Sunday, August 30, 2009

36 Things: Watch a Documentary on Picasso

I've always liked Picasso, but I became a number one fan after visiting the Picasso Museum in Paris a couple years ago. Unfortunately, it closed 6 days ago for a two year renovation, so if you want to go, you have to wait a bit. The museum is so interesting since it is dedicated to Picasso alone (containing over 5000 pieces) and shows a wide range of his styles. Also, it was all artwork paid to the French government for inheritance taxes due upon Picasso's death.

While obviously the guy was a master at anything he put his hands to (drawing, painting, sculpture, ceramics, set design and on and on), what amazes me the most is how prolific he was in his lifetime. He created over 50,000 artworks!

So I checked out a DVD from the library: Artists of the 20th Century, Pablo Picasso.

Now, I enjoyed this DVD, but I had a few complaints. One, the filmmaker focused in pretty closely on the artworks, rarely giving you a full view of a piece. Two, it sounded like somebody's dissertation. I had to follow very, very closely to catch everything being said.

A few quotes from the movie, just so you know what I mean about the dissertation feeling:

"The diaphanous color planes begin to solidify and simplify as Braque and Picasso turn from an analytic to a synthetic approach to form and painting."


"The surrealists welcomed poets and painters who stressed the role of the unconscious and the ways the subterranean part of the human psyche manifested itself in dreams, fantasy, and spontaneous or automatic acts of mind and hand."

OR, my favorite, which is actually fairly readable:

"The bullfight remained a personal passion, which provided a staging ground for elemental violence in his paintings."

phew. All but the last photo I took at the Picasso Museum. The outdoor sculpture was my favorite.

Guernica: my favorite of all his pieces. A giant mural painted in memory of the Basque town of Guernica, destroyed by German Bombers hired by the Spanish Fascist government on April 26, 1937. Sad is war.

I'm not sure the documentary did a very good job of getting me into Picasso's psyche. It did, however, remind me of how lustful he was: six significant relationships and four children by three different women in his 91 year lifetime.

Another check off of my 36 Things I Want to do Before I Turn 37.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Playing With Masks

Not masks you put on your face, but masks you create in a photo editor.

I am a big fan of shareware and just downloaded the most recent version of GIMP (Version 2.6.7 to be exact), a free photo editor that works a lot like Photoshop. I've been using it for years to crop and resize my photos but lately I have been reading tutorials and attempting some simple effects.

I wouldn't do this to photos meant for applying for art projects and what not, but I thought it could be fun to make the images on my blog a little quirkier.

I liked the fringe effect on this one, but I couldn't make it fringe all four sides.I mostly liked the idea of subtly rounding the corners to make the photos look like old snap shots.
This is the most extreme one I made. If you don't recognize it, it's one of Chihuly's sculptures on the glass bridge.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Making My Own Potting Soil

When we started designing our new backyard, I became hooked on the idea of having a lot of lovely containers scattered through out our yard.

The now obvious problems with having a lot of containers:

1)pots are expensive
2)potting soil is expensive
3)plants in containers must be watered more frequently than the rest of the garden

We bit the proverbial bullet and spent about $800 on a large variety of containers. I really love the black one with the green stripe.

A few of these containers are really, really large and I didn't want to go spend more bucketfuls of money on potting soil, so I got creative.

Tagro is a variety of soils and soil amendments made by the city of Tacoma. We had 10 yards delivered for our backyard for landscaping, but we used it all up and had none left over. By itself, Tagro is pretty strong and dense and not really meant for container planting.

Tagro is free if you pick it up yourself. So I loaded the car with all the empty cat litter buckets and other misc. buckets I could find and headed down to the Tagro facility. They even provide shovels for you to use! The smell of Tagro is pretty strong, so I had to drive on the freeway with all of the windows rolled down.

Since Tagro by itself is too dense for potting soil, I decided to mix peat moss and perlite with it. I already owned a giant bag of each since I tried making concrete with them for a hypertufa planter. I didn't like the look of the planter and abandoned the project and had a lot of the stuff left over. I bought them at Home Depot and the bags are huge and I don't remember them costing that much at all.

