Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A Bird in distress...

The theme that I worked on for this months art group meeting was "distressed or vintage birds"...right up my alley.  There's one thing you learn well by painting opera...and that's to make things look old! You buy a new wooden bathroom towel ring, slather on some "goop", and paint until you achieve "Rusted 1800's Dungeon Ring"!  And so it goes...

Here are the two sides to the page I finished...

On the front, I distressed watercolor paper by using gel medium to attach some text, and then promptly pulled it off.  It left some texture on the top, and then naturally distressed the page of text which I collaged onto the bottom.  I found a robin illustration out of an old encyclopedia and added plant life which I stitched and painted.  Afterwards, I aged the edges and added some pieces of dress pattern paper to areas I thought needed it.

On the back, I went with something a little simpler by using some fabric that I'd rusted as a base for hand sewing on another piece of fabric that I had painted with a feather.  Overall, a very fun and satisfying piece to work on!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Happy Easter...

And now I can let my cat out of the was my pleasure to paint the Easter candle for the 4th year in a row.

A view of the Easter candle on the altar of our church, St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church.

A close-up of the phoenix.  I got a fabulous tip from one of our religious brothers who is an carve the design into the wax with an x-acto knife.  It kept the paint within bounds and made the waxy, curved surface very cooperative to paint.  Blessings to him for making the work easy so I could do a more complicated design!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Painting, sewing, and scary dolls...

Now, why would anyone get rid of this doll...and why has no one adopted her?  The answer could likely be in the reaction on Miso's face when I picked her up and asked if she wanted to take her home!  It was a look of fear and repulsion.  Poor thing, it was still there the next week.  Maybe $1.99 is a bit steep.

Going to thrift stores is a great love...not only do you get to see amazing, interesting things that you don't normally get to see, but you also score things that make you feel like you "got ahead".  I bought what I thought was a cotton robe, and it had a tag inside from an Etsy seller.  It turned out to be a handmade organic cotton wrap dress that was originally $90.  It's massive on me, so I'm going to use the fabric for applique on another project.

Recently, I purchased 2 yards of organic cotton fabric from Alabama Chanin.  It's grown, knitted, and dyed in the USA which makes it pretty special, and fairly expensive.  I'm waiting until I have some undisturbed time to work on it as I can't think straight if there is too much noise.  Ha!  I might be old or dead by then.  Anyway, I bought it in fern green and peacock blue to make some infinity scarves that double as nursing cover ups, a tutorial I saw on a blog.  I'm going to make one, Chanin-style!  But I've got one itty bitty project to finish first...the Easter candle!

 It's all designed, cut and started.  That's the hardest part. 

This is the "major art" on the candle this year, the phoenix rising from the flames, and nesting on a crown of thorns.  I'm saving it for last as I warm up on simple letters and shapes.  I'm on task for having it done by this Sunday, then it's back to sewing!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Rusted Pods...

For as long as I can remember, I've always drawn, doodled, painted and carved pods.  Even if I'm not trying to draw pods, somehow one ends up in my work.  Another common thing, "Squiggles"...always show up in my work too.  Tails, tendrils, vines.  I'm sure a psychotherapist would have a heyday with it, and I'm sure if I thought about it hard enough...I could figure it out myself and save a few thousand bucks.  Alas, onto the art. 

Every  month, I meet with a group of lady friends who I've done collaborative projects with for about 6 years.  One I've known for much longer as she was my art teacher in middle school.  She's an inspiration to me then, and now, and one of the only people currently in my life that's been around the longest!  Everyone else I "used to know", I no longer consort with for one reason or another.

One year, our art group did an ABC themed art journal, one year we did charms, sometimes we just do an art/craft lesson, eat and talk!  But this year's project is a small book based on a theme of our choice.  I chose "The desert", no surprise there...and my prompt, or secondary theme, is "vintage/distressed".  Each month we make a page for someone in the group based on their theme, and someone makes one for me.  At the end of the year, we'll have a complete book with art from everyone in our group...and these rusty pods were for a friend wanting a double nature book!  Nature/nature.  Give me nature, or leave me alone!  :)  I can relate.

