Thursday, February 23, 2017

Three-Day Weekend Shenanigans

Our son's birthday was this weekend so of course that meant I needed a birthday card.  So I did some experimenting with my Color Burst powders.  I think I have to do a lot more practicing with the sprinkling technique.  I had something very much different in mind, but this little piece was salvageable and with the addition of the three feathers and linen thread I was pretty pleased with it. I only regret we didn't get to deliver it in person.  


We had one of our Table 7 get-togethers planned so I wrapped up some of the Valentine marshmallows pretty simply to bring along for the ladies.  



We went to an "Escape Room" and became Time Travelers.  We didn't manage to escape in time but we really had a lot of fun solving puzzles and riddles and unlocking locks and finding hidden doors and clues.  We did come close to completing our mission, but probably would have needed another 10-15 minutes to do so.  We'll definitely be trying this again especially since they are going to be opening one that is much closer to where we live.  (And they knew they were holding their signs upside-down!)  After that adventure we went to one of the other couples' homes to make pizzas and shoot the breeze.  I haven't laughed so much in a long time.  


One of my projects for the weekend was enlarging a pattern for HWNSNBP to cut out of wood as a favor to one of our friends.  My part is done.  He's already cut it out and needs to sand it before delivery.  Sadly, the most fun part - the painting - was given to someone else to do.  So I probably won't even get to see it finished.  But I'm glad to get it behind us.  


We've had a little taste of spring with the weather and as I was inspecting these new plants that we put in in the fall it appears that they have buds.  They are Hellebores and should be pink when they bloom.  They are supposed to be deer resistant and I hope that the deer don't develop a taste for them. I also hope we don't get too low of temperatures to affect those blooms.  Keeping my fingers crossed.


Monday, after our trip to Hobby Lobby (that place is overwhelmingly packed with so much to look at), we went to lunch at Olive Garden.  I had a gift card from Christmas that I wanted to use.  The lunch was light but I saw this "new" dessert on the menu and had to give it a try.  It's called a hazelnut "Baci" ball cake with a molten hazelnut filling and vanilla sauce.  


Very yummy!


And one last picture of the succulent garden from the previous weekend which I had, until today, neglected to take a picture of.  I had to put it on a table to take the picture, it's been on my counter since last weekend and I've gotten a lot of compliments on it.  And, it seems to be happy there because those long skinny stems you see were only about an inch long a week ago.  


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Scribble Picnic - Octopus

When Christine's Blog came up in my feed today I was instantly intrigued by this new Art Co-op she posted about called Scribble Picnic.  So I did some investigating (shhhh... during work) and decided that I was going to try to make the deadline for the prompt this week when I got home - Octopus.  


I used my Koi watercolors and Fantasia Artists Coloured Pencils.  I started by sketching the octopus in a light gray watercolor pencil so the lines would disappear when I added the watercolors.  


HWNSNBP recognized this as an octopus but couldn't find the hidden word - can you?  The octopus did it's best.

I'm off to Michael MacVean's blog to check out the other octopi.  You can see them too if you click here.


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Jingle Belles - It Came Upon a Midnight Clear

Maybe you can and maybe you can't guess from the title what the Jingle Belles challenge is this time......... you must have a see-through or clear item on your card.  I perused my stash and upon first round came up with nothing so I suggested a trip to Hobby Lobby hoping to find something in acetate that I might be able to use. Uh, no luck.  But I did find the vellum sheet music.  


So I did a second look around at home as to what I could put with it and this gold embossed tissue paper-like sheet caught my eye.  The white is actually very guazy and also see through though you can't tell with it up against the white card base.  


I grabbed a white doily and whilst doing that came across this gold foil tart-size cake board.  The shape was so ornament-like when I got the tart, so I carefully cleaned any evidence of it off and added it to my collection of things to repurpose.  


The jewel-like center that I added was a $ store purchase a few years back.  One would think by looking at it that those are stones, but they are actually concave and highly reflective.  I also added to the decorations with some washi tape and a few white glitter-paper snowflakes that were on my craft table.  Each center got one of those metal reflectors too.  