I laid out a tarp and mixed about 3 parts Tagro with 1 part perlite and 1 part peat moss.

And then I mixed and mixed and mixed. I had to do it in two batches. The amount below was just enough to fill that large container in the background. It takes a lot of soil to fill these babies. I plan on putting a topiary tree in that pot. It is the first thing you will see when you walk in the gate. We are using all black containers except this one I already had, so I wanted it as a focal point.
Now the fun part comes of picking out the plants to put in the containers. I am trying to hold out until the plant sales in mid-September. I might have to buy a couple this weekend.

Foto Friday

Cats love dirt.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Meditations Upon Removing the Cat Door

Last year when we remodeled the kitchen and dining room, we took out our scrappy back door with the equally scrappy cat door and put in french doors instead. The cat door was the source of unending drama in our household. First, Vincent had come in it as a stray and never left and secondly, our cats would lie in waiting for each other to come up to the cat door so that they could smack one another in the face with the door. Gifts of rotting rodents and half-eaten birds were a continual pain in the ass as well.

The first time I saw this cartoon was a year ago, right before we started the remodel and I while I thought it was funny, I didn't really think about the implications of removing the cat door.

Now I understand.
In. Out. In. Out. In. Out. Meow. Meow. Squeak. Squeak. Squeak. Vincent has mastered the squeak with his paws, but Mr. Moneypenny will yowl like he is in pain at the door, I let him out, and 35 seconds later he is at my office window, yowling to be let in.

Sometimes I long for the cat door again. But I don't long for strange cats to get in the house or dead animals to be at the foot of the bed. I am in uneasy truce with myself, not sure the best plan of action.

Do you have a cat door? Do you wait hand on foot on your animals, letting them in and out whenever they want?

Note on the video: Go to Simon's Cat to see more!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Fruit Cobbler in a Box

It's the Peach Fest at our local, super-expensive boutique grocery store (let's just call it Metro Mark-Up) and all things peach are being promoted in the store: pies, chutneys, jams, cakes.

I mostly ignore this stuff, but I was at the check out counter and couldn't help but notice "Cobbler in a Box" or was it crisp? All I remember was that is was a small box, enough to make one tiny cobbler, and it retailed for $4.99! And you still had to add your own peaches and dairy products.

Let me explain my horror; it was a box of flour, baking soda, sugar, cinnamon, and dry powdered milk. Those ingredients would cost less than $1 if you made it at home, more like 50 cents. I went on a little tirade and my husband pointed out that some people don't like to cook like I do. I am sorry, but crisp is the easiest thing on the planet to make! I was making crisp when I was 9! It was settled, I was making crisp that evening.

Fruit Crisp
adapted from Better Homes and Gardens (I have been using this recipe almost 20 years)

5 cups assorted sliced fruit: For this one I used farmers market peaches and apricots with blackberries picked from our alley. (In the fall I love apples and pears with a little chopped ginger thrown in.)
4 Tablespoons sugar
heaping 1/2 cup rolled oats
heaping 1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon powdered ginger
5 Tablespoons butter
1/4 cup flaked coconut
1/4 cup chopped pecans (optional)--pine nuts are good too.

Start by mixing together brown sugar, oats, flour, and spices. Add chopped butter and cut in until is all gooey and crumbly. Mix in coconut and nuts if you are using.

In a glass pie plate, I mixed my peaches and apricots with 2 Tablespoons of sugar and then pushed the fruit to the rim to form a ring. Then I placed the blackberries in the center and mixed them with the remaining 2 Tablespoons of sugar. I like the look of the fruit unmixed.

Sprinkle topping all over filling. Bake 20-25 minutes in a 350 degree oven.
I really wished I had some whipped cream when this came out of the oven!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Meet Wilson, the fruit bat

The last day of zoo art camp we received a special treat. A keeper brought Wilson, the fruit bat, to our classroom.

The two fruit bats are not on display at the zoo. Instead, they are used for education purposes, like our art camp or on visits off site to schools.

