Friday, September 30, 2011

Lost Forever

You know what is lost forever?  The 3 hours I wasted today at Fred Meyers, JoAnn Fabrics, and Michael's looking for art supplies for my new Fiber Arts program I am starting tomorrow.

The instructor sent us a long list of things to acquire with only 2 days to get them and I have been a little peeved at how little time 48 hours really is.

The funny thing is that most of the items I have--scrap fabric, ribbon, twine, paper, etc.  I already packed up not thinking I would need them and now I am unpacking boxes to get back to them!  I guess the instructor is just having us bring these easy, on hand items for experimenting the first day since it is a 7 hour class and we need something to do.  I was assuming I would bring my wool goodies.  Guess not.

But the worst part of this whole scenario  (I am actually very excited about this course, don't get me wrong by my ranting) and what this whole posting is really about is the state of goods for creative storage.

I am talking about art bins and scrapbooking folders and sewing boxes.  I had an image in my mind of a simple medium sized box with a handle to put my goodies in.  I don't want to buy anything too flashy yet since I am not exactly sure how my storage needs will progress through out the year in this program.  However, I was baffled and amazed by the amount of choices for these fancy bins.  Bins with collapsible shelves and pull out trays and on wheels.  Or not on wheels.  And fabric or plastic. Most of all, I was baffled and amazed by the prices.

$89 for a crafty storage container???  You have got to be kidding me!  Even the most simple box with handle was still over $20.  I don't know why I have missed out on knowing about all the fancy containers available in the world.  There were entire rows of crafty storage at JoAnn's.  Do people seriously spend more money on their storage than the art supplies themselves?  Especially annoying was that a lot of them were in ultra feminine patterns and colors like pink and pastel blue.

I realized what I really wanted was a tackle box.  But I didn't want to haul myself all the way back to Fred Meyers so I popped into Goodwill on the way home thinking I would look for tins at any rate (I found 3 really nice ones to cut up for art) and found the above art bin for $2.99.  Yep.  Pretty smug with myself right now.  It has glitter stuck down all inside it and a label on the outside that says "Glitter" so I ended up with a girly bin after all.  But is will work for now and it was cheap.

It will probably end up being too small.  But better than then $89!  I think I would be embarrassed to take a $89 bin into art class.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

52 Weeks of Mail

In the last couple of years a lot of people having been jumping onto the 365-days-type-of-projects bandwagon.  As in, take a photo every day for a year or maybe you have heard of the Skull A Day started in 2007 by Noah Scalin.   I know enough about myself to recognize that those are projects I am not detail oriented enough to participate in.  I would probably be zealous for a week or two and then let it drop off.

Well, some of the folks at ETSY have come up with a new project; one mainly to advertise the cards sold on their site I think or maybe they were put up to it by the United States Post Office, but I like it and I am going to participate myself.

It's called 52 Weeks of Mail.  All this project is about it committing to mail one personal piece of mail per week.  To anyone.  And each letter can go to a different person all year long.

As I have been cleaning my office in preparation of moving, I have found dozens upon dozens of hand made cards I have purchased over the years (always trying to do my best to support independent artists!) but never sent or given to anyone.  I may try and make a few cards of my own too.  I am excited about this project because it will inspire me to create small little works of art and to connect with people I may not stay in touch with.  Or maybe I will send surprise cards to my friends and family just to say hi.  You should participate too!  Go to the 52 Weeks of Mail Facebook page and click "like" and there you go!  This project starts October 9th, so you only have a little time to think about it.  I will be posting photos of my cards as I move through the project.  Fun!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Let the Madness Begin!

After a week of back and forth, the owners of the house we really want accepted our offer!


Okay, that is all the time I get for celebration.  The inspection isn't until later in the week, and knock on wood that it will turn out just fine, but we are starting to clean and organize now because we will need to get our house ready to show for rental in about 4 weeks.  Plus packing.  Plus I start my Fiber Arts course October 1st.  Plus studio tours are coming up.  YIKES!  In the teeny tiny event that something falls through and we don't get the house, then at least we are doing some major cleaning, purging, and fixer upper stuff. 

