Friday, September 25, 2009

Raven Meets Crow Etsy Shop

It has taken me a little while to put it all together, but my Etsy shop is now up and running!

For a long time, I have been working on large scale sculpture and mosaics. A lot of friends said they wish they could afford to buy art. So I decided to work for a while on smaller, more affordable pieces, because everybody should have art in their life!

My shop will focus completely on animal art: animal sculptures and coming soon, full color, limited edition prints.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

36 Things: Ride a Roller Coaster

This might sound like an easy one on my list of 36 Things I Want to do Before I Turn 37. The giant state fair of Washington, the Puyallup Fair, is only about 12 miles tops from my house. I grew up going to fairs because my sister was in Dog 4-H. But my husband hates fairs. Especially the rides and carnival section of the fair. He won't go anywhere near a ride--which is a little funny since he is scuba diver and even helps teach classes. And I don't think I ever want to go underwater encased in rubber with an air tank on my back, so I guess we each have our pet peeves, or whatever you call them.

The fun of a fair is looking at all the funky craft exhibits and the animals and the glorious, never-ending people watching. But it is also fun to do this with someone else. When I put up a request on Facebook looking for a friend to go with me to the fair, I only had one taker: Amy.

So I put on my walking shoes and took an enormous amount of cash out at the ATM, and away we went.

Not only did we go on the scary looking wooden roller coaster that was originally built in 1935 (supposedly with a total rebuild and multiple updates since its original creation), we went on the Tiger Cat rollercoaster that is metal and fast and super twisty. I've decided I like the twists and swooshes while Amy preferred the big drops. She made fun of me for being hesitant about going on a roller coaster, but then she flat out refuesed to go on any rides that turned us upside down or sideways.

Besides the roller coasters, a highlight was the delicious BBQ pulled pork sandwiches we bought from Pete's BBQ. They are a restaurant in Kent that has their own building at the fair and the BBQ pit is so smoky all the cooks wear gas masks and goggles!

OK, I admit I screamed "Holy Jesus!" when we went down the first big dip on the Tiger Cat, but this one was really my favorite.

Lot's of fabulous prizes to win.

Another great exhibit was a special, touring Weird Al Yankovic 3D movie about your brain. It was short and entertaining. At the end of it, you could touch a real brain! I was very excited about this although you had to put your hand in a plastic bag to do it. I guess, based on so many stereotypes, I thought it would be squishy, but it was firm and felt like wet clay more than anything else. Neat!
Another mesmerizing space was the large sales building where hundreds of salespeople wearing heatsets compete for guests attention and try to sell their wares. This woman had some new fangled device for rolling sushi. Why you couldn't just use one of those bamboo mats was beyond me; I was especially intrigued by her makeup application.

Finally, I had to get something to bring home to my sweetie, so I put a lot of love and attention into making the best DooDad, ever.
I didn't even get to see any of the art show exhibits or the endless selections of antique collections and whatnot. I did pet a goat and ate curly fries while Amy enjoyed a Krusty Pup. Only three days left before the end of the fair, I may try to get out there again tomorrow.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

36 Things: Mosaic the Backsplash

We remodeled our kitchen last May, so that is over 15 months ago. Being the mosaic artist in the family, it was up to me to figure out to do with the backsplash.

I wanted to think about it a little bit, not rush into something I would regret later. But even I admit 15 months is a little rash, but now it is done and I am very, very happy with it. I am making up a posting with a tutorial, but for now here are just the photos since I am so pleased just to be finally looking at a completed piece.

This was one of my major motivations behind 36 Things I Want to do Before I Turn 37.

All of the material is stained glass that I cut down from large sheets. I wanted something fun, but not so over the top or busy like you see with so many mosaics. I like to create large expanses of mosaic using just one color.

I've had this Star Wars poster since I was 7 or 8; it came inside the original album soundtrack. The colors in the poster match the colors in the backsplash and countertop perfectly. I didn't set out for the Death Star to be the inspiration for this piece, I think it was a unconsciously done.

