Saturday, October 29, 2011

I'm still here.

It's been a long hot summer & I've neglected my blog.  I didn't have anything fun to post about, not that it's ever stopped me before, but I wasn't even amusing myself, which says a lot.  I'm going to dip my toe back into the blogging pool, break out my camera & see what I can come up with. It's a pretty dark & dismal day in Carolina today, so nothing fun to share..not even fun pictures.  Autumn decided to pop up yesterday afternoon & smack us in the face a bit to remind us that she was here.  Nothing like going from a sunny & 77 degree Thursday afternoon to a 47 & rainy Friday afternoon.  Really??  30 degrees in less than 24 hours?  Oh well, we're supposed to get back up to the 60s next week & at least we don't have the threat of foot of snow.  Hang in there, my Northern friends!!  I wish lots of hot chocolate & warm nights for you.

I'll be back with....something next week.  Not sure what it'll be, but it'll be something.  Maybe a nice stew, I dunno.

Until then, be safe & play purdy!


Monday, March 28, 2011

New Art

It's been a while!!  
My computer had a little break down so I had to send her off for some "help".  She's back & in fine working condition, thanks to Mike at Triangle Tech Group.  Who knew it would be so hard to find someone to repair a computer in Durham??  I mean..RTP?  Come on!!  Well, I don't have to look any further because now I have found my place.  I was able to drop it off in Durham where Pinky (my pink computer) was swiftly picked up & taken to Raleigh. Pinky was a troubled one, so she was sent to Chapel Hill & settled in the capable hands of Mike.  He kept me informed of the progress & even replaced my anti-virus software (which let a few nasties into my computer) with the one that he uses.  I couldn't be more happy with the customer service I received.  My motherboard was even reflowed instead of replaced, saving me a bundle of money.  I have idea what that means only that it made Pinky come back to life.

During our "break" I worked on drawing faces, faces & faces.  

I wanted to branch out from my whimsy girls & my stylized girls & try my hand at more realistic, stylized faces.  I finished one of the first stylized faces I painted a couple of months ago.  I mounted her to an old piece of cabinet, then made my own texture paste to make the background more interesting.  I collaged scrapbooking paper to the background then painted over the top.  A few more embellishments & stamping & she was done.  I need to get a fixative to spray on top, but other than that, she's finished.

Here are several faces that I've been working on & trying to get the noses just right.  Noses are hard, then sometimes lips are hard too...then the eyes..oy.  Well, I'm relatively happy with these whole faces.  I practiced each component  individually, but the pages of just eyes, noses & lips were getting pretty creepy, so I had to put them together.

They scanned pretty lightly so it's hard to see the shading.  I did complete a mixed media piece with one of the faces.  I haven't named it yet, but it's a little gypsy mounted on wood.

I ripped the face out of my sketchbook & glued it to the wood, using my texture paste for her hair.  I cut the leaves & flower out of decorative papers & collaged them around her, then added lots of layers of paint.  I used India ink & & paint for the drippy parts, then scraped on a little gesso to soften it a bit. 

I added a few floral pebbley things on the bottom & the fabric at the bottom is a section of hem from an old pair of jeans.  I drilled 2 holes at the top to thread a piece of a tie from an old dress, then ripped an old shirt, dress & fabric scraps for the hangy thing on the left.  I'm happy with the way she turned out.

She seems to need a little something at the top, so I may add words.  I thought of burning the words into the wood, but not sure if I should do it into the paint.  I'm going to give it a try & see what happens.

I have another face shaded & glued onto another piece of wood.  

She's on the way to becoming Mary.  It'll probably take a while to get her finished because I'm still looking for inspiration.  I really am a bit addicted to drawing faces now.

Hope y'all have a great week!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Mortar Monday, Roasted Lemon Chicken

(Dakota was not diggin the butt shot.  It's been a long winter & she hasn't gotten her svelte, swimsuit body back yet.) 

