.  If you try it out, let me know how it goes.

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Teachers

As I mentioned before, my daughter is struggling this year.  All kinds of things are making it hard for her.  School starts at 8am, and she’s nocturnal, so she’s exhausted all the time.  The friends she’s had since daycare days are ignoring her.  She’s not terribly academically inclined, and in a school known for high achievement, she feels pretty bad about that.  She has autism and although you wouldn’t know it if you met her, it makes her different, and those differences are more pronounced now that she’s a teenager.  We are giving her all the help we can, and my heart is still breaking for her.

I was on the verge of having her switch schools.  There’s another local school nearby that has a 9:15 start time, and although she wouldn’t know anyone there, sometimes not having any friends is better than having former friends that are ignoring you every day.  But I decided to meet with her teachers first.  And changed my mind about switching schools because her teachers seem really great.  A good teacher can really make or break a year, and her teachers were so understanding, so empathetic, so willing to accommodate, that it seemed best to continue to see how the year unfolds.

Today’s writing prompt asks us to tell about the best or worst teacher we ever had.  You can read about my worst teacher here.  As for my best — I’ve had many very good teachers.  So many more good than bad.  One that continues to stand out for me is Mr. Monaghan, my grade 12 English teacher.  I think most kids hated him.  He had a tendency to be kind of an asshole.  But he was also funny and if you worked hard, you were rewarded.  He helped instill a love of literature in me.  I’d always loved to read, but he helped me explore books I wouldn’t have read otherwise.  When I went to university in Engineering, and then Computer Science, he couldn’t believe I didn’t plan to become an English teacher.  Kept telling me to switch.  Mr. Monaghan passed away a number of years ago.

And Mrs. Willis, my grade 7 teacher and my grade 8 gym teacher.  I credit her with my love of sports.  Without her encouragement, I would have continued to think of myself as uncoordinated and not very athletic.  Because she suggested I try out for the high school basketball team, I did.  And found something I was good at.

And Mr. McConnery, my grade 9 math teacher.  I was really good at academics.  I always got excellent marks.  Math was the one subject I struggled in.  Math was hard, where everything else was easy.  I dreaded high school math, thinking it would just get harder.  But there was something about the way Mr. McConnery taught that made math click for me.  It went from being a struggle to being easy.

A good teacher can make all the difference.  I hope they make a difference for my daughter this year.

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10 rules for dating teenage me

This one is hard.  Cause I didn’t date as a teenager.  We hung out in packs and stuff, and people paired off, but I wasn’t one of those people.  The guys I had crushes on never crushed back, and I wasn’t interested in the guys who had crushes on me.  If there were any.  Maybe my standards were too high.  Or as my family would say, my I was trying to fart higher than my hole.

So it’s hard, because I didn’t date as a teenager.  So I’ll pretend I knew what I wanted.

  1. Ask me.  You don’t know if you don’t ask.  So just ask.
  2. Be friendly and nice.  Don’t do that stupid shit boys do where they tease you when they like you.  That’s annoying.
  3. If you like me, always like me.  Don’t pretend not to like me when your dumbass friends are around.
  4. Be nice to my sister.
  5. Be nice to my parents.
  6. Do some stuff with me that you don’t necessarily want to do, like listening to my stupid girly music or watching chick flicks.  I’ll do the same for you.
  7. Hold my hand.
  8. Be nice to animals.
  9. Stick up for me.
  10. And again, just ask.

I should probably give this list to my kids.

Lately, I’ve been journeying down memory lane a lot.  My daughter just started grade 8 and the friends she’s had all along have been ignoring her and she feels left out.  It breaks my heart.  I remember so well being her age and all the angst that goes along with it.  It’s a wonder any of us survived.  I spent half of my teenage years on a military base, which can be a great place to live as a kid.  We were pretty sheltered.  Not spoiled for choice like kids are in the city.  There was a movie theatre that showed a movie on weekends.  Usually a double feature.  Always several months old — the movies we saw had already been released in the major cities months before.  Everyone went to the movie on the weekend because there was nothing else to do really.  Even if you had seen the movie or didn’t want to see the movie, you went anyway, because everybody else was going.  And movies were cheap.  My friend worked at the theatre (his dad ran the theatre) selling the food.  There was popcorn with real butter and you could buy candy in bulk.  I would always get a paper bag full of assorted Swedish berries.  He would fill my bag up really full as long as I promised to save him the orange ones.  Then later on he’d come sit beside me and I’d give him the orange berries.  He was a good friend.

That story had nothing to do with anything, but I’ve been thinking about it lately.  So there it is.

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Prom

We don’t really have proms in Canada.  Or maybe they have them now.  It’s been a long time since I was in high school.  I graduated 26 years ago.  Anyway, we didn’t have a prom but we had grad, which I’m guessing is about the same thing.  Except I don’t think we had a prom king and queen.  Although it’s entirely possible and I just don’t remember.

Anyway, the writing prompt is to post a picture of my prom dress.  My mother and I shopped a long time to find me a dress that didn’t cost an absolute fortune, was a bit different and still something I liked.  We ended up at this really funky store downtown where the woman who owned it made all the clothes and had a lot of really crazy things.  One of the dresses I tried on was almost wedding dress like.  It was beautiful.  I seem to remember getting stuck trying to get out of it.

So, I ended up with this pink lace and tulle number you see below.  (Apologies for the low quality picture — it’s a picture of a picture that’s hanging on my wall in one of those collage type frames and I didn’t feel like taking it down.)  It’s pretty crazy, but I loved it at the time.  I’m in front of the fake fireplace at my parents’ house (they don’t live there anymore).  It was an electric fireplace, but not a cool one like you can get today.  It had this plastic-y insert that was made to look like a fire.  There was a light bulb inside and when you turned it on it shone and this drum rotated, giving the illusion of fire.  Well not really, but it was supposed to.   It made a noise that sounded like a bunch of ghosts moaning. We still laugh about that fireplace.  And I’m loving how I’m perfectly positioned to have part of the mirror on the wall coming out of my head.  For the curious, that is an etched glass picture of an elephant with a mountain in the background.  So the top of the elephant’s head and the mountain appear to be growing out of my head.

So that’s my grad dress picture.  I remember it being kind of disappointing evening actually, because the guy I liked didn’t like me back (story of my life) although we were good friends (also story of my life) and he ended up going home with some girl I didn’t like.  After the dance, my friends came back and hung out at my place all night.  No big after grad party for me.  And I thought I was fat.  Which is interesting, because when I look at this picture now I truly don’t think I was fat.

I went again the following year when I was in university but a bunch of my friends hadn’t graduated yet and had a rocking good time though, so it all made up for it.

graddress

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