Saturday, December 1, 2012

Our Advent Calendar

Happy December!! Did you think I had abandoned my blog? Me too. I have a lot to catch up on, but today I wanted to show you our new advent calendar!

I have gotten tired of the ones filled with small chocolates, and the Lego one we did last year, while it was a huge hit, was really expensive. I came across a picture on pintrest of this simple design and decided that I wanted to force my friends invite my friends to make them with me! The four of us got together the Tuesday after Thanksgiving to put them together and finished them just in time for December 1st. The days are all different for each of us of course, our families are all different - but that is what is so great, it is easily customizable to one child or multiple, boys or girls, gifts or activities, etc.  I'll post my calendar below.

The largest part of making this advent is the clothespins, I wanted them to be red and not have the hassle of trying to decorate them with ribbon or paper. I came across another pintrest post about dying clothespins using Rit dye. Perfect!

I wanted to make sure the clips came out red and not pink, so I used the whole box. Might have been overkill, but why not.
I used the directions for heat setting - first submerged all the clips in water, they float, so just make sure you give yourself enough room to stir. Then added the dye to two cups of boiling water to dissolve completely before adding it to the pot.
I cooked them at a low simmer, stirring every 10 minutes for 30 minutes. Making sure the ones on top spent time on the bottom to get the full dose.
This is about half way through the process - I read that they would dry lighter than when wet so I kept going for the full 30 minutes.
I laid them out on top of a few layers of both plastic and paper grocery bags to dry. They look great, my spoon was sacrificed for the process. :0)

We got together and painted the wooden bases, the glue gun worked just fine attaching the clips and rubber stamped on the numbers. A little distressing made it all come together!

Each day has a kid's Christmas joke included ....
Day 1:  Go look in your closet for something warm and green (a new green Christmas hooded robe to wear)
Day 2: A small caramel filled chocolate santa
Day 3: Go look in the coffee cupboard for a special treat (new mug and special marshmallows for cocoa)
Day 4: Let's have some fun by candlelight (a new game and a small sugar cookie scented candle)
Day 5: Let's buy a gift! (Money and a star pulled off the giving tree at school)
Day 6: Stickers
Day 7: Let's make ornaments to say thanks to those that help us! (ornament materials)
Day 8: Let's go shop for Christmas present for Mom (Street Fair that day, $ and Dad will help)
Day 9: Fun treat
Day 10: Light up Reindeer nose - to be used for the church's Christmas program
Day 11: Let's Whisk someone a Merry Christmas (Whisks and decorations to place on neighbor's doors)
Day 12: Let's go shop for your Teacher! ($)
Day 13: Caramel filled chocolate Santa
Day 14: Today we'll build a house (treasure hunt to locate gingerbread house supplies)
Day 15: Let's take Dad to the Movies! (Candy and tickets to the Hobbit)
Day 16: It's time to fill Santa's Sack and write a letter! (Writing supplies, special treat)
Day 17: Lego toy
Day 18: How can we bless someone? (List of ideas, $, small gifts to give away, etc.)
Day 19: Let's bake cookies for your class (Christmas sprinkles)
Day 20: Get ready for the Reindeer! (Special tube of glitter for Reindeer food and lego toy)
Day 21: Let's go shop for Dad's Christmas present ($)
Day 22: It's the Grinch's Night! (Movie & will have special green treats :0)
Day 23: Your new ornament is ready for the tree (ornament for this year)
Day 24: Christmas activity of your choice before going to look at Christmas lights (new CD to listen to)
Day 25: It's Christmas! (treasure hunt to one of his gifts)

Sunday, September 2, 2012

August wrap up

August was so busy with back to school at the beginning of the month, cub scouts starting back up, working on the PTA newsletter again, a new Sunday school curriculum to prepare for - I felt I didn't have much time to do a whole lot of artsy stuff. But I did manage to work in a bit! 
 This is a new journal I made that I'll soon be working in. Here is a quick look at the inside pages:
I love that not only are they colorful, but they are all different sizes as well. I learned to put this together from a Letter Love class I'm taking with Joanne Sharpe.
I need to get in and work in it, I want to be caught up for her next class on Markers which starts the end of this month.