This week the spotlight is on my granite mortar made in Thailand.  I picked it up at my local Asian market for under $10 & if you only want to get one mortar, I'd say this is the one to get.  It's ready to use as soon as you get it home & can be used for most everything.  That's right.  No arm achingly rice grinding or slathering it with oil, just a wash & it's ready to go.  I bought the 8" one & although it's still no sissy, I can lift it with one hand.  I think a larger one would be a little too heavy for me to easily navigate around the kitchen.  It's great for making fresh pesto, curry powder, guacamole, etc.  It's also a great way to get rid of a little tension after a rough day.

I use it to make the paste for my Lemon Roasted Chicken.  This is another one of my "no recipe" recipes, but it's recipe & can be adapted to whatever herbs you like.

For 2 chicken quarters I start out with fresh rosemary a little sprig of fresh oregano.  My oregano didn't like the winter so much so I had to add dried oregano to the mix along with a little thyme.  I popped in a couple of cloves of garlic with salt & pepper.  I also throw in a couple of teaspoons of unsalted Greek seasoning, I use Cavender's  (love, love, love).  You don't have to use Greek seasoning, but I just love Cavender's & try to use it whenever possible. It's time to smash, smash, smash.

After it's nice & smooshy I move the paste to glass bowl & add the juice & zest one one lemon.  I prefer to use 2 lemons because I love lemon, but one was all that I had.  
After I get the lemon juice mixed in with the paste, 
I whisk in a couple of glugs of olive oil & add the chicken in a glass bowl.  
I rub the marinade into the chicken & make sure that every surface of the chicken pieces have been slathered with the yummy marinade.  

I let the chicken hang out in the marinade for about an hour, but it's not necessary if you're in a hurry.  
While the chicken is soaking up the lemony goodness, I cubed some potatoes & tossed them with a little of the reserved marinade mixed with a splash of balsamic vinegar.

When I'm ready, I throw the chicken & potatoes into a baking dish & roast them in the oven at 375 degrees until the chicken is cooked through & the potatoes are tender on the inside, 
occasionally basting  the chicken & potatoes with the juices.

I transfer the chicken & potatoes to another dish & skim as much fat as possible from the juices.  
I use an enamel baking dish so I can put the dish on top of the stove & deglaze with a little white wine, lemon juice, chicken broth or water, just to loosen the browned bits on the bottom.  
I turn off the stove & add a pat of butter & stir until the butter has melted & imparted it's glossiness to the sauce.

I dish it up & spoon some of the sauce over the chicken & potatoes & I'm ready to eat.

I made rolls & a salad to go along with the rest of the meal.  
I love these rolls & they're so quick (relatively speaking) & easy to make.  
The olive oil in the marinade gives the chicken & potatoes a nice crispy 
exterior, but leaves the chicken moist & the potatoes soft on the inside. 

I usually roast everything about 30-45 minutes, but if I'm uncertain, I use a quick read thermometer to make sure the chicken has cooked through.  
The balsamic vinegar makes the potatoes look a bit dark, but I promise they aren't burned.  

This is my easy, "go to" meal that I make once every week or two.  I think it's perfect for guests, 
a date, or just a weeknight meal.  I always use chicken thighs because I like them & they cook quickly, but I've also roasted a whole chicken using the same marinade.
It's a budget friendly dish that uses ingredients that most can find in their pantry.  If lemons are crazy expensive, I sub with limes & the result is just as tasty.

Please do try this recipe & make it your own.  I've never served it to anyone who didn't like it, & trust me, my friends can be painfully honest (hugs).  I know they like the meal if they ask for the recipe
or ask me to make it again.

If you'd like the recipe for the rolls, I'll be more than happy to post it for all to enjoy.

Hope your day has been nice.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Bits & Baubles

Yes, I've made a few more trips to The Scrap Exchange in the last month or so.  What else can I do when their Facebook status taunts me with mysterious new treasures?  

I know that some of the things I bought may seem silly, but they jumped into my basket.  Things at Scrap Exchange seem to do that.  

I don't sew a lot so I don't have a lot of fabric scraps, especially the smaller printed, quilting like fabric.  I can get a handful of little scraps, all different, for under $1.  

Buy puzzle pieces?  Yep.  I don't have a puzzle & don't really want to run out & buy a whole box when I only need a few pieces.

I also bought a few laminate samples, empty tins & lunch tickets.  I dunno what I'm going to do with everything, but I'll have fun experimenting.  I also happened upon a Speedball lino cutter handle & a brand new Speedball carving block.  I just have to get the little nibs then I can carve my own rubber stamps for my art journal and mixed media pieces.  