The final addition was the gold cotton thread bow.  My son gave me a beautiful Christmas card this year with a gorgeous acetate panel covered with glitterly snowflakes.  I am trying to decide whether to take it apart and repurpose it, or try to duplicate it.  I think I will try to duplicate it for my second card later this week. 

It's fairly early in the two-week challenge so the gallery is small at this time, still I will wander over there to check everything out and encourage you to do the same.  Here is the link.  

Art Journaling is a Slow Go For Me

Taking part in a challenge with a prompt for every day can be daunting if you make it. I refuse to make this Daisy Yellow 31 day challenge that.  Meaning, I'm not strictly adhering to getting one page done each day.  I probably could if I prioritized my time differently but that's not going to happen. Some of these pages just take more time - by my choice really.  

Prompt:  1960's - neon colors, peace signs, flower power.  Watercolors and markers.


Prompt:  Butterfly - sort of a tesselation with markers and gel pen. 


Prompt:  Collection - I have these somewhere..... a collection of cobalt blue vases.  Done in watercolor pencil and paint.  (Scoured many flea markets for these.)


Prompt:  Espresso - Some lettering practice with some faux coffee stains in watercolors.


Prompt:  Pinwheel - an attempt at a tesselation.  Watercolor pencils.


Prompt: Kimono - on display, not worn.  Those designs were intended to look like fern fronds but wound up looking more like salamanders I think.  And here's a word of advice - you have to spell kimono if you want help from SIRI to show you a picture of one, otherwise she will keep sending you to some obscure movie called Come Mono and frustrate the hell out of you!.  


Prompt:  Wallpaper - crayon resist with watercolors.  The lesson in this one should be obvious, it is very hard to tell where the white crayon is on white paper.  If I were to try it again, I would do a sample in thick black marker on another sheet and then put it behind the actual page to trace it, otherwise it's all hit and miss.  And yes, I would put this wallpaper in a tropical themed bathroom.


Prompt:  10 Favorites - or, as it turned out 10 favorite buttons in watercolor pencil. I stewed over this prompt for a couple of days before I decided to go in this direction.  


Prompt:  Darkness - strictly colored pencil, the aquapainter is only there to hold the curled edge down.  Pencils were not heavy enough!


So I've done 11 so far of 31. It may take me two months at this rate.  But that's okay too.



Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Jingle Belles - Let the Flakes Fly - Revitalized Vellum Technique

Sheesh, with all the Valentine's and birthday stuff that I've been trying to keep up with I almost forgot my Jingle Belles card for this fortnight.  The theme is to use snowflakes, or snow on your card. Recently, while purging my craft supplies I came across some samples from a techniques class that I had taken many moons ago.  One of those that I pulled from the discard pile was called "Revitalized Vellum".  The sample that we made in the class happened to have snowflakes on it, so I thought this might be a good opportunity to revisit this technique.  


You add ink to the vellum using direct-to-paper method, lightest color to darkest.  Then, while the ink is still wet, you ink up your stamp/s with VersaMark ink and stamp it on the wet vellum.  That will remove most of the color from the vellum where you stamped.  Make sure to stamp off that colored ink you removed from the vellum before inking it up with the VersaMark again or you will have a dirty VersaMark ink pad (ask me how I know!).   Continue stamping until you are satisfied with it, and then either let it dry or use a heat gun to dry it up.  What you just stamped is the BACK of the piece.  On the front you can add some more of your subject (in this case snowflakes) in the ink colors

Hopefully you can see in this close-up that the lightest snowflakes (find the big ones too) are stamped, or should I say unstamped, on the back. 

I found myself going with glitter again - ugh.  But I had to figure out someway to get that panel on the card base and be able to hide the adhesive.  The snowflake sprays in the corners are die cut from white glitter paper.  So this is quite sparkly.  


I'm trying to decide what, if anything I can put between those sprays.  But if I do put something there, I think it will cover up the background too much so you won't see the effect of the technique enough. Thoughts?

I'll be heading over to the Jingle Belles blog to check out all the other snowy wonders.  You can join me by clicking here.