I put the orange in the mosaic as an accent for a very specific reason.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Foto Friday

This monster squash plant is a volunteer that came up randomly after we cleared out the old garden and compost pile. I am letting it do its thing, I think it is zucchini, but I will know once the veggies mature a little more. About 25 blossoms are slowly but surely turning into bulbous green vegetables.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Make Your Own Marshmallows from Scratch

I am not exactly sure where the idea to make marshmallows came from, but it has been hovering in the back of my mind for some time now--so much so that I put it in my list of 36 Things I Want to Do Before I Turn 37.

I like to make no-bake cookies, which requires precision and is a little like playing with a chemistry set. I thought marshmallows would be the next step in learning how to make candy. I always think of the store marshmallows as something slightly fake, not real, full of chemicals. Homemade marshmallows are fluffy and chewy and are not full of weird fake flavors or chemicals.

This is not a vegetarian recipe. Gelatin is derived from animal products. But so is leather, so if you wear leather, you should be able to eat this guilt free.

Turns out the Barefoot Contessa has a Marshmallow Mix in a box, but at $10+ a pop, I would skip her version and go for truly homemade. I hate mixes in a box at any rate. It costs about 1/10th the price to make them from scratch and makes nearly triple the amount.

This is a variation on several recipes I found.

Jennevieve's Homemade Marshmallows

3 packets gelatin
1/2 cup ice cold water
1/2 cup room temp water
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup light corn syrup
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
non-stick spray

Start by combining the gelatin and 1/2 cup cold water in your stand mixer. Attach the whisk and let sit while you prepare the sugars.

Combine the 1/2 cup room temperature water with the granulated sugar and the corn syrup in a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat. Cover and let heat up for 5 minutes. Uncover and attach candy thermometer. Make sure thermometer does not touch the bottom of the pan.

Allow mix to come to a rolling boil and watch temperature carefully until heat reaches 240 degrees F, soft ball stage. This took about 10 minutes on my stove. It may go faster on yours. Remove from heat immediately once you have reached soft ball stage.

Slowly pour sugar mix into mixer containing gelatin while mixer is running on low speed.

Once all of the sugar is combined, set your mixer to medium-high and let it do the hard part.

While the mixer is running, combine the powdered sugar with the cornstarch and sift over a cookie sheet sprayed with non-stick spray. I prepared two sheets, but in the end, one would have worked just fine. Only use about half of the sugar/cornstarch mix.
The candy will turn white and start to thicken. You want the mixture to cool down a bit and become very thick, forming stiff peaks, much like meringue. This took about 11 minutes, but several recipes say it can take up to 15 minutes. I guess it depends on the strength of your mixer? Just about when you think it is done, add your vanilla and allow to mix for another minute.
Once candy is ready, pour onto prepared cookie sheet. Smooth out as best as you can with an oiled spatula.

Sift remaining powdered sugar/corn starch mix over marshmallows. Allow to set 4 hours or overnight. Use a pizza cutting wheel to cut candy into strips, then use kitchen shears to cut pieces apart. Delicious.

Now I will have to make some hot chocolate tonight to throw these babies in. And it makes me want to find a rocky road recipe, the possibilities are endless....

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Cooking The Whole Cookbook: Cooking the Vietnamese Way

I never tire of eating Vietnamese cooking. The ingredients are always so fresh, use little added fat, and the frequent combination of chiles, herbs like basil and mint, garlic, and ginger, and peanuts are so delicious and mouth watering. They also have an interesting twist of French colonial history, so it isn't weird to put carrots and tofu on a baguette or eat a puff pastry to start out your meal.

The two main things to know about Vietnamese cooking are:
1) Fish sauce-you can't be afraid of fish sauce (nuoc mam). Yes, it smells like your brother's dirty gym socks that he insisted upon wearing three days in a row. But once you have either cooked with it or combined it with other ingredients, the smell mellows and it adds such an essential part to the flavor and smell of the dishes. Without it, your dishes will only be so-so.