I also joined an ATC swap and made these four ATCs based on my favorite color:
I completely forgot to take a picture of my envelope swap exchange that went to South Africa! Oh well. And although I haven't finished this piece of jewelry yet, I did make another anklet:
One of our Color Bonus Lessons had us making tape, and I sort of went crazy! There will be more on this later if you'd like to learn more:

and finally... I made another ATC with a food theme:

Anyone know the movie that quote is from? One of my favorites!!

Friday, August 31, 2012

Charming, as always

Do your remember this post about My Charms? I joined my first altered charm swap and made three general sets of charms and two Halloween ones.... well I got the swap back and am amazed at the talent and the variety I received!

Three sets of general charms:
Two sets of Halloween charms:
Aren't they wonderful? Some of them were even packaged so well I almost hated to remove them from their packages. Here are a few I took pictures of:

Those beautiful tags and charms above are from the swap host. You can check out her blog Ink Stains  to see all the charms from all the artists and even sign up for the Christmas one if you are so inclined!

A few things I learned from my first charm swap:

  • Packaging is the first thing you notice, make sure it is worthy of your creations.
  • Charms shouldn't be too big, or too small. You don't want others to feel like your charm is the centerpiece just because of it's size, but you also don't want one so small that it gets lost in a group.
  • Longer is better than wider. A little length gives interest in a group, width just crowds out the charms of others.
  • The back is important. Charms spin and move, the front isn't always what's going to be showing. Make your backs pretty as well.
  • Make sure your attacher (yea, not a word, but it should be) works with the swap you are joining. Some charm holders have small holes and while a jump ring or lobster clasp may work great, beads and unusual clasps will make your charm hang funny, if it is able to be attached at all.

All in all, it was a hugely successful swap. I had fun, learned a lot, received some amazing little works of art and am ready for the next one!!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Confetti Breakfast Muffins, Confetti Tortellini Soup and One Hour Bread

I let you in on a secret... Confetti is a code word when I am cooking. It means "everything but the kitchen sink". As in; the refrigerator is full of things needing to be cooked, or things that have been cooked and need to be eaten immediately (leftovers). So rather than telling my family that I have no idea what I am doing, I just need to use up everything in some manner - I call it confetti. It sounds better than "Everything but the kitchen sink muffins" anyway. More festive.
So, I started these breakfast muffins with a dozen eggs, about 1/4 cup of milk, a teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of baking powder. The rest is optional and just depends on what you need to use up. These have a generous cup of shredded cheddar cheese (generous as in it was probably more like a cup and a half). Then I had some veggies leftover from an appetizer I made (I threw the leftovers in the freezer)- bell peppers, green onions, broccoli, cauliflower. So I thawed those out and added them. I also had 1/2 of a grilled pork chop and 1/2 of a piece of steak. Those got chopped and added as well. I thought I had some bacon bits in the fridge, but couldn't find them so stuck with what I already had. This was all mixed together and divided into 20 muffin tins. 
Be sure to spray your tins with non-stick spray, no liners! Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes until everything is set and browned.
Two makes for a satisfying breakfast. They freeze well and can be reheated in the microwave. I like mine topped with green chili sauce. Yum

Confetti Tortellini Soup
This recipe started because I had a pound of Italian sausage and a refrigerator in desperate need of clearing out (I'm seeing a pattern here!) The peppers and onions were pretty much a given. I browned the sausage in some olive oil, drained it leaving just enough oil/grease for the peppers and onions. I added a some fresh garlic as well. Then I went searching... a bit of kale, a few mushrooms, roma tomatoes, some leftover chicken and roasted cauliflower, fresh oregano that was looking pretty dodgy ... it all was then thrown into the pot. I started thinking of using it as a pasta sauce, but another look through the fridge and I had about 1/4 cup of beef broth and 1 cup of chicken broth that was getting ready to expire. Oh, and a package of fresh spinach. I started thinking of Italian wedding soup which has rice in it. I went searching for rice but came up with a small bag of cheese tortellini noodles. Perfect. Those were cooked up and tossed in with a bit of herbs from the cabinet (some basil, thyme, onion salt, bay leaf, parsley). It smells good and everything is coming together nicely.