Happy Valentine's Day


My card for HWNSNBP - on Saturday we went to a garden center about 45 mins. away that was advertising an event to make your own succulent garden for Valentine's Day.  I picked out the container and plants and HWNSNBP deferred to me to put it all together with the guidance of the owner.  I chose a square container (forgot to take a picture and it's now on my counter at school), so this stamp is not entirely accurate, but I decided to put a sheet of vellum over it to symbolize the "greenhouse" that we were in.  I picked those minty green and dusty blue colors for the hearts because they remind me of the colors of the succulents.  

My workspace is a mess this week with all the Valentine's stuff.


This card is for the "little bear" - our grandson.  Funny that I spent quite some time figuring out how to get those bears standing next to each other with their arms crossed to look like they would if the bears were holding each other and then I wound up putting the heart over them, so I could have really just cut them off and no one would have known any better.  Once again my timing was off because I don't think that he got it today - mailed too late.  Oh well, he's only 10 months old and will not know that it's late, right?


I picked up a package of these postcard-size notecards with envelopes at the Target Dollar Spot a while back.  I used them for the kids - my kids who are now adults.  It's a Unity stamp colored with the new SU watercolor pencils.  


This is another Unity stamp from that same kit, again colored with those pencils.  These are for a couple of my "peeps" along with some traditional Valentine's Day marshmallows which will be delivered later this week.  Shhhhhhhh!


Those marshmallows in the works.  

Heating the sugar (2/3 sugar and 1/3 flavor - in this case ground cinnamon red hots), corn syrup, water, and a pinch of salt to about 236ยบ.


The hot mixture is added to the "bloomed" gelatin and vanilla and is beaten until fluffy and stiff.


Line a rectangle pan with parchment paper and oil it.  Spoon mixture into prepared pan.  Let sit at room temperature for 10 hours or overnight.  


I turn this out onto a mixture of rice flour and confectioners sugar.  When I cut this, I keep a paper towel with some vegetable oil on it to swipe the knife with to keep the sticky marshmallows from getting all over the knife.  As they're cut, I dredge each sticky edge in the flour/sugar mixture so the marshmallows themselves don't stick together.  To store, I place a little of that flour/sugar mix in a plastic bag and then carefully add the marshmallows.  I usually need about three bags because they will stick together if too crowded.  

Happy Valentine's Day!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Mish Mosh From This Week

My mojo has gone missing.  And I think my brain with it.  I managed to get this birthday card for my godmother done before her birthday, but I'm afraid that my "brain calendar" has let me down and I misplaced a week somewhere so I'm behind on my birthday cards.  So on my list of things to get done this weekend are now "belated" birthday cards.  That and Valentine's Day stuff  - oh, I have my work cut out for me.  Finding that mojo would be very opportune right now!

I combined some SU and Unity stamps for this one.  I stamped the cake and then made a mask so I could get the lace on there, emboss it and then add the sponging.  


I had to sneak in a picture of the baby from last weekend.  He is such a joy!  He turned 10 months old this week - it goes by so fast.  He's crawling, pulling himself up on everything, and babbling up a storm.  I think he's going to be a handful for his parents because he wants to go, go, go!


Just a few pictures from last Sunday that I hadn't shared.  I love the signage on the Inlet deli.  As busy as the area is in the summer, it's not so busy that you don't notice it, but in the winter, when things are slowed down quite a bit, it just stands out so much more. 





We had our first snow day on Thursday of this week.  We only got about 5" of snow, but it was coming down heavily during the time the school buses would have been collecting the students so it was a good call to close the schools.  They had forecasted 6-10" for our area but being that it was a very heavy snow, it worked out for the better and didn't tax the snowblower (or the snowblower operator - HWNSNBP) as much as it could have.  

HWNSNBP had recently repaired this feeder that we use at the school and decided to put it out for the birds in the bad weather.  Well, as you can see, a flock of starlings found it and swarmed it keeping our regular backyard guests away from it and the suet feeder.  


So we gave them a brief snack and shooed them away and put the feeder away until they left the area.  It may seem unfair, but they are aggressive and will keep the other "well-behaved" visitors away.