2) Fresh ingredients and patient prepping of foods is key. A lot of the dishes are about delicately sliced vegetables mixed with fresh herbs over rice or noodles with maybe some sort of meat and a little sauce or broth. Substitutions can be made easily, so you don't have to panic if you don't have Thai Basil, you can use regular basil or even cilantro and just move on.

Even though we like to think we are so worldly in our local grocery stores, I still find it hard to find exactly all the ingredients I want at the local Fred Meyer's or Metropolitan Markup (Market). Just under two miles from my house, up on South 38th, is a crazy good, but slightly scruffy looking East Asia Supermarket, or maybe it's called Super East Asian Market, I can't remember. OK, maybe scruffy is a little too nice, really dirty looking would be better, like maybe they actually let the chickens run around in the shop before they butcher them--I like to think of it as the poor man's Uwajimaya. (I love Uwajimaya, but the nearest one is 36 miles up the road in Seattle and is pretty damned expensive.)

But please don't be put off by my filthy description. You can find artichoke tea here and daikon the size of your thigh and super cheap herbs and coconut milk for $1 a can and rice in 50lb sacks and rice sticks and noodles in all shapes and sizes. They also have delicate looking quail eggs, interesting East Asian beers, and plastic Chinese noodle bowls complete with classic red and white designs. I still haven't gotten up the nerve to buy any meat products here, as I prefer to buy organic meats whenever possible, but I've heard from others that the meat is fine. This is where I will be buying most of my ingredients for my foray into Vietnamese cooking.

I am diving into Quick and Easy Vietnamese by Nancy McDermott. I hope you will join me. The food is delicious.

I will not be posting about these cooking experiences on this blog. Instead, you can find them on my Cooking the Whole Cookbook Blog.

Progress on the Mosaic Back-splash

Finally, I have made some serious progress on the kitchen back-splash. I have completed the cutting of the mosaic glass and glued it all down to the mesh.

I almost ran out of the light gray stained glass. If I screw up during install, I might have to go buy a whole new sheet of the glass. Fingers crossed that no additional glass will be necessary.

Next, I need to clean off and tape off the kitchen counter, draw out where the mosaic is going to go, and lightly sand the painted wall to prepare the surface for tiling.

Monday, September 14, 2009


I am working with a group of people in creating a giant chess set made out of found objects.

These are the two pieces I made. On the left, the three stacked buckets with the sewing machine is a knight and on the right, the lamp on the two buckets is a queen. The color is wrong, but it was the only green spray paint meant for plastic that I could find. My friend John has nicely offered to paint them the correct shade since I can't make it to the chess rehearsal tonight.

What: MEGA-CHESS, a performance art event.
When: Sunday, September 20th, NOON to 3PM
Where: Tollefson Plaza, Pacific Ave & 17th street, Tacoma.

We will be recreating an historic chess match as well as having open play and are encouraging people to bring their own chess sets to the plaza to play themselves! My husband Trevor will be acting as referee while I will be running around, moving chess pieces. Lots of fun, looking forward to it!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Hitting the Links: Watercolor Genius!

Okay, I was looking for watercolor paper stretching tutorials and found this delightful British fellow, Bob Davies, that has a ton of videos on Youtube.

This color wheel tutorial is fabulous, I wish he could have been my teacher in school!

I just spent 5 minutes watching him painting chimneys-genius!

Foto Friday

After our burger party last Saturday.

Sometimes I wonder what is going on in Mr. Moneypenny's pea brain.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Setting Up My First ETSY Shop

I drove up to Seattle today to visit my friend Barbara at her lovely home ceramic studio to talk shop, most importantly, to talk ETSY.
ETSY, for you that don't know, is "your place to buy and sell all things handmade." I think of it as an arts and crafts marketplace; you can purchase anything you can think of that is handmade, from jewelry to clocks to original works of art to clothing. Lots of fun.