At this point Brian comes in to see what I am doing. I was about to admit I had no idea and then I exclaimed it was "Confetti Tortellini Soup". He did a quick taste test and it was deemed a success! Until he asked me about the bread.... he knows I don't make soup without bread! I pulled out a one hour bread recipe and went to town. Everything was done just in time to pick up the kiddo from school and then pack up the Hubby and send him off to work. Whew. 

One Hour Bread
(makes 2 loaves)

5 1/4 cups of flour
2 Tablespoons of sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 Tablespoons quick-rise yeast
1 1/2 Tablespoons oil
2 cups warm water

I use my kitchen aid to mix, but a bread machine on dough cycle or by hand would work too. Mix all the dry ingredients together until blended. Incorporate the liquids. I slowly pour them into my mixer while it is going on a low speed. At medium speed blend together for 5 minutes. Pull out the dough and form into two large loaves. Let rise on greased baking sheet for 25 minutes. Meanwhile preheat oven to 350 degrees. After bread has risen, cut in slits and then bake for 25 minutes. Let cool before slicing.

Hope you enjoy! What kind of "Confetti" recipes have you tried?


Monday, August 20, 2012

Peridot and Garnet, Beads on a String

If you saw my last post you know I'm back into jewelry making mode! I had so much fun making my Butterfly Kisses Anklet that I started looking for a new project. 

The last time I was in CA visiting my folks I went to this great antique store with my mom. One of the things I found was some beads in a little baggie, the original piece of jewelry had broken. I loved the colors and knew it would be fun to reconstruct something.
I dumped the bag into a hole on my bead board and just started playing. Included was a large round metal bead, and a clasp - I just had to go from there.

I started by placing the large metal bead onto the center mark, then spacing out the larger garnet beads. Then placing the small garnet beads and the peridot beads to break it all up. Last were the small metal balls and finally the metal flower spacers. 

I just keep moving and arranging until I get a pattern I like that uses up the materials available. I have no idea though what my final piece is going to be. So I string what I have with a beading needle and thread, keeping it all together until I decide. (It is no fun to accidentally knock a bead board to the floor, trust me)
It ends up making a single strand necklace that would be about 22 inches. But what do you think I should make with it? 

Help me out folks! A single strand necklace? An anklet, bracelet and earrings to match? A multi-strand bracelet?? Thanks in advance for any ideas you have!! Comment below and then check back later to see what it ends of becoming....

Oh, and these are the birthstones for August (peridot) and January (garnet).

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Butterfly Kisses Anklet

I need a new anklet. I wear mostly capri style pants all year long and am almost always sporting an anklet. I know from experience if I want one, I need to make one. If I were to buy one, it would last about a week and then I'd have lost it or would be fixing it. Why? Because I will wear it until it falls off my body. I wear it to bed, with long pants, in the shower... it'll need to stand up to a lot of abuse.

I realized I have been ignoring my jewelry desk for quite some time. Mostly because it was buried under piles of stuff I was busy with other fun stuff, but now I am ready to play. This is my unorganized jewelry making cabinet that I'm only a bit embarrassed for you to see..
and the edge of my jewelry desk with my tools on it:

Time to get to work! (This is not a tutorial, by the way. I'm not opposed to doing one if you'd like to see it (comment and let me know), but this skips a lot of how-to steps and just assumes that if you are here to follow along you already know basic jewelry making skills and where to buy supplies. It's more of a documentation of my process. Going from "I think I want to make this", through the planning and creating stages to the finished project.)