Of course I had to do pods...and what I couldn't figure out was how to make it all natural.  Everything outside is DEAD, there are no leaves to speak of, nothing growing to use as a stencil or to sew onto the I decided to use cotton fabric, and the idea of rust since it's a process of nature that I've always admired.  I also used hand-stitching and not my machine, since I'm natural, right?!  This was my first foray into French knots, and it's hard to see in the photo, but the top of the large poppy pod skeleton is completely comprised of little French knots close together.

The other side of the page is mixed-media with pen and ink, graphite, thread, paint and some little pieces of fabric cut from my first rusted muslin experiment.  I'm not sure what sort of pod this is...I made it up.  But it's based on milkweed, with pea pod influences!  After the pages were finished, I hand stitched them together around the sides to hide all my embroidery. 

The next page on my list which is due in April, is bird art with a vintage distressed look.  And this is NOT me, but I've already started!  As with the Paschal candle for church, which I just sketched out on paper last night as I was lying in bed...I usually ruminate until the deadline nears and then I crank out that idea that's been brewing in my mind.  But I'm trying to turn a new leaf (or whole tree as it seems) and be an "ahead of schedule" kind of girl.  Wish me luck! 

Friday, March 21, 2014

A little update...

In my copious free time, and with my fledgling HTML experience...I'm attempting to combine my blog with my website, and move it to a new home.  Yes, we'll see how that goes!  I've had since 1999, and I don't want to lose the domain...although I haven't updated it in a long time.  Old pics...old jewelry...old news!  I don't even have time to fix rosaries anymore, I've had to turn people down because anything that requires my focus gets seriously competed with around here these days!  One day...some day...I'll want to sell jewelry or start a rosary repair business or sell art or something, and I'm going to schlep the website along until that day comes.

I've picked a new "theme" that's nice looking and I'm working on figuring out how to work it.  I'll camp here until I can navigate the new one.

SO, anyway....thank God for spring!  I know this is Missouri and it could still snow, then be 75 the next day...but the fact that the daffodils are popping up just makes me feel better about the whole lot. 

My African violet decided to bloom for me too.  I need a bigger kitchen so I can house all my little growing things.

Tried this fun recipe over at Against All Grain, St. Patrick's Day cookies that naturally turn food coloring required!  It's a reaction between baking soda and sunflower seed butter, pretty neat...I've always loved chemistry.  Which leads me to my next, current obsession...rust dying fabrics.

I've been looking at a blog by Alice Fox who rust dyes fabrics and then hand stitches on them, her work is heavenly!  And another wonderful artist, Jennifer Coyne Qudeen who also rust and eco-dyes...and then sews.  I've always collected rusted things but usually I hang them around like trophies to admire, or make other pieces or art from them.

Now I'm starting to combine my love for printmaking with my new found love of hand-sewing in my artwork.  It's something that takes little commitment from me, I can wrap a rusty object with fabric and throw it in the kiddie pool out back...and if I forget about it...that makes it even better!  My kiddies can mess with it, throw it around and poke it with a stick...and it doesn't matter.  Pics to come soon, as I've already been using the fabric pieces in my art.

Here's another little art project or "accidental experiment" I accomplished lately...melting a coconut oil jar in the dishwasher!  I'd hoped to put beads in it, but now I use it as a flower vase.  It went from the shape on the left, to the gnarled shape on the right...and now the plastic is super hard.  (I love it.)

Soon I'll have to stop playing around so much and get serious, as I'm painting our church's Paschal candle again this year.  My goal is to have it done by what would have been my dad's 73rd birthday, which is the weekend before Easter.  The design is in my head and it's just a matter of starting, and starting is always the hardest part.

And last...I didn't spend the $1 on this...I just snagged a picture of it at the thrift store...Is it saying that the person wearing the shirt is closed-minded?  Or is this person shutting off to other people's nagging input or not allowing them to "live rent-free in their head" anymore?   Time to shut off my mind for the day, until the next update...adieu!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Praise for Against All Grain's "grain free sandwich bread"...