The little wooden houses were .10 cents a piece so I thought I"d paint them, then attach the "chimes" from an old wind chime, similar to one that I revamped a couple of weeks go.

I don't remember where I got this wind chime, but it sounds pretty & I don't like to just get rid of things if I can "pretty" them up a bit.

The colors were a little bland to me, so I brightened them up a bit.  A little gesso to prime them, then acrylic paint.  I haven't sealed it yet.

I'm going to look around at The Dollar Tree to see if I can find a wind chime that I can take apart & use with the little wooden birdhouses I got The Scrap Exchange.

I looove the leather pieces that I was able to get for $1 a piece & have big plans for them.  Maybe a couple of journals, maybe a couple of leather cuffs. 

More leather, more fabric & I love, love, love the vintage Christmas bulbs.  I had to stop myself from snaggling all of the bulbs, but Mama said it's nice to share.

Here are a couple of ATCs that I made for an online swap using a few of the things I bought.  The theme was Valentine love (of course).

The base of the ATCs are playing cards which are the perfect ATC size.  A little fabric, paper, ribbons, sewing & here's one:

Again, I use a playing card for a base, but covered it with book pages, cheesecloth, paint and more paper.  Both of these have safely reached their destination of Wales, UK.  ATC swaps are so much fun.  I've only done it for 2 months & so far my creations have gone to Canada & Wales.  I love it!!

Look what came back to me:

How sweet are these?  I love how she told a story with those two ATCs.

I spray painted 3 of my old plastic patio chairs & had a little green paint left over.  I have intensely disliked the mailbox on the front of my house for a while, but the ones I do like are so expensive.  I sanded the mailbox, cleaned it, primed it, then sprayed several thin coats of paint.  It went from rusty & painted black (sorry, no before pics) to this.  I accented the design on the top with a little gold paint & cleaned the over spray from the address bracket before I hung it back up.  Once I started working on it, I realized that it was a really nice, thick mailbox so I'm glad I decided to paint it instead of buying another.  They don't make em like they used to.

I'm sure my mail carrier is just tickled by my "new" mailbox & I'm sure it makes his heart lighter & his step more jiggly just by looking at the happy new color.  Ok, that was dripping with sarcasm, but at least it's something a little different that the standard black or brass that he looks at all day.  I can also identify my house by the one with the apple green mailbox.

A few cards I made for Mom & Grandma for Valentine's Day.

I have a few things that I'm working on right now, but they don't seem to be cooperating with me.  I have them in time out so hopefully they'll be more cooperative when I go back to them.  Until I "see" you again, I wish you all happy days & fair weather.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Copper Etching Tutorial

I blogged about this tutorial before Christmas & I'm sorry that's it's taken me so long to get this posted.  I don't have any excuses, really, I just kept putting it off.  Well, here it is & I hope I'm clear in my directions.  There are several different ways of etching copper & brass, but this is how I do it.  If you have any questions, please ask & I'll do my best to answer them.

Pictured above are the supplies that I used for this project.

Ferric Chloride solution (I ordered from Dick Blick)
packing tape
acrylic paint (used as a resist)
Sharpie (also used as a resist....seriously, what would be do without Sharpies?)
baking soda (to neutralized the solution) 
plastic take out container
I also used a small paint brush to apply to resist to the copper

The first thing I did was to saw the copper the size & shape that I wanted.  You can etch the design into the copper first, then cut out different shapes, but because I was going to have a central figure, I went ahead & shaped the base.

The copper needs to be clean & pretty & free of residual oils to get the best results.  I sanded & steel wooled the copper to a nice buttery sheen.

Next I added the design to the copper.  It was a combination of graphite rubbing & sketching in the parts that didn't transfer well.  You know, outline the design in graphite, then flip it over & rub the edges so that the graphite transfers onto the copper.  In this case, I had to do a mirror image because I didn't want both puppies facing the same way.  If you're etching words, don't forget that the image will have to be reversed or your words will be backwards. 