I pulled out my box of chains. I recycle old chains from jewelry I no long like or that has been broken, but I also have new chains in here as well. 
After rifling through it, I find some old chains and links that I think I might want to use:
I end up putting back the chain at the top. Too delicate for what I am needing. The larger chain on the right is not long enough, but if I add in the links on the left, it will work.

Now to come up with an idea. I usually go through my stashes of stuff and look for a focal point. Either a unique bead, a charm, or just a color scheme. I have been into butterflies lately and decided to make that the focal piece on my anklet. I find one large butterfly charm, and two smaller ones. I grab some beads in colors that make me think of butterflies and my bead board and start planning.

I usually make my anklets around 9 inches long before adding the clasp. Bead boards are great because of the markings and the grooves that hold everything. The large butterfly is in the center and then I space out the links and charms, knowing I'll be filling in with pieces of the chain I pulled out.

I use wire to make connections for the charms and to add beads to the design. I like to do wire wraps on both the charms and when connecting it to the anklet, it is so much sturdier than just a jump ring attaching it. These will only come off if the metal is worn through.
Cute right? (please ignore the Cheetos bag in the background :0) It looks great, measured it and it fits - but it's a bit boring. I wanted more color so decided there needs to be more beads and more dangles - a dozen should do it.
I won't tell you how long it took me to attach all the dangles, mostly because I don't know for sure - but the sustenance I'd gotten from the Cheetos was long gone.  
TA -DA! It's done! It looks pretty good on, however I can't get a good angle taking a pic of  my own ankle so you are just going to have to imagine it. Thanks for visiting, I hope you had fun seeing into the process. It was fun getting back to my jewelry... anyone need any earrings or anything??

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Back-to-School Supplies

Photo credit:
I love back-to-school time, mostly because my favorite things in the world are now on sale! Paper, pens, art supplies!! Oh, the smell of a fresh box of crayons (the big crayola box with the built in sharpener, obviously!). 

I belong to a fabulous yahoo group where we discuss almost everything and every Tuesday one of the gals posts a Tuesday Ten to get us thinking, writing and discussing. This week it was back to school supplies and so I thought I would also include my list here for you all. I know I am not alone in this obsession, so please - comment below and let me know what your favorite back-to-school supplies would be! 

If you were starting back to school now (as an adult or as the child in your mind), what 10 things would you need  to feel ready for success.  

1. I'd have to start with a cool messenger bag with room enough to hold everything I needed, everything would be easily found and not get lost at the bottom and it would be virtually weightless despite the 20lbs of stuff I put into it.

2. My new wardrobe with be fairly monochromatic, ultra stylish and comfortable. It would make me look thinner and younger and I would always have quirky jewelry and accessories, such as scarves and a hat. A really great hat.

3. I would have wonderfully new transition glasses with a gorgeous frame and the right Rx.

4. A new netbook with all the bells and whistles and a gigaload of memory and never runs out of battery life. Purple or blue.

5. My iPhone would be loaded up with tons of great music, lots of helpful apps, and emergency numbers (kinda like phone a friend on that Millionaire game) people would be categorized by their expertise. Shakespeare, call Cheryl. Math, call Dave. Science, call Rick or Maria.

6. New art journal with pages already mostly prepped so I can pull it out and write down thoughts and quotes at random. 

7. This lunchboxIn the larger size with customizable magnets to spiff it up and the cool carrier.

8. A mo-ped or something similar. Easy to get around, great on gas and can park anywhere.

9. Lots of new pens in every imaginable color - the all write beautifully on any surface, never smear and never bleed through. Oh, and never ever would run out of ink!

10. New notebooks, binders - all with unique tabs, dividers and colors, every type of paper imaginable (graphs of every size, lined and unlined, parchment, etc.) 