Before I start gabbing...just take a look at this brown, glistening crust...the crack, the rise...oh my...

This is Danielle Walker's recipe from Against All Grain, and I love it.  Of course, I wanted to soak and dehydrate my own cashews to make cashew butter instead of buying the jarred kind, so that added days onto this process, but it was worth it.  It's a beautiful piece of culinary science...the reaction of baking soda with apple cider vinegar...the technique of whipping egg whites to it moisture while baking, and patience blended with a quiet peeking, no shocking with cold air and slamming the oven door!!  Of course my oven has the worst bit of old dirty glass in the front, so I had no idea what was going on in that oven...until the end.  

What a pleasant surprise.  So many recipes I've tried with mediocre results, so much money in materials squandered.  But this one was fantastic.  I followed it to the letter, except (there's always an except, right?!)  I used organic raw milk instead of almond milk. Unless almonds are organic, it's a law in this country that they are to be pasteurized by fumigation with carcinogenic chemicals.  No thanks.  Plus, I'm not sure how they milk an almond...(just kidding).

After it emerged from the oven, we set a timer because it's supposed to cool for one, torturous hour.  Many times I tried to storm the gates (or the heel, rather...) but I waited.  When I sliced it open, I was very surpised that it was done all the way through.  I'm used to spongy, wet doughs now that are goo inside, and this was not the case.  Air pockets!  And then we toasted it in the broiler...

And slathered on Kerry Gold butter!  It was delicious, everything I'd hoped for.  It didn't turn into a nasty ball of glutenous dough in your mouth like wheat bread, and it didn't turn all squishy with quiggy bits like rice flour's a bit "spongy" when you poke it, but toasting fixes that right up.  Now we have to wrap it up and it's supposed to get better as it sits.  I'm not sure how long this is going to SIT?!  I've already had seconds...I reproduced yet another bready favorite, cinnamon toast.  With a little honey and was just oh so delightful.

What prompted me to take on a big job like this on a Sunday besides desiring the satisfying aromas of freshly baked bread wafting through the house?  It was...Whole Foods.

Last week, we were at Whole Foods looking for something to eat for dinner.  I've had some bad runs there between "vegan enchiladas" and "paleo stir fry" among all the other seemingly healthy things they serve in their prepared food area.  The enchiladas made me plain sick, and the paleo stir fry was OK except the only dressing that did not contain a bunch of sugar was a tomato basil sauce, and it was just not tasty.  I ended up dumping tamari on it, and when it mixed with the tomato flavor...yuk! 

Don't get me started on their soups and salads.  Most of them contain a wheat product as a thickener plus canola oil which is not a healthy oil.  Canola means "Canadian oil, low acid"...and it comes from the rapeseed which was banned by the FDA back in the 50's because it was too toxic for human consumption.  If the FDA bothers saying that something is's BAD.  In the 70's, they bred a new variety of rapeseed, renamed it "canola" and voila!  Better living through science prevails once again!  Cheap and dirty.  Plus, word on the street is it makes a fantastic pesticide.  No wonder the mosquitoes come after me and leave everyone else alone...

Sooo...the next time we ended up at Whole Foods looking for food, I decided to try their gluten free deli sandwich.  The bread they use only contains one substance that I don't care for, agave nectar.  It's highly processed and is heavy on the fructose in, almost completely fructose. Fructose goes straight to the liver, but it's a lot better if it goes skipping happily down the lane hand-in-hand with fiber, that's why it's perfectly fine to get it via whole's not good in an isolated, processed state like agave.  Plus it's just sickening sweet.

ANYWAY, the sandwich...made my day.  I hadn't had a sandwich in a very long time.  One of my favorite things in the world is an Italian sub sandwich.  They're the best in Philly, but even D'Bronx here in Kansas City makes a pretty darn good one.  I salivate over them and miss them dearly.  And the bread on this gluten free sandwich...was nothing like a hoagie roll, nothing!  The goal is to make them at home. But alas, if I was going to buy and consume a $4-$5 loaf gluten free bread that wasn't bad...I knew I could make something with my own ingredients that was much better.  And this recipe will be our new "go to" sandwich bread from now on. And I think I might have to now own her cookbook!