These boxes are just full of fabric and patterns and photos.  Plus there's 2 more big bins behind them with more fabric.  I am not allowed to buy fabric anymore.  Seriously. 
Based on some simple calculations it looks like we will need at least 150 boxes.  Probably 50 of them alone will be art related supplies of mine.  It is very hard for me to give up art supplies.  Every time I do it, I regret it a day, a month, a year later.  Breaking up is hard to do!

A Good Idea for a Good Cause

It's starting to get chilly in the evenings and I really hate sweat pants.  I feel like I lose my dignity a little every time I wear them, so I decided I need to upgrade this winter to something more stylish to wear around the house.

Enter Punjammies.  I first heard about these on the Pioneer Woman.  Of course after she mentioned it on her blog they all sold out.  Which is fantastic.  But I couldn't get any and promptly set the matter aside in my brain. Then all these chilly mornings triggered the thought all over again.
In case you've never heard of them, Punjammies are comfy cotton pajama bottoms made by women in India who have been rescued from prostitution and slavery in aftercare facilities that teach them new skills to start new lives.
It's a topic close to my heart and I was happy to be able to purchase a pair.  Get yourself over to their website and buy some Punjammies!  Holidays are right around the corner. 

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Artist Trades

About a month ago I took part in a little sidewalk sale.  I didn't sell anything except one little barrette so the whole thing was rather a flop.

But I did make 2 important connections.

First, I met up the artist behind Glitter Mortis that led me to commission a portrait of Boba Fett.

Second, another artist walked up and said she liked my felted tweets and wondered if I would be open to a trade?  I said sure!  So I picked out this little Art E. Choke Portrait.  Cute, huh?  I love artichokes but I do feel like they fight against you a little as you try and eat them so I thought this image was fitting.  I am going to hang it in the kitchen of our new house, whenever that all happens.

Anyways, the artist's name is Krista Jefferson and her website is Wild and Whimsical

Check them both out! Happy Saturday!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Healing Cuts in Style

Working with tin (and sharp, barbed felting needles, come to think of it) means that I cut and poke myself.  A lot.  Nothing serious.  More like a zillion tiny paper cuts all over my hands all the time.  Usually I just wrap the wound with masking tape and keep going.  But the other day at the store I saw these designer band-aids and I thought, why not?

Now I look classy in my studio!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Porridge Weather

It's like somebody flipped a switch and now our late summer is over and we have moved into Fall.  This is my favorite time of year, so I am not complaining; I am over-joyed.  When the weather is cooler in the morning my skin feels better and I just feel like I can breathe easier.  Obviously, I was meant to live in the Pacific Northwest my whole life.

Browsing through my favorite Vietnamese cookbook yesterday, I looked for something that I happened to have all the ingredients for and hit upon Shrimp and Rice Porridge.  The word porridge doesn't do much for me so I have always avoided this recipe.  Yesterday, however, I happened to have all the ingredients on hand so I gave it a try.  And loved it!  Of course I changed it from the original because there never seem to be enough vegetables.  The sriracha gives the porridge a lively zing and a lovely amber color. 

Shrimp and Rice Porridge with Cilantro and Tomatoes
adapted from Quick and Easy Vietnamese by Nancie McDermott
serves 4

1/2 pound medium shrimp, peeled, deveined, and coarsely chopped
1 shallot, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 Tablespoons fish sauce
freshly ground pepper and salt
3 cups chicken broth
3 cups water
3/4 cups long-grain rise, rinsed and drained
2 teaspoons canola oil
1 onion, medium chopped
2 carrots, peeled. medium chopped
1 cup dark leafy greens, like kale, cut into thin ribbons
1/2 cup cooking sherry
1 cup tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon sriracha (chile-garlic sauce) or to taste
2-3 green onions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

In a medium bowl, combine shrimp with shallot, garlic, fish sauce, and salt and pepper.  Toss well to mix and set aside while rice cooks.

In medium sauce pan bring broth/water to a boil.  Stir in rice, return to boil, and then reduce heat to a gentle simmer and cook until rice is tender, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat oil in medium sized dutch oven or other heavy duty pot over medium heat. Add onions and cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until translucent.  Add kale and carrots and saute an additional 3 minutes or until kale starts to wilt.  Add prawn mixture and cook until prawns start to turn pink.  Add sherry, tomatoes, and cooked rice with broth.  Bring to a light boil and then add sriracha, green onions, and cilantro.   Stir for a minute or two and serve immediately.