11. 50 more IQ points :0)

I discovered after posting this to the group that I am not the only one who considers a crayon completely useless once it has broken or the wrapper has come off. A box with a color missing is also no longer good and needs to be replaced! (okay, as an adult I am now better and will use pretty much anything and even recycle broken crayons  - but the child in me cringes and cries.) My brother would purposely make me cry by breaking his own crayons. He was never allowed near mine! Yes, my poor mom had to buy us our own boxes.

I moved on from my crayon obsession (kinda) and moved onto pens. Oh, how I love pens. Trying to find that perfect pen. The color just right, how it glides across the paper, the weight of it in your hand, the ink that doesn't smear, bleed through or feather out. It is a lifelong pursuit. I love stationary stores that have isles and isles of pens in all various rainbow colors out on display and little pads of paper to try them out. I knew my friend Toni and I were soul sisters when we wandered into a wonderful such place in Iceland and spent what felt like hours trying out each and every pen they had. Such a satisfying way to spend an afternoon!

I'd love to continue this post, I could go on for hours - if you are still reading - Thank You!! Instead I think I'm going to head out to our local Hallmark store and see if they got any new pens in that I can try out. :0) You wanna come with me, I'll only be a quick minute... ha ha ha ha ha

Monday, August 13, 2012

Secret for a Happy Marriage

Brian and I will hit our 20th anniversary next year. I am going to give you one of the secrets to our happy marriage. Not the biggest secret, or the flashiest, but an important one, none the less.

Multiple Clocks

"How can having multiple clocks lead to 20 years of wedded bliss?" is what you are currently asking yourself. I'll try to explain.

Brian and my view on telling time is very different. Fundamentally different. I grew up in a house that was stuffed with clocks. My parents collect them. Friends from my childhood could tell you stories of my ticking house. There were clocks everywhere, each wall usually had at least one, if not five. The coo coo clocks and the Grandfather clock were the loudest, but they all ticked and chimed. (I could never get away with making prank calls to my friends, even before the age of caller ID). I like clocks that tick, clocks that chime, and clocks with hands.

My husband likes digital clocks. Now you are wondering how this constitutes a fundamentally different view on telling time. Well, here it is: Brian likes to know what time it is. Period. He will ask someone what time it is and what they tell him is good enough. He can look at the numbers on a digital clock and they give him all the information he needs.

I need more. I also need to know what time it isn't. I need to know within the framework of a clocks face, where my point in time lives. I don't need to know exactly what time it is so much as I just need to know where in time it is.

If someone tells me that it is 10:07am, my brain draws it's own clock so that I can envision that I'm mostly through the morning, but still a good bit of time away from Noon. I'm at the top of the hour, the hand not sitting stoutly on a thick line, but has just passed it and is lounging between the :05 and the :10 lines. I like the movements of a pendulum or a second hand, I like to see time as it passes. A digital clock going from 10:07 to 10:08 is so abrupt, almost jarring. I think I would have been good with sun dials and sand-filled hour glasses.

So, here is our secret. In the dining room there is a baker's rack where our microwave lives. It also has on it a digital clock, good for telling time while in the dining room. Sitting right next to it, is another clock, one with hands.

In our living room, we have a big unit around our TV. The shelf on top of the TV is also a good place to have a clock, or two:

(I'm guessing you are figuring out our secret.) 

