Friday, November 5, 2010

That time of year

Yep, it's getting to be that time of year...when I begin obsessing over Christmas shamefully early, listening to Christmas music on Pandora, and trying to order my scattered thoughts into one comprehensive list. I adore Christmas. It makes me happy. The cold weather, snow, sparkling lights, adorable little ornaments, the family and friends, the repetitive music...eggnog! Christmas cookies! Stockings! Garland! Charlie Brown! The Nativity! I don't care how people commercialize Christmas, or what they do with it. To me, Christmas is magical and always will be. Soo...I've been really into crocheting lately, and there are a surprising number of free patterns on the web. I've been getting mine from the Lion Brand web site I shared last time, and altering them slightly to suit me. I made a whole little family of owls, that will soon be dispersed among my family members, a snowman for my Mom, and a tiger for my sister in law. I'm going to make another snowman for Dan's Mom, who thought the little face was adorable. I have to agree with her, as that part was one of my alterations. ;) I have started another project I'm really excited about, but I won't give away all the details until I'm ready to blog about it. I'll just give one little involves snowflakes!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Crocheting Dominates Sewing

There are several factors which prevent me from developing a sewing habit. The first of these is that I have no designated sewing space. I have a nice little Singer, but it languishes away in a box in my hobby closet (yes, I have a closet completely filled with various hobby related supplies. I liken it to Dan's closet filled with various computer related empty boxes.) The second factor is my intolerance of mess. I have a mania about cleaning. My house must be tidy. I've accepted it about myself. As you can imagine, dragging the sewing machine and it's accessories, thread, cloth, scissors, stitch rippers (my most important accessory) creates a huge mess, which cannot be neatly put away at the end of a day of crafting. I had a grand scheme to create a Christmas stocking for Dan, who is in need of one, by which I mean I need for him to have one, by which I mean I want for him to have one. I was going to quilt it. I cut out all the pieces, dragged out the sewing machine and appurtenances, wasn't pleased with the way it was going, and left it and its accompanying mess lurking in my office for several days before I gave up and put everything away. Perhaps I'll get it out again one day. But in the mean time, I crocheted some little owlies. Crocheting is such a nice, clean, portable hobby. Everything fits tucked away in a little bag. I did two, the pattern for which can be found here. I think they're adorable, easy, fun, and I'm going to collect owl ornaments from now on.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Another New Hobby!

I've started another new hobby. Making soy candles! (dum de de daaa!) It's not as difficult as I thought it might be. Probably because there's very little chemistry involved, unlike soap. Which, by the way, has cured and is in the process of being tested by friends and family members alike. My feedback is thus: nice, light clean fragrance, good lather, soft and creamy, but perhaps the lather could last longer. Any soap makers out there have any tips for a longer lasting lather? This is all after one or two uses, so I recommended using the little tester bars all up and getting back to me. Anywho, about candles. I purchased my materials from Candle Science, and it got to me the very next day! I was amazed, and gratified to be able to start my new adventure without delay. I should have delayed, however. I have a hot glue gun currently in residence at my mother's house, and the little video tutorial I watched suggested using it to glue the wicks down. Instead of waiting for the hot glue gun to arrive in the mail, I just used regular glue. Note to self: glue encased between two non-porous layers will not dry. Hot glue, of course, would not have had to dry. It would have hardened. So, I melted my wax, added the dye chips and fragrance, stirred thoroughly, and poured it into my prepared candle tins. Immediately, wicks started bobbing to the surface. So, I poured the wax back out, put it in a pan of hot water to stay melted, and held the wicks in place until the residue cooled and solidified and held them in place for me. Then I poured more wax in, and the residue melted, and the wicks once again popped up. Urghh!Eventually I got it to work, by pouring a little wax in at a time, but I haven't made any candles since. I am dutifully waiting for my hot glue gun to arrive in the mail, having learned my lesson about patience. At least for this project. Incidentally, I love soy candles because they are eco-friendly and burn clean! No sooty marks on the ceiling above the candles!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Craft Show