This has been playing over in my head this week.  I had an e-mail conversation with the staff at the Raptor Trust this week.  They had made an appeal on Facebook for people to sign up as bird rescuers specifically for European sparrow and starling babies.  I questioned this as they are both considered invasive species here in the US and we try to discourage them from our area because they compete with the cavity-nesters like our bluebirds, sometimes just destroying nests and eggs for territorial rights alone.  (We've even seen the evidence of the female blue being attacked and either perishing or being so afraid as to abandon her eggs.)  

They were very polite in their response stating that while these species do not fall under the Migratory Bird Act and are not protected, it is their policy to be humane to all species.  However, since they are funded for the purpose of protecting our native species, they ask for the help in taking care of these non-natives off-site.  This way they can train people in the care of baby birds and perhaps get them to volunteer at their facility and get them certified as bird rehabilitators.  

I see the reasoning behind that and can accept it, though I can't bring myself to personally do it, as again, I've seen the effects of having these non-natives around.  This train of thought, using the words non-native and native, played on my mind heavily this week in light of what's going on here in the US.  I don't support this "ban" of people of other races/ethnicity's or religions entering our country without credible reason, but find myself turning my back on these birds in what might be perceived as being inhumane.  But I know these birds to be "terrorists" in the garden.  I have seen what they are capable of, but do I turn my back on the innocent among them?  I know we're talking apples and oranges here, birds and people, but it does make you think.  Or maybe I'm just too negatively affected by all this political/non-political stuff that seems to be surrounding us lately.  


So let me drop the topic and show you what I spent some time doing on that snow day - the family tradition is to make chocolate chip cookies.  Even though the kids are no longer home, and even though he does not even eat them, HWNSNBP wanted to make certain that the tradition was carried out and had me check that we had all the ingredients before he went to the store the day before the storm.  I saved a little of the batter to add nuts to for some cookies for myself, but the rest of these went to work with me on Friday (we had a delayed opening because of the snow) and were quickly devoured.  


That tradition completed, I now have another tradition to take care of today - Valentine's Day marshmallows!  

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Duck Hunting............Kind of

Last weekend we got to visit our grandson and his mom and dad.  We hadn't seen them since Christmas day - everyone's been sick off and on since then.  The baby even spent one weekend in the hospital being treated for RSV and really had us all worried.  This winter has been mild weather-wise, but brutal with illness, at least in this family.   So it was nice to have us all be semi-healthy and be able to spend some time with them.  

From their house it's not that much farther to our condo so we headed there for the evening.  We got an early start on Sunday morning and before heading home, we took a ride out to Barnegat Light, had our Porkroll, Egg, and Cheese sandwiches from the Inlet Deli and then went over to the lighthouse. There were tons of photographers there with their gigantic cameras and tripods that were much better dressed and equipped for taking pictures in the cold weather.  We were, as I'm sure they were also, looking for harlequin ducks which usually winter in that area.

This seagull, who watched us eat our sandwiches in the car, seemed to be laughing at us as if he knew it was a fruitless cause.



Along the pathway to the lighthouse area the ground was covered with pinecones and needles.


There were a couple of ducks near the lighthouse itself.


And further out we could see lot's of them in the water, but we couldn't get close enough and I don't really have a lens that will get me close enough to see what was actually out there.  I overheard the birders that were set up on the walkway with their tripods say that there were harlequins around the end of the inlet (where we walk in the summer) but we were not venturing onto the sand that day.


Instead, and since HWNSNBP had not worn a hat and was complaining of getting cold which he seldoms does, we left.


But as we crossed over the bay bridge I noticed that there were swans in an area called Mud City and so HWNSNBP generously offered to go back to where they were so I could get some pictures.


We were both quite surprised to find this duck - a female greater scaup - sitting on these rocks near the road.  


Neither of us had ever seen a duck that looked like this and we didn't even know what kind of duck it was until I researched it when we got home.  Sometimes, I find it's much harder to identify birds when you have the female although I didn't know it was the female.  She was very calm standing there and I wonder if she was injured by the way her wing is listing.  


There were other ducks in that area too, some too far away to get good pictures of but there were buffleheads and mallards further out, and this red-breasted merganser came a little closer.


One of these days I'm sure we'll get lucky and finally see the harlequins, but I was quite satisfied with this little duck hunt.