Looking forward to leftovers for lunch today!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Kinda Fun

If it seems like my blog posts the last week before have been a little thin on content, there is a reason.  I have been a little preoccupied because we were busy getting the giant stack of paperwork together to prequalify for a home loan.  Only they aren't allowed to call it prequalification anymore, but it is the same thing.  And we had to get all our paperwork together because we found a house.

Actually, we have found 3 houses we like.  And we have made offers on 2 of them.  The first one we made an offer on was a pretty small house but it's in a pretty good neighborhood and we made a low ball offer and the seller countered with a fair price.  Which, under normal circumstances, we would have taken. 

However, in the meantime of the 1st seller dragging his feet about accepting our offer, we found a different house.  We actually had viewed the house twice before but felt it a little too big. (Our biggest problem has been that the houses are either too small or too big.  I think I would prefer too big.) Anyways, it turns out the sellers on this 2nd house sound motivated to sell and so they are willing to help finance so we can avoid mortgage insurance.  It's tough when we know we can make the mortgage payments fine but the bank doesn't take my income as an artist very seriously.  Now, working it all out will get complicated with lots of paper work involved and we are so lucky with the realtor we have but there is a chance it might not work out and while we will try our hardest to make it work, I am not going to be broken hearted for long about it if it doesn't work out. 

Because now we know we don't have to settle for the little house.  We can keep looking until we find what we want. 

We are keeping our old house to rent out which makes everything more complicated, but it also gives us the breathing room that we don't have to rush out and buy immediately.  The market, obviously, isn't going anywhere up anytime soon, so we don't have that pressure either.  While we were freaking out about this the other night my husband pointed out that it was awfully nice that we were just freaking out about 1st world problems.  Which made us both laugh and realize there is no point getting all worked up over something like a house.  We've been good.  We've lived in a cheap house in a cheap neighborhood while we saved, saved, saved, and built up credit and equity.  We share a car.  (An old car.) We are ready to move up a little.

And hopefully, soon, I will be able to start sharing about whatever new home we end up with.  But it is exciting.  And distracting.  And kinda fun.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Let the Harvest Begin!

This hot, late summer we are having in the Pacific Northwest has been a perfect storm for actually producing some delicious tomatoes for once.  You can't get more organic or local than this!

Usually I plant tomatoes and am lucky if about a third of them ripen. 

But this year, I am getting dozens per day.  I heard a trick that you should stop watering them and that will get them to ripen and so I cut back on the water but we have been having so much sun that that could be the trick as well.  
I am thinking slicing up these Romas and seasoning them with a little sea salt.  Yum!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Jewelry for Your Wall

 I upped my scale on my tin flowers the other day, just on a whim, for fun, to see what would happen.  And I liked it so much I kept making more flowers all week long.  I just delivered all of these to Matter! Gallery in Olympia.
I have been saving up lots of larger, interesting pieces of tin knowing that I probably couldn't use them as jewelry but setting them aside.  And now I have a great way to showcase them.  I love the "Kiss for You."
These are also a nice study in color and form and fun to play with all the different tins I have.
They range from 7" wide to about 11" and look nice in arrangements with other pieces of art or in smaller rooms like the bathroom.  I am making some even larger ones too for more dramatic spaces like over the mantel or in the dining room. 

Who doesn't want a monkey on a giraffe in their life?

This "Green Jeans" guy was from a Versace perfume tin.  Fancy!
I just love working with reclaimed tin!  Look for some more of these soon on Etsy!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Some Birds and Favors

A friend of mine is getting married next month and asked me to create favors for the guests.  She wants something totally unique that people would want to take home and look at every day versus something cheesy like M&M's with her photo printed on them.

I came up with these tin birdies.  Some are going to end up with hangers on them and the others are going to be on metal stakes so they can be placed in a flower pot.  I think they might end up being used as place card holders at the dinner as well. 
I love making things for my friends!