After I had the design transfer onto the copper I painted the area that I didn't want etched.  This is the part that will not be eaten by the solution.  I also used my Sharpie, but noticed that the Sharpie had the tendency to pull off some of the paint.  This took a bit of time because there were some small areas where it was hard to get my paint brush in.  If I messed up, I took a cotton swab & removed as much of the paint as possible.  If it was Sharpie, I had to use a little steel wool to remove the lines I didn't want, sometimes accidentally taking off  some that I wanted to keep.  I just painted them back.  I also tried to keep my fingers from the touching the nice clean copper as much as possible.

After I let the paint dry, I used the Sharpie again to go around the edge of the copper.  This needs to be protected or the solution will start eating away at the edges, which could be a nice effect, but I didn't want the relic look for this piece.

I put clear packing tape on the back of each piece, burnishing well.  I didn't want the solution to get behind the copper so I burnished, then burnished some more.  I just snipped off the extra tape that hung past the edge.

I had some little pieces of styrofoam that I used as floats.  I just doubled over another piece of tape so that both sides were sticky & stuck the copper to their little boats, pressing firmly.

I poured the ferric chloride solution into a little plastic take out container.  You can use most anything plastic or glass but no metal.  Your container needs to be large enough to hold your little boats & I wanted one with a lid so I could save the solution for the next time.  Be sure to label the container & keep it in a safe place away from little hands & little paws.

Drop the little babies into the bath, face down, & try to take notice of the time. Notice I said "try".

After about 15 minutes, I carefully removed each piece & rinsed it off with remove the tiny copper bits that had already started to fall away.  The reason the piece has to be hung upside down is to allow the copper particles to go to the bottom.  If the copper was design side up, the copper "etchings" would stay on top of the copper & interfere with the etching process.  It may be tempting but DO NOT use anything to try to wipe the copper while you're rinsing it off.  I did it & a wiped off a little of the paint.  I used another little container of water to dip the pieces in to rinse off the particles.  This is also when you should check to see if it's etched enough for you.

I rinsed & checked the etching process about every 10 minutes, & sooner as it got closer to what I wanted.  I think I let this etch about an hour, but I'm terrible at clock watching.  After it was etched to my liking, I rinsed & neutralized the etching solution with baking soda.  I used an old toothbrush which also served to remove most of the paint & Sharpie marks.  (Ferric chloride can also be neutralized by a 50/50 solution of ammonia & water.  Just let the pieces soak in the solution for about 15 minutes.)  I also dropped a little baking soda into the rinse water to neutralize the minute amount of the solution that may have come off of the copper pieces. 

I unstuck it from the styrofoam boats, also popping them into the neutralized rinse water.  Not so pretty, huh?

I polished with a bit of steel wool.

Ok, a little better.  After a little more wooling, I applied a little LOS with a paint brush around the edges of the designs.  
More polishing, a gentle dapping & a few hours in the tumbler netted me these pretties 
for my Mom.

It's not a perfect etch, but I like it's organic nature.  

If you don't remember, this design was the first collaboration of Mom & me for a pendant that I donated to a silent auction for Independent Animal Rescue.  That pendant will always be special to me for so many reasons, but mostly because Mom was part of it's design.

This is a chemical so be sure to wear your safety goggles & gloves.  No little feet or paws should be around while you're working with this.  

I've used the same solution in the same container 3 times & it still seems to be etching just fine.  Once the solution is spent, do not pour it down the drain .  Proper disposal is a MUST.  You need to check with your local Hazardous Waste Company on to how to dispose of the copper sludge that you will eventually get from etching as well as the old solution.

I hope this tutorial has been helpful.  Really, it's not scary at all.  It is a chemical & should be treated with respect, but I accidentally got some on my skin & it didn't burn or sting, I just washed it off with soap & water.

I'll definitely  be doing more etching..maybe I'll even do a little today.  I'm working on a little something for a giveaway.  Details coming soon.  Really.  I promise it won't be another 2 months.  

Have a wonderful day!!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Mortar Monday, Butter Chicken

It's Monday again so I decided to do another Mortar Monday.  This week features my favorite mortar & pestle.  This is my little workhorse, but she only has one job......bashing garlic.  Oh yeah, baby!!  I searched & searched for the perfect garlic pounder & finally came across this little beauty.  It's made of some type of unfinished wood so the first thing I had to do was "season" it.  See a pattern here?