He looks so soft and fuzzy, but we were informed that he is slightly greasy since his fur is waterproof.

By Washington State law he cannot be outside; in theory he could wreak havoc on our fruit trees.
It was fun watching the kids draw him. Most of them drew him upside down, but a few insisted in drawing him right side up. It's funny the way our brains insist on placing things "correctly" in our minds!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Fish Printing and Animal Drawing at the Zoo

I haven't had much time for posting this week; I have been teaching the Wild Artist Camp at the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium.

Yesterday was a very fun day for the campers. We started out by making prints off of fish. These were rubber fish, meant for printing. The art of Gyotaku was invented by Japanese fishermen in the 1800's. They would take a rubbing or print off of their catch to document it.

First, I tried out printing at home to get the hang of it.

This is the first print I made.

Note the real squid on the tray--I took a print of it too, but it was so messy and quickly falling apart that we decided not to use it. The students weren't that interested in touching it either.

Some of the student's work. They were very prolific in the mere 30 minutes we had for printing; each student made at least 3 prints.

Next, we hurried down to the outdoor theater to have an up close encounter with an Eagle Owl.

The best thing about the class is that every day the kids get to be close to and hear about a new animal and then draw it. Monday we had a skink in the classroom. Tuesday was an amazing tortoise, yesterday the owl, and today a macaw. Tomorrow we get to see a fruit bat.

Finally, we went to the marine mammal/rocky shores exhibit to hang out with the walruses. If you sit down by the glass then E.T. knows you are going to stay for a while and he comes out of the water to look at everyone and show off. Such a ham.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

36 Things: Make Pickles

I don't know if now having two items knocked off my 36 Things I Want To Do Before I Turn 37 list counts exactly as momentum, but they make a damn good start.

I've been wanting to make pickles for a while. Crown Bar, a fabulous pub we like to go to near our house, serves homemade pickles with their organic, grass-fed beef burgers. Or at least they used to; the last few times we've been in they have been out of pickles. This made me think that maybe they have stopped making the delicious pickles, and I started to panic, how will I get my perfect pickle fix?

I guess I just have to make them myself. Our friends Randy and Shari have a big garden and I asked them to grow some pickling cucumbers this year and promised that I would make pickles in return. Shari gave us a big bag of cucumbers today and I ran to Fred Meyers to get jars and tongs and salt and away I went.

Quite a few friends of mine have been jarring jams and jellies lately, but no pickles. I've seen a few recipes that sort of marinate the cucumbers in brine, but aren't actually jarred and I thought I would rather do it the right way and then they will last a long time.

It's a pretty easy process, and I am now slightly embarrassed that I never tried any canning before, but there are so many recipes and so many different instructions that I was starting to get intimidated until I watched a couple videos on YouTube (the series from the woman below are excellent) and realized how amazingly easy it was going to be. The worst that could happen was some broken glass, or a scalded hand, (or some botulism) and I could live with that.

This biggest pain is sanitizing everything, but it is super easy now that we have a nice dishwasher that can sanitize. Also, it seemed to take up a lot of containers and bowls. Nothing out of control, though.

It was quite enjoyable to pack the ingredients into the jars and pour the boiling vinegar mixture through a funnel; I felt like a mad scientist.

It took 3 hours to make 12 small jars (including the sanitation in the dishwasher) and about $18 in start up costs, not including the cucumbers themselves but including the jars, pickling salt, vinegar, jar tongs, jalapenos, fresh dill, and garlic. You have to replace the thin metal lids every time you reuse a jar. The box of pickling salt will probably last me the rest of my life.

Also, I think investing in the $35 pan that comes with the rack to put the jars in while you are boiling them will be a great asset. I read that in a pinch you can just put towels under the jars in the boiling water to keep them from knocking into each other, but it was a pain to keep the towels in place and the jars knocked around anyways. It would have been much, much faster if I could have processed more than 3 jars at one time.

The next time I make pickles, it is going to go quicker and I won't be as worried.