Well, I've signed up to be a vendor at a local craft show. My very first! I love going to these things, wandering around, seeing what everyone is making and getting ideas for my own new projects. There was one recently in town, at which a couple of my friends had booths. One of them told me I should be a vendor, so here I am! It's a festival at a nearby town, and it's not until October. Which means, I'm going to be a busy bee, making ornaments like crazy to stock up for this thing. Actually, it's probably good for me, because it will give me focus, something to work towards. Otherwise, I have a tendency to flit from project to project like a bee from flower to flower. I currently have seven paintings I can also take, and a couple of drawings. My mind is abuzz with ideas about booth layout and presentation, like a get the idea. I don't even have a canopy. Or a folding table. Or any sort of packaging. Or anything to use for a display. Good thing I have a whole month to prepare! On a separate note, it is now September 1st, which means I can officially decorate for fall till my happy heart's content!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

making ornaments

Well, it's that time of year again. The time of year when I break out the jeans, even though it's still too hot, just because I want it to be fall. I love everything about autumn; the cooler weather, the colors, the savory food, the mystery and spookiness. Last year, shortly after this time, I was so enamored of fall that I began making ornaments mimicking all the beautiful, jewel bright leaves that were plastered against the ground. Now, I'm at it again, and I thought I'd share the process. I use Sculpey clay, primarily because it's so readily available. I roll it out thin, cut out some leaves with my X-acto knife, bake them in the oven, paint them, and then gloss them. Usually I watch something on Dan's computer while I'm at it, because it's just too quiet otherwise. And my computer blows up like a jet engine every time I try to do anything more complicated than play solitaire. Here are some pictures!

my messy tray of stuff

fresh out of the oven


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Elderberry Jelly

Well, I went home to visit my parents at their lovely farmhouse in the country. They have a pervasive growth of elderberries beside their barn, which has been mowed over several times in my memory yet still persists. Occasionally, the berries would flourish and we would enlist my dear grandmother to make some jelly, but this year, we tried it on our own. And it was, at first, an extravagant failure! We followed the recipe to a T, and after the canning process we discovered, to our dismay, the jelly was the consistency of maple syrup. We had written out fancy little labels for the jars and everything. We studied the richly colored, beautiful syrup, tapping our chins as we tried to think of a solution. Finally, we decided to open all 32 jars, dump the syrup into a pan, add some more pectin, and give it another go. Success! The jelly turned out beautifully, and we didn't have to write out 32 new labels! The recipe we used is as follows, including our belated addition of more pectin:

7 1/2 cups of elderberry juice
1/2 cup lemon juice
3 pkgs pectin (we used Sur-Jel)
9 cups sugar

If, like us, you are working with freshly picked elderberries (and let's face it, who buys elderberries?) they need to be cooked, crushed, and strained to separate the juice from the seeds and skins. Then, heat the juices and pectin until boiling. Add the sugar and continually stir until boiling again. When it is at a full, rolling boil time it for two minutes. Remove from heat, fill clean jars, cap them, and boil in a hot water bath for five minutes. As they cool they will seal. Oh, and we boiled the tops also to sanitize and soften them before we capped the jelly. The jelly has a rich flavor that, in my humble opinion, surpasses grape jelly, which my grandma also made yearly as I was growing up. I feel like I resurrected a dying art! I feel independent and capable, knowing that if our world had an apocalyptic disaster, I would still be able to produce a sumptuous sweet treat that would last the winter...or rather, would be able to if I knew how to procure pectin independently. And also sugar...but in any case, I have no doubt that if that sort of thing happened, Mom's elderberry bramble would endure.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

My first batch!

I have now completed my first batch of soap. It was an arduous experience, in which I felt like a witch presiding over some insidious brew and a chemist, complete with goggles and gloves. I followed some basic advice for making milk soaps, that is to stir the lye into milk which is frozen until slushy and resting in an ice bath. This helps to keep the temperature from rising enough to scald the milk, or curdle it, or some such catastrophe. My sources were mixed on exactly what would be the dreaded outcome. Does coconut milk even curdle? Hmmmm....