 Every day for a week I lovingly rubbed mineral oil into the mortar & onto the pestle. Even though it was ready to use after a few "oilings" I continued to oil it once a week for a month.  I still oil it as needed, but after it's conditioned, with proper care, it doesn't need it that often.  

This little thing just perfect.  The pestle fits my hand & the mortar is small enough that I can easily hold it while I pound the heck out of garlic.  I use this mortar almost every time I cook something that needs garlic, which is a lot.  

In this recipe I used it to make a paste of the ginger & garlic.  I just add a little salt & start pounding & within about a minute I have a lovely, creamy paste.

This is not really a recipe for a quick dinner because of the marinade time, but perhaps it could be started in the morning & marinaded in the yogurt mixture in the fridge until dinner time that night.  I've never tried it so I don't know if the acidity would effect the texture of the chicken if it was left that long.

I marinaded the chicken with a little salt, ground red chile pepper & the lemon juice.

After about 30 mintutes I added a yogurt mixture comprised of turmeric, cumin & garam masala & let it languish for about 4 hours.

I popped the garlic & grated ginger into my garlic pounder with a little kosher salt to help with the paste making.

About 60 seconds later....voila!!!  A lovely garlic/ginger paste:

After some cooking & stewing & more chopping & stirring my meal was ready.  I served it with basmati rice, dal & naan.  I garnished quite liberally with cilantro because I like it.  Even though this is a huge plate of food, (yes, I cleaned my plate) I still had 3 more servings that were packed away & popped into the freezer.

I did include the recipe this time for myself & for any of y'all who may want to give this a try.  I used about 3 different recipes to come up with this one & realized that I really do need to write this down before I forgot what parts I used from which recipe.

This seems like a long recipe with a long list of ingredients, but most, if not all of the ingredients can be found in your local market & you probably already have a lot of the ingredients on hand.  It isn't a complicated dish & could easily be accomplished by adding everything to the pot at the same time, but I tend to cook in "layers".

I don't know that this is an authentically Indian recipe, but this is how I do it.

Butter Chicken

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken cut into 1" chunks (I used breasts but prefer boneless skinless thighs)
1 1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp ground red chili pepper

1/2 C plain yogurt, divided
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp garam masala

2 T butter
1 large onion sliced into thin wedges
1/4 tsp cinnamon
2 garlic cloves, smashed into paste
2 tsp fresh ginger, smashed into paste
1 T ground coriander powder
1/4 C ground almonds (I bought unsalted, raw almonds & ground them in my coffee grinder)
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 T tomato paste

Toss chicken with lemon juice, ground red chili pepper & salt.  Let this sit for about 30 minutes.
Mix 1/4 C of the yogurt with turmeric, cumin & garam masala.  Stir this into the chicken & let this marinade for about 3-4 hours.

Over medium heat, heat butter in large sauce pan or pot until frothy then toss in the onions, stirring to coat the onions.  If using unsalted butter, I add a little salt to help sweat the onions.

When the onions are tender, add garlic & ginger paste, stirring to keep the garlic from browning too quickly & becoming bitter.

After about a minute, stir in cinnamon & coriander powder followed by the tomato paste.  Stir well to incorporate the paste into the onions & keep it from sticking to the pan.

Once that is simmering add the chicken, including the marinade. Let this simmer gently on medium-low heat until chicken has cooked through.  Don't let this boil or the yogurt will break & look curdled.  I don't think it effects the taste, but it doesn't look so pretty.

When the chicken is cooked, add the almonds & diced tomatoes.  Cover & let this gently simmer for about 30 minutes.  I think I let it simmer about an hour, but 30 minutes is fine.

Adjust the seasonings as needed, then stir in the remaining 1/4 C yogurt & heat through, being careful not to let it simmer too hard.  I actually forgot to add the final 1/4 C yogurt & it was still great.

Serve this with balsamic rice.

This is not a crazy hot dish, to me, but if you're not sure, you can reduce the amount of chili powder in the first step to 1/2 tsp.