37 Things: Commission a Piece of Art

I don't like corporate, mass produced art.  Meaning: "art" that you buy at Ikea or World Market is not art.  It might be pretty wall covering, but it is not art.  I like to be surrounded by unique, handmade pieces.  This item on my list of 37 Things I Want to do Before I Turn 38 took a little longer than I expected.  I tried to commission a painting from another artist about 6 months ago but I think she must have been busy because after a few discussions about it, I never heard from her again.

So when I saw the work of GlitterMortis, I jumped at chance of commissioning a piece from her instead.  She creates funky pop culture portraits using paint and glitter.  I was browsing around on her website and saw a ton of Star Wars characters.  I have always held a special, twisted place in my heart for Boba Fett.  When I lived in a nasty basement apartment 17 years ago, a friend of mine spray painted an amazing Boba Fett on my door.  I have had a Boba Fett action figure hanging from the rear view window of my car for 11 years.  I don't know why, but this bounty hunter is my favorite.  A glitter portrait was an obvious and instantaneous decision.  My husband likes it too.

I will definitely be making this a yearly commitment to buy a piece of art from a fellow artist.  It's a win win: a little gift to myself and supporting an independent artist.  

Friday, September 2, 2011

What I Ate: Healthy Chocolate Cupcakes

Wow, I have a lot of catching up to do around here.  Between running around and looking at houses to buy, getting paperwork together to pre-qualify for a loan, and weird issues with my camera, I am a little behind on posting.  I have a big backlog to get to and I will be posting like crazy for the next few days so be sure to check back!

OK, so besides trying to buy a house, I have been making other life changes.  I am training for another half marathon (my second this year!) and I have joined Weight Watchers.  I have always had a problem with portion control and after injuring my foot last year while training, I ended up gaining nearly 20 pounds!  This just had to stop.  I have taken up the running again and realized I need professional help with the nutrition and portion sizing.  I am not one to diet and I am against fad lose-weight-fast! hype so you won't be hearing much in the future from me about this endeavor.  You might just notice that my recipes are all looking extra healthy. 

So far I love it.  I am just doing it online-- (no group weigh ins for me, thank you!) It has only been about 18 days on the program but I have lost 5 pounds and have barely tweaked what I normally eat; I am mostly just eating smaller portions and using less oil while cooking.   I have also stopped eating refined sugars and white flour.  Yet I am still drinking red wine and putting half and half in my coffee.  But I was starting to crave a sweet now and again and luckily my new Runner's World magazine has a chocolate cake recipe that uses black beans, applesauce, oat flour and agave syrup.  Sounds weird, but it is pretty healthy and good to eat before running or after dinner!

The only thing I changed was to put them in cupcake pans instead of mini loaf pans.  Note: This does seem to use up an awful lot of dishes to make and really makes a huge batch.  I am going to try and freeze some and see how that works out.

Chocolate Bean Cupcakes
adapted from Long-Run cake by Gesine Bullock-Prado

1 cup applesauce
1 15.5 oz can black beans, drained
1 1/2 cups oat flour
1 cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup agave syrup
2 eggs
1/4 cup coffee
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 F.
1. Blend beans and applesauce in food processor.

2. In mixing bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt.

3. In electric mixer, blend eggs and agave syrup at medium-high speed until eggs get light and foamy.

4. Switch mixer to low and add coffee.  Once mixed in, add bean/applesauce mixture and vanilla.  Beat until combined: you may need to scrape down sides of bowl with spatula.

5. Add oat flour mixture all at once and blend until combined, starting with a slow speed so flour doesn't fly everywhere.

6. Divide batter into cupcake pans sprayed with cooking spray.  Bake 20 minutes.

Makes 18.  (For all you Weight Watchers fanatics, these are worth 3 points each in the new Points Plus system.) 

I ate 2 and they were very filling, very dense and gooey at the same time.  I will make them again.  They are also gluten free if you can find oat flour that is guaranteed gluten free.  The Bob's Red Mill Oat Flour I used was not certified so I can't make it yet for my friend who is a celiac.  My husband liked them but thought they tasted more like a breakfast muffin than a dessert.  And this coming from a guy who usually doesn't like dessert.  

Happy Labor Day weekend!