Friday, December 30, 2011

Art Supplies!

I'll be writing more later about art-related news, but right now I just want to share some of the goodies I picked up at Michaels today.

The bulk of my haul

First of all, let me just say that Michaels does a weird thing to my sense of time (Hobby Lobby is the same way). It creates some sort of time warp vortex thingy where I manage to spend two hours there and have no idea that I've been wandering the aisles that long. It's freaky. (My friend Laura reminded me that bookstores are the same way - YEP!)

Anyway, I went this morning and entered said time warp wherein I managed to find some pretty great things. Some things I knew were on sale and intended to pick up. Others were total and wonderful surprises.

Canson sketch pads were BOGO, so I picked up a 12" x 18" watercolor pad for $14.99 and got a Mix Media sketchbook for free (normally $9.99). Score. I'm close to the end of the first Mix Media journal and have another waiting in the wings, but they're so nice, I figured it wouldn't hurt to have another. I'm excited to have the heavy weight watercolor paper, too, especially the larger size.

As you can see, I also went crazy in the yarn aisle. 11 packages, to be precise. It was all 40% off, so I stocked up. I've added knitting (of a sort) to my list of creative outlets and I'm completely hooked (har). I'm making neck wraps and people are really liking them, so much so that I'm considering opening a etsy shop. I'll keep you posted!

Next up, watercolor pencils.

watercolor pencils

I already have a set, but I can always use more colors. Plus these were ridiculously cheap. Seriously. They were $4.99 for 24. That's insane. Most run 4x that price. Granted, they're "Artist's Loft" brand which is a ultra cheap line from Michaels, but you can't beat the price, and I've been happy with all of the things I've gotten from that line. I'll be doing a tutorial on a REALLY fun thing you can do with these pencils so stay tuned for that.

watercolor pencil colors

This picture just makes me happy. Look at all of the colors. Dreamy sigh.

I was very excited to find the next item as well. I was looking for water soluble oil pastels, but I saw these wax pastels and figured, "Close enough" especially at $9.99.

wax pastels

In the same section I had my FIND OF THE DAY.

ink pencils

As soon as I realized what these were, I gasped, audibly. (I talk to myself under my breath when I shop as it is, but this was a honest to goodness gasp.) They're ink pencils. "Big whoop" you're probably thinking. Here's the deal. After you draw with these pencils, you add water—like you would with watercolor pencils—but these turn to INK. As in, they're permanent when dry. This is big. Huge, even. What this means is that I can layer over the top of anything I create with these and they won't smear or run. The same can't be said of watercolor pencils unless you spray the page with fixative before adding another layer.

ink pencils-back

ink pencils-bottoms

They had two kinds of packages for these, a 12 count tin and the 24 count one. The 24 count price wasn't marked but I didn't care. I had a coupon for 50% off one regular priced item and THIS was going to be that item. FYI, I just goggled these and found them on Amazon for only $41.10. They were regularly $59.99 at Michaels! I still saved, but not as much as I thought I did. Don't care. I'm still head-over-heels happy about these.

Next I found some stencils for a great price. I'd been wanting some larger ones, but when you look at traditional scrapbook/art stencils, they tend to be a bit spendy for what they are. I got the smaller ones for $3.99 and the large ones for $5.99.


I picked up a Crafter's Workshop stencil for $4.50 (which was the best price I'd seen) a few weeks ago and love it, but look at the difference in size to the large one from Michaels.

stencil compare

This next item has no right to make me as happy as it does, but I can't help it.

date stamp

It's just a date stamp—something I'd planned on picking up at an office supply store—but this one had cute little sayings with it and it's the same price as the plain boring one I was going to get. It's from a new line by K&Company called Smash. When I saw the products, I thought, "It's like a non-digital version of pinterest." (Clearly I'm addicted to pinterest. It's impossible not to be, not kidding. ) It's a funky scrapbook/journal/lookbook, or as they describe it, "for the moments and musings that stick™." It looks like a really fun line. I probably should have picked up some of their SMASH pads. They're so cute.

And the last on the list that I'm sharing with you are these:


24" x 30" canvases. The largest I've ever bought and will be the largest art I've ever made. I'll talk about all of this in detail later, but I've signed up for Flora Bowley's Bloom True: the e-course, a five-week painting class. (You might have noticed the button over there on the right). These canvases are equal parts terrifying and exhilarating and I'm so excited to start the course on February 6 and see where it takes me. More later...

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Wordy Wednesday — Christmas Baking

So I did some baking this past weekend. Lots of it. On Saturday, I went to my mom's to bake with her, my sister and my nieces.


We had fun and managed to bake a ton of cookies in a fairly short amount of time.

cookies from moms
This was about half of what we made that day.

My mom had made some dough ahead of time and baked the sugar cookies, so between that and the cookies we mixed on the spot, we were the model of efficiency. Fun and productive. Win-win!

Have cookie press. Will travel.


Quick! Look! They're getting along. Aww...