I hope you try this & I hope you like it.  I'm kinda new to Indian food, but have had fun experimenting with different recipes.  This one is a keeper for me & even my Southern bred Grandma loved it.  I did reduce the chili powder when I made it for her.

Hope you have/had a great day.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Find Your Ace

Art work by KJ Grigoriadis

I think as artists, or just people, we sometimes suffer from feeling like things are passing by us so quickly that we can't breathe.  We wanted to be further & have done more than we have.  Many goals are made & lost & we feel so frustrated by letting another year go by without realizing our dreams & hopes. We wallow in our misery & disappointment while we watch others seemingly achieve their goals & find their place with little to no effort.  These "others" may be friends or family that we love & are so happy for them, but sometimes it's hard not to say "why not me"?  "I've worked just as hard, but I'm still treading water, but to what end?" 

This topic came up on a message board  on one of the art websites that I've joined.  I have so much respect for the original poster in her candor to express her true feeling for her friend's "success".  I think a lot of us may have felt that way before.  Wanting to be sooo happy for a friend, but disappointment in our own situation descends like a dark cloud.  We find ourselves being almost catty when their success was mentioned, until we took a step back, took a breathe & remembered that, if we really cared, we had to let our friend shine in the light.  Smiling through the darkness & hugging through the disappointment.

Another artist on the site, KJ, offered up this demo that she saw at a convention.  I think the scenario is so brilliant on so many levels that I had to share it with you.

"At a sales demo this man gets on stage and ask for 2 ladies to come up to the stage.  He sat each one down in a chair about 15 feet apart facing the audience.  He then ask for 6 more people to come up from the audience and he had 3 stand behind each one of the ladies sitting in the chairs.  He then gives each lady a deck of cards and instructs them to open the deck and when he tells them to flip through the cards and find the ACE.  He tells each of the 2 groups of 3 standing behind the ladies to make alot of noise.  One of the 3 was saying things like; that's not it, you can't find it, it's not in the deck....another one was to be saying encouraging things, another was to say hurry, hurry, find it, etc....  They were to be kinda loud creating distraction over the  shoulders of the sitting ladies.  He then says and when you find the ACE stand up and shout "I found it" and then I'm going to give you $10.  And then he says go!  They start flipping through the deck in a hurry the ones standing behind them were making lots of noise with their comments.  Then the lady on the left all of the sudden stands up and shouts "I found it!"  And the lady on the right stops flipping through the deck and watches as everybody is happy for the lady on the left.  The speaker hands the $10 to the lady on the left.  And he turns to the audience  and says "it happens every time".  I told these 2 ladies to flip through the deck and find the ACE.  When you find it I'll give you $10 and did you see what happened when the lady on the left found her ACE?  The lady on the right stopped looking for hers.  She let the success of someone else get in her way.  I didn't tell them "who ever finds it first I will give them $10.  I said when you find the ACE stand up and shout "I found it" 

So, just because your friend found her ACE don't stop looking for yours!  Success is about staying focused and not letting the distractions of others get in your way.  The success of others is a huge distraction but stay focused on your own endeavors.   Your ACE is in the deck...."

How awesome is this & how true is it as well?  So often we may get caught up in how successful this person is with their jewelry or body products or art work or.........or...anything really, that we forget to keep working & trying & striving to be the best that we can be at the time.  

I'm just really starting on my art journey even though I've been doing artsy things for most of my life.  I want my first faces to be perfect & moody & dark like this artist..I want my jewelry to be more dimensional like that artist & I want it now!!!  Yeah, yeah, I know they've been practicing & growing into their art for years, but I want it magic.  I'm trying to relax & accept that most things in life are a journey, but I'm not known for my patience.  I want to do it all & I want to do it well....right now.

I also wanted to share some of KJ's art work with you.  Her pieces are so ethereal & calming to me.  I love Poppy Bay & feel like the ocean is just beyond their papery blossoms.

                                                      "Kayla"  ACEO (ATC) display pillow

I also love her idea of this ATC display pillow.  I've just started making ATCs to swap & still not sure what to do with them, but how nice would it be to have one (or more) of these to display those mini pieces of art.  Maybe switch them out every month or every week, depending on the season or your mood.

I hope y'all have a great day & I hope you find your Ace.