BTW, no one has paid me to say any of these things...I rant and rave on my own accord, for free!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

This Saturdays' thrift store finds...

My favorite little hole-in-the-wall thrift store has coughed up more treasures.  But I'm afraid the obscene cheapness is about to come to a screeching halt.  It seems that all of a sudden, someone who knows what they're doing is pricing things!  Good for them, it's about time.  And yet the cheap treasures still abound...and are nowhere NEAR the overpriced "bargains" at other thrift stores I visit.

This little vintage baby dress is new with the tags, and while children's clothes are usually heaped into a bin and you DIG to your heart's content for 25 cents per item...this one they knew to price much higher.  I paid $3.99 for it, probably my highest priced item of the day.  But I liked it.

Another Arizona plate!  I smell a collection forming.  99 cents.

More vintage embroidery.  All 3 were pinned together for 99 cents...and I've already used one in my new  current obsession...hand sewn bibs using vintage materials.

Another 99 cent treasure...this book is from the 40's and while not in great shape, it has that wear and character that I love for art projects.  I'll most likely make an art journal out of it for Bashi.

I love the innocence in writing in these old refreshing.  Danny looks like a nice boy who loves his momma...doesn't he?

And this beauty...I passed on, sadly!  Now I wish I had it hanging in my kitchen.  The irony of a wheat-free house.  Bread warms the heart alright, some would say it warms it all the way to heart disease, but I think the plaque speaks of that warm, loving feeling that breaking bread with loved ones gives!  But I see things through rose colored glasses these days...or would that be through non-rose colored glasses?!  Maybe it will still be there next time!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

My first hand sewn baby bib...

Inspired by Alabama Chanin's "Five Generations (and a baby bib)", I've finally taken the time to sit down and start sewing things by hand.  It's supplied me with many much-needed SIT down, to SLOW down, and to have valuable CRAFT TIME! 

This bib is made entirely out of bed sheets, thread I already owned, and buttons from the thrift store.  it's 3 layers sandwiched together which hopefully will supply enough thickness to keep sweet potato goop off of baby's shirt.  When it goes through the wash, the edges should get nice and fuzzy as well.  Some people may not like that...but there are tons of bibs out there that are hurriedly tucked and machine stitched...this is about slowing down, which also matches my theories on food and eating.

At first, my hand stitching was "awkward".  My thread kept looping and knotting and misbehaving...I had not "loved my thread" quite enough!  It really did work the next time I threaded the needle.  Yesterday, I schlepped a chair out into the sun and sat under a pine tree and stitched while the littles dug holes in my muddy herb garden bed!  It's the perfect craft for me as I have tons of saved fabric and love handmade, imperfect things with frayed edges.  Character over perfection!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

$5.50 thrift store finds...

I love thrift stores...especially little hole in the wall ones that could charge a lot more, but don't.  Of COURSE, I like that...!

Here's my latest haul...not pictured are the 3 Hot Wheels cars I bought which actually made up for half of the $5.50 total I spent.  Funny how 3 little junky made in China toys are more valuable than vintage linens, plates and a silver played serving set in the original box?!

Usually, I pass up all kinds of state plates...but not one from New Mexico!  The vintage mustard striped dinner napkins are very nice quality, and appear unused.  There's a vintage Christmas nativity ornament on them from 1977 which may be difficult to see.  The silver played serving set is Wm. A Rogers and is in the original box.  The striped kitchen towel is worn but still nicer than the ones I buy at Target!  The stained, tatted heart I will use in an art project...possibly an art journal with all the memorabilia I've saved from dating, our wedding, honeymoon and St. Valentines days.  And last but not least, a vintage tea pot made of lucite with funky bits embedded in it.  Such treasures at $5.50...less than a burrito at Chipotle.  :)

What I DID pass up was a crate full of original Erector Set pieces from the 1930's with the original instructions and everything.  $100!  I hope they get that for it!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Head swapping...

I've been getting handy with the scissors again...this is what happens when I'm stuck inside for too long!