Hooray for making cookies - and memories.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Sunday was all me. I'd also made all my dough ahead. I knew I had too much to do to try and accomplish it all in one or two days, so the weekend prior then a couple of times through the week, I mixed up batches of cookie dough. All that was left was the baking (and cooling and picture taking and packaging...) and it worked out so nicely that I plan to do future epic baking sessions like that as well. No messing with mixing bowls, measuring cups, ingredients everywhere - then having to clean them to repeat the process. Just lining up pans and baking all day. Awesome.

So here's most of what I made. Links for recipes below photos.

almond shortbread-baked

My favorite of the day — Pain d'Amande from Flo Braker (via David Lebovitz). Crispy, nutty, sweet with subtle but noticeable cinnamon. So easy and one of my new favorite cookies. You can keep this dough in the freezer to slice and bake whenever the urge strikes. I love how these looked when the light hit them as I sliced the dough.

almond shortbread-trans

Next up...

molasses ginger cookies

Molasses Ginger cookies from Farmgirl Fare —Big, chewy, super spicy and a close second to the almond cookies. This was the recipe one of my coworkers had to have. They're good. Really good.

Also from Farmgirl Fare...

shortbread bites2

Chocolate chip shortbread cookies — she uses toffee bits, but I didn't have any, so I threw in some cinnamon chips along with the mini chocolate chips. Buttery, melt-in-your-mouth, not too sweet bites of bliss.

On to a pinterest find...

lemon cherry crinkle cookies

Lemon crinkle cookies — I wanted to "holiday" this up a bit, so I added cherry flavored dried cranberries. The texture of these is out of this world — slightly crunchy on the outside, super soft and chewy on the inside. I really liked the cranberries in these, but the lemon was too subtle for my taste. I even aded a bit of lemon extract, but I'd double the lemon next time. Still, these were excellent.

And the final one I'm sharing is the savory one of the bunch (apologies for terrible pic)...

parmesan biscotti

Parmesan-Herb Biscotti — I used this recipe after doing a search for "savory biscotti". I love homemade cheesy crackers, but they don't stay crisp or keep very long, but I knew biscotti held up so I figured there had to be a savory version. The original recipe doesn't call for herbs, but I added some Italian spices along with a pinch of red pepper flakes. A nice little kick to go with the cheese and crunch. I halved the recipe. I did make this from start to finish on Sunday, the only dough mixing of the day.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I also baked snickerdoodles, but can't recall where I found the recipe, so I didn't bother taking pics. It's just your basic snickerdoodle. I also made Browned Butter Rice Krispie Treats that I found at Smitten Kitchen. NOT just your basic treat. So good and so easy. Browned butter makes everything better.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

care package

I packaged everything up and got them ready for gift-giving. I hope you are all having fun with YOUR holiday baking!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Quick Photography Tip - Avoiding Shadows

I'm not even remotely a pro and honestly feel slightly weird giving photography advice, but I do know this. Where the light is coming from makes a huge difference in your photos. Here's a quick tip for avoiding unwanted shadows in direct sun.

Remember my trip to the corn maze? It was a very sunny day. Which is both good and bad when it comes to photography. Harsh shadows are almost a given in direct sun, especially for someone like me that ISN'T an expert (and relies on Aperture Priority a tad more than I probably should).

I took this picture as we reached the center of the maze. This was direction we entered so I just said, "Stand in front of the flag" and I snapped the shot. Fortunately, I immediately saw my problem.

sun behind

The sun was at their backs, which meant their faces are all in shadow. Look at the shadows on the ground. You can see how the light is hitting them. I'm also getting a weird lens flare in the left midground (see the green blob?) and the sky is all blown out because the meter is compensating for the shadows.

Easy fix - I moved so that the sun was at my back. You risk squinty faces with subjects looking into the sun, but it worked out here. They are no longer all in shadow. I could compensate for this in post-production because I shoot in RAW, but it's easier to get it right at the time. Plus there are no weird lens flares or blown out clouds.

facing sun

In photography, light is everything. Use it to your advantage!

p.s. photos are pretty much straight out of the camera, so no post processing with these (sharpening, straightening, contrast, cropping, etc.).

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

Just a quick note to say Happy Thanksgiving to my American readers and a great big "thank you" to ALL of my readers. I'm still surprised and humbled when people come here to read what I have to say and see what I've been up to in the kitchen or elsewhere.

 For you, I am grateful. I hope you have a wonderful day full of all the things you are grateful for.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Photo Walk - RED

Although I didn't mention it in the 6 'til 40 list I had in my post, one of the things I've wanted to do for a long time is go on a "photo walk." For me, that meant taking my camera when I went for one of my walks around the neighborhood. I was always concerned that I would look silly or people would think I was weird for walking around with my camera. Or worse - freak out that I had a camera and think I was a weirdo stalker-type taking pictures of their yard/house/sidewalk or canvasing the neighborhood with some evil intent. Yeah, I've got issues. But I have read about a few too many incidents where photographers were harassed or given grief over taking street photos. But I digress.