In our bathroom there wasn't a whole lot of room. So this is just outside the door:
And this is inside the bathroom:

And although the clock on the stove and the coffee pot both work:

I also have this prominently situated so I can see it from where ever I'm standing in the kitchen:

I do miss not having a second hand on this one though...
There you go. That's our secret. "His and Hers" isn't just for towels. It makes a lot of sense in multiple areas of relationships. From our vehicles, choice of cheese, types of shampoo, and I've even heard of bank accounts - sometimes it is better to have a "his and hers". I'm all for compromising, overlooking the quirks of the one you love, sacrifice if need be - but if you can... why not just buy another clock?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Color Love Bonus #32

Hello my Color-Lovin' friends! This bonus lesson is taking it's lead from Joanne's Lesson 14 - Art Girls. I'm calling this "Fakin' Faces". This technique is not mine, don't give me any credit for it. If you do know who came up with it first, let me know because I'd love to give them credit. I've seen a couple of my favorite online art journalers do this and knew it would be perfect here.

This is a sneaky technique for those of us who shudder whenever anyone says the words "draw" and "face" together in the same sentence. Thankfully, for our class the face was more of a cartoon or caricature - but what if you want a more realistic looking face or are just too afraid to start off on your own...


In this lesson we are going to go looking for faces we can use to art over and give us a not-so-scary place to start. First grab up a bunch of magazines and start looking through them for faces. I find that ones right around the size of your palm are the easiest to work with. Not too small that you can't really make it your own, and not so big that - well, where you gonna put it?

Once you've pulled out a bunch of pages, cut them up. I left some hair on a few of mine that would have been much easier to work with if I had just cut it all off, but that is something you won't really know until you play around some.

Now, grab some paper and glue. I used bristol for this, although watercolor would have been fine. You are going to be using wet media on it so make sure it is something that will hold up to it. 

For gluing down the face I tried 4 different adhesives. The glue stick worked the best and left my page the smoothest, no wrinkles at all. The quick-dry adhesive was spread as thin as I could manage and only had a few wrinkles. I'd heard that gesso could be used as glue, and it might be true with other brands, but not this one. I thought I'd be saving myself a step but it overworked the magazine page.  There were quite a few more wrinkles, and I had to go back and hit it with the glue stick anyway. The fourth one was my matte gel medium. Lots of wrinkles, but it worked.

Now that your face is glued down, go over it with the lightest coating of gesso you can manage. You want to add that texture for your pens and paints to grab onto and lighten up the page a bit, but you still want to be able to see the person underneath.

Lightest possible application of gesso
Next, take one of your waterproof black pens and start drawing a face - right on top of the one that is already there! You can duplicate it as much as you'd like, or exaggerate and expand a little here and there.
you can see where the upper lip is drawn fuller
Take your drawing off the magazine page and start exagerating it even more. I added in some hair like Joanne had us do for our Art girls.

And the fun part... grab your colors - paints, markers, Inktense, etc.!
started out with tombow markers
Watercolor added to the background

Finally finished off with a cool quote
That's it! There are more samples below, including my massively epic fail! Playing around with this technique will teach you spacing, placement, shading and shapes. How many thousands of looks can be achieved with just two eyes, a nose and a mouth.

For those of you who don't automatically flinch when someone says "draw" - why not use this technique to go outside your comfort zone? Find pictures that are more ethnic than you are used to drawing, a wider bridge of the nose, fuller lips, Asian eyes instead of almond shaped or even ... *gasp* a man! 

More examples...

Should have either stayed with her own hair or cut it off altogether. 
And finally, the epic fail I promised you.... I tried twice and both faces now show up in my nightmares!
She starts out cute enough
and then The Joker gets to her....
trying to cartoon her up didn't help either! EEK!
So, even this technique isn't totally fool-proof! :0) One last picture before I go.. while looking for faces I came across this McDonald's add:

Isn't she awesome!! And notice - one eye is covered, so if you can't get your eyes to match, do hair instead. Just pick which eye you like the best and remove the other one altogether. Notice too that she has NO NOSE! I didn't even miss it at first, so going without is always an option if you are ripping your own hair out over an obnoxious honker. Love these lips. She is simple and I think the colors have a lot to do with why her face can be so minimal but still great. 

I hope you had fun! I have been enjoying everyone's process and all the additional classes and support. You guys are amazing! Now, get off your computer and go PLAY!!