I can't wait to taste these babies, but the recipe said I need to wait a week before tasting. It didn't explain why, however. I might cheat and open one jar sooner.

I Love Bacon

I have said it before, I will say it to my dying day: bacon is heaven on earth and the best way to make new friends at a party.

Last Friday our wine tasting group got together for a blind tasting at Rick and Heather's house. The theme was small plates/tapas, so I decided to make some marinated Manchego and some Bacon Wrapped Dates. Turns out Ann also made dates wrapped in bacon, so there was plenty to go around (and I didn't hear anyone complaining).

I took some short cuts on mine. I didn't use Medjool dates; I wanted them to be smaller. I didn't stuff the dates with the chorizo like the original recipe called for; I used fully cooked Portuguese sausage instead.

Bacon Wrapped Dates with Sausage

1 package thin-sliced bacon
1/4 - 1/2 package fully cooked Portuguese sausage, cut in slices and then halved
20-30 dates

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil.

Cut each bacon strip crosswise into 3 pieces.

Place one half-slice of sausage on end of bacon.
Gently flatten one date on top of sausage slice.

Wrap bacon around date and sausage slice and place seam down on baking sheet.

I made just enough to fill a baking sheet and still had a few slices of bacon left over.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until nice and brown. Drain on papertowels and try not to eat them all before you take them to your dinner party.

This recipe is very flexible and has a lot of options for variation. Ann used the larger Medjool dates and stuffed them with chevre and then wrapped them in the bacon. Hers were creamy in the middle, while mine were chewier. Yum.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

36 Things: Sew a Pillow

OK, the other day I wrote a post about the 36 Things I Want To Do Before I Turn 37.

I have 14 months, but sometimes I can be a procrastinator. And the woman who's blog I got the idea from only has two months to finish and isn't even half way done. I don't want to be stressed out by this project. I want to have fun with it.

So I started with #20 Sew a pillow.

I should have qualified, sew a good pillow, but if you have never sewn a patchwork bolster pillow cover before, you have to start somewhere. I bought this bolster pillow years ago, cheap at a thrift store, and there it sat, in my closet, waiting for me to do something....anything.

In the spirit of the Stenciled and Stitched class I have been taking, I decided to make this a free form, patchwork pillow. Sewing without a pattern can be difficult sometimes; there is no piece of paper telling you how to proceed. You just have to go with it and if you screw up, be willing to accept the consequences or start over.

So I played, and played, and played.

I think the ends are a little too loose. I may go back and change them. But I looked online at other bolster covers and they were all loose on the ends too. I might prefer a flat circle on the ends with a button closure.

But I might just leave it for now. I like the colors and the fabric, especially the polka dot IKEA fabric I bought in Dubai. The IKEA in Kent sold fabric when it first opened 20 years ago, or however long ago that was, but stopped pretty quickly. I was very happy to find fabric at IKEA Dubai.

It took the better part of one day to do this, and I thought this was one of the easier ones to complete! Good thing I gave myself 14 months.

Hitting the Links

I have been really looking at some interesting, clever sites lately:

Keri Smith could be my long, lost alter-ego, but with better drawing skills.

Staci is a Quirky Bird: A webpage designer by day, a fun blogger by night. (or coffee breaks)

Hooked on Houses --a good place to ogle your dream house.

I don't know if Orangette really needs any more press, but her website is fun. (and she is in Seattle and about to open a restaurant)

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Stenciled and Stitched

The new stencil online class I am taking from Dispatch From L.A. is all about experimenting with sewing on stencils and making little books.

I started with painting the backgrounds of the pages with acrylic paints and watercolors. Then I took them outside and spray painted with all of the stencils I have been making. (The background stencil of the four pointed stars is one of my favorites right now.) Then I doodled with thread and added fabric and collage elements.

The sewing machine I am using is new to me, so I have been having fun playing with the different stitches. The next step is to make a cover, sew the signatures together and assemble the whole thing.

Some pages I am not liking at all, but I am forcing myself to just keeping playing with it all and see how it turns out!

Thinking it would be fun to make one about my garden or about Tacoma.