I had to stir it for an hour and twenty minutes. No joke, and my hair kept getting fuzzier and curlier the longer I stirred, my face redder, my arms and shoulders sorer. I understand getting a stick blender makes it significantly faster, but I am currently trying to limit my initial start up costs, as per a stern dictate from my husband. Eventually, my soap mixture reached trace, which is when it's thick enough for a dribble trailed over the surface to remain visible. It was a lovely pumpkin pie color, which left me thinking I should have added some cloves or something to make it smell spicy. However, I was soon to find out that as it set in the mold it changed colors to a creamy ivory color, with little brown flecks. I think it's rather pretty. I let it set in the mold for two days, and this morning cut it up into smaller bars, some four ounce and some two ounce, to distribute amongst my testers (namely, my family). It was very odd, having the superficial look and feel of regular soap but the texture of homemade fudge. Now it has to cure for several weeks, and I'm quite impatient to try it. However I will wait, as I don't want to burn my skin off with caustic, premature soap. Here are some pictures!

pumpkin pie colored

faded to a creamy color

all sliced and ready to cure

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Making Soap

Ever since I first discovered the world of Handmade, mostly through my experiences with Etsy, I have been enthralled with the idea of making my own soap. I initially searched through the multitudes of sellers on Etsy to find Theraganics, from whom I purchased several bars of soap. I loved it! I was hooked. It made my skin feel so soft and smooth, it smelled wonderful, and best of all, it was natural and handmade! So, since then I've been doing research on cold-process soap making, and slowly purchasing supplies with which to make my very own soap. I have my recipe all set to try, but I am waiting for my order of lye to arrive, thanks to the new restrictions placed on purchasing this hazardous chemical. My recipe includes various oils, coconut milk, and honey. It's a basic, moisturizing soap, good, I think, for my first attempt. I have also been researching herbs for skincare, and I think I want to eventually make either a comfrey or calendula soap, both of which seem to be good for skin disorders such as eczema. I'd love to make one of these for my sister in law and nephew, both of whom have eczema. But I get ahead of myself. I have yet to make my first batch, but when I do, I will document the entire process here.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Brand new painting

After a long hiatus, in which I was away for a month helping with the pregnancy of my sister and subsequent birth of my niece, among other things, I have returned to the blogging world. I have lately been obsessed with three things: working out (Bikini Ready, Fast! Oh yeah, farewell to the jiggly poundage that kept me warm this long, snowy winter! That is, if I can stick with it long enough to make a dent.), the Appalachian Trail (I have hiked on it a total of three times now, adding up to about, ehhh, six miles or so. But they're really more reconnaissance hikes.), and something else which will remain unnamed. Since this is a creative blog, I shall show you the painting I did yesterday. This one is a bit darker than my usual, but it is now hanging on my wall downstairs, and I believe I'll keep it. I attempted a sort of antiqued linen look for the background, which shows up easier in real life than the photograph, and an Edgar Allen Poe inspired tree with blackbirds. I have not yet named it. I actually had been looking into vinyl wall decals such as this one, thinking to perhaps purchase some contact paper and create my own to fill the empty white expanse of wall near my front door. However, since my walls are not properly painted, only primed, I decided it might not be a good idea to stick contact paper to them. I remembered I had a large blank canvas just hiding out in my closet, waiting for an inspiring moment to metamorphose it into something prettier than a blank canvas, and bada bing! Several hours later the painting is hanging on the wall and I'm sitting on a chair, reading a book, surreptitiously glancing up at it every thirty seconds. Hope you like it!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Winter Sunset

I'm back, after a long and luxurious break from the technical world. I must admit, it was refreshing to spend days, yes, even weeks away from the computer, but it's also good to feel connected again. I wanted to share my newest painting, of a treeline silhouetted against a lovely Ohio sunset. This is a scene by my brother-in-law's home, and it was a lot of fun to do. The water in the pond had a thin layer of ice over it in places, which reflected the color of the sky in an unusual way. I find water is not the easiest thing for me to portray. If there are any artists out there with some tips, I would highly welcome them! I will get this posted to my etsy shop as soon as I can manage to get some decent pictures of it. In the meantime, I will endeavor to create another carbon pencil drawing, perhaps of some type of animal. Shall I follow the etsy trend, and draw an owl? Or perhaps something else woodsy, a squirrel or a deer. Hmm, we shall see!