And I am soon to be launching my own Etsy shop, Raven Meets Crow, featuring funky animal sculptures using recycled and found materials as well as limited edition prints.

But first, I have to set up shop, figure out the ins and outs of paypal and shipping items and pricing and etc. I've been doing a lot of research and I want to launch the whole shop at once, not just one or two things here and there.

So I went to Barbara's today because she has been selling for a while on etsy and has a great background set up for taking photos and has a lot of advice on the best way to get started.
Barbara just had a studio sale and so a few items are still up on the wall.

This is one of the adorable bell/ornaments she has been making lately. If you look up top in the wide shot of the studio, you can see dozens and dozens of them on the center table, waiting to be glazed.

Barbara will be having another studio sale in time for Christmas.
Check out her sites here:
Barb Dunshee on ETSY.
Bd Pottery.

A pic of her cute dog Russell.

Monday, September 7, 2009

No Bake Cookies

I have been making these cookies ever since I was old enough for my mom to get me to stand on a chair and hold onto a wooden spoon. Whenever cool weather shows up, these cookies come out!

Best No-Bake Cookies Ever

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup milk (I use non-fat all the time just fine)
1/2 cup cocoa (regular, not dutch cocoa)
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup coconut (or peanuts or rolled oats if you prefer)

Measure out oats and coconut and set aside.
Set out a large piece of wax or parchment paper.

Combine the first 4 ingredients in a heavy bottomed pan. I used my new enamel casserole and it worked marvelously.

Bring to soft boil stage. 234-240 F. Now if you don't have a candy thermometer--and I realized mine was not working about half way through cooking---you can drop a small spoonful of the bubbling chocolate into a glass of cold water to see when it is at soft ball stage.

Once to soft ball stage you have to work fast. Take pan off heat, stir in vanilla and then stir in your dry ingredients. This is the only tricky part of the whole recipe. If you wait too long, the mixture will crumble and not form cookies. But you can always use it as a topping for something else!

Spoon out lovely chocolate blobs on parchment paper and allow to cool. I usually singe my tongue because I insist on eating one before it is cooled.

At the end of our End of Summer party last Saturday there were none of the no-bake cookies left. My brownies with chipotle on the other side, were not as big a hit, (it is hard to be casual about spicy dessert) but that was just fine because we ate them for breakfast the next day!

These will last a week in a closed container, but mine never last that long.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Mosaic a Backsplash

We finished our kitchen remodel over 14 months ago and I still haven't tiled a mosaic back splash yet. Trevor likes to remind me of this, so I am making a real effort here to get going on this.

I've done the drawings, made the measurements, bought the glass and am on my way to a unique and special back splash.

I have done so many mosaics that my sketches (unless for public consumption) look like chicken scratch. But I can understand what I mean, so that is all that matters.

For this mosaic, I am using stained glass. I think it is going to compliment our black counter top and the general contemporary feel of the room nicely.

I buy the glass in large sheets at Big M Stained Glass here in Tacoma. I bought an expensive red but, all in all, the materials for the entire thing, including glass, mesh, thinset, and grout, are costing less than $200. It's all about the labor.
I have a glass scorer and snap pliers to cut down the big sheets. That takes as long as laying out the mosaic itself. I am hoping to get this done in time for a party we are having this Saturday, hmm, better go get back to work on it!
More photos and a tutorial coming once the whole thing is completed!

More Fun with Stencils

I have been busy cutting out a lot of new stencils. I stopped using the expensive stencil film and am now cutting everything out of manila folders.

The first one and the last one I started by painting the background in acrylic and then doing stencil and collage on top.

I am really loving cutting out all over patterns. I draw the designs freehand because I don't really like the look of computer generated patterns-too artificial and stiff for me. The hand drawn and cut ones are more organic and obviously handmade.

This is eventually going to be a cover page for my 36 Things I Want to Do Before I Turn 37. Needs a little more work.

This crow is my favorite so far. I really like combining the stencils with collage and pen and ink drawings and am working on a whole new series (to sell on Etsy).