I decided that a photo walk would go on my list and on October 22, when the weather was just too nice to stay indoors, I decided to grab my camera and go for a walk. Before I did, though, I asked for suggestions on a theme for my walk on Twitter. My friend Barb piped up with "I vote Project Red." I thought, "Why not?" and headed out.  I knew I'd find red leaves since it's autumn, but wasn't sure what else I would see. I needn't have feared. Having "red" running through my mind meant I saw it all around, like when you buy a new car and suddenly see that car everywhere.

I stepped outside my door and found red instantly.

And about five steps later, this:
sm red leaf w-oaks

I breathed a sigh of relief knowing that, hey! This isn't going to be as hard as I thought.
red trailer
red trailer-horiz

In fact, it was fun! Yes, there were plenty of red leaves.
red leaves on tree

But there were every day things I wouldn't have thought about had I not had the prompt.
red mail flag
red door
red tractor
red gas can
red stripe

I even found a theme within a theme - red litter. Kind of depressing, not exactly elegant, but interesting (to me).
coke can
diet coke
apple bee

Dying flowers took on a new life:

Common driveway sights become inspiration:

And when I looked at the temperature, I smiled... for a couple of reasons. *click*

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

This is part of my 6 'til 40 list – a list of things all the fun things I want to do but have been putting off. I plan to tick off an many of them as I can before April 2 to celebrate turning the big 4-0.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Quick Tip – Making Use of Expired Herbs


I tend to go a bit nuts when I order from Penzeys. It's easy to do! I put in an epic order usually once a year (just received one this week, as a matter of fact) but I still had some bulk basil from nearly 2 years ago. It's still usable but not ideal, so after I filled my jar, I still had some left but hated the idea of tossing it out.


When you find yourself with old herbs, here's a quick tip.

Put them in a small sauce pan with about a cup of water and simmer gently for as long as they are fragrant. Add water as needed. Your whole house will smell wonderful in just minutes. Combine spices as appropriate and toss in some orange peels or lemon peels if those scents will go together. An easy and natural whole house air freshener.

My house smells like basil now. Mmmm...

Friday, October 28, 2011

Corn Maze Adventures

maze paths

About 15 minutes from my house is a huge farm that creates a corn maze every year and is open from about the end of September until Halloween. I don't know how long they've been doing it, but long enough that I've told myself repeatedly that I'd like to go. I was hoping to go last year when a friend came to visit for a long weekend, but the weather didn't cooperate.

But on the 15th, I finally made the trip. The weather was windy but lovely — and I got to check the very first item off my 6 'til 40 list. Win-win!

I told my sister I wanted to go hoping she and her kids would come, too = extra fun and extra photo opportunities. She was game and on Saturday afternoon, she picked me up and we headed to Leininger Farms to walk the corn maze. Her oldest was with us and her middle girl was coming with our parents. So it was a whole family affair. 

maze-lisa & me
My sister and me

Except. My mom was creeped out by the idea of spiders in the corn, so she was NOT game for going through the maze. She was cracking me up. I think it was one of those childhood trauma things rearing it's head and she just wasn't having anything to do with walking though 7 foot high corn. 

Well, she needn't have worried because these guys have this thing DOWN. It's pretty obvious that they plan out the maze even before they plant the corn, so the paths are made of packed dirt and really wide. It was really well maintained and really easy to get through. As a bonus, the corn blocked the wind AND the sun was shining like crazy. Beautiful!

Me & K
Me and K

Lisa's middle girl, M, turned out to be quite the map reader. She became the official guide and earned the nickname "the human GPS." My sister and I joked that she certainly didn't get that from our side of the family, or at least from HER. Or me. I can read a map OK, but my sense of direction is pretty abysmal. I had no idea where we were it that maze, but my argument is that I was too busy taking pics and letting them lead the way.

M-the human GPS
M- the human GPS

One of the fun things about the maze is that they set up stations at various points along the maze. Each station is marked on the map they hand out and has a question pertaining to the theme of the maze. This year the maze was in the shape of Indiana and all of the questions had to do with the state. 

you are here
You are here.

Many were really easy, some we THOUGHT were easy and weren't. We missed 3 or 4 out of about 14 or 15. M quickly discovered a way to "cheat" on the answers. The questions were multiple choice and there was a hole punch at each station, so you punched either A B C or D. M saw the punched circles scattered on the ground and found out what everyone else was answering. It was pretty funny.

maze-answer punches
Scattered answers

We made it to the middle...

maze center
The center!
And kept on going.

M & K

We even found a very elusive someone while we were in there. 

maze-found him
Hey! I found him!

So if you're wondering where Waldo is, last time I checked, he was walking around a corn maze.

We kept going until we hit all of the stations (or so we thought - we missed one) then walked over to the HUGE selection of pumpkins and gourds. And went to town.


ready to check out

And my sister found a teeny tiny pumpkin/gourd. Awwww.

tiny gourd

It was a blast! I'm so glad I went and got to spend time with my sister and two of my nieces and visit with the 'rents. 

In case you want to see even more of the adventure, here's the whole flickr album:

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

This is the first of many adventures I plan on having over the next 5 months or so  (yep, already down a month - yipes).  I'm turning 40 on April 2, 2012 and I've created a list of fun things I want to do between now an then. Stay tuned for more 6' til 40 happenings!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...