Wednesday, December 23, 2009

This year's holiday card OR a tale of two adhesives

What with one thing and another, this year's holiday card didn't happen until just last week. Like last year, its a multi media collage but this year not quite so abstract. A simplified Christmas tree is the subject I chose--its so iconic I can minimize the details a lot while still depicting something recognizable. As with all collages, using the appropriate adhesive is the key. I did have some glue stick issues that necessitated a quick run to the craft store, but luckily they had what I needed. Damn that "repositionable" glue stick--don't ever buy that crap! "Repositionable" actually means that its not very sticky. Whats the point of that??? (don't buy that purple stuff either. its supposed to dry clear, but doesn't always). My hands down favorite is Scotch brand craft stick in the 1.41 oz. size. Its the best for general crafting and is perfect for dealing with fabrics. When in doubt, get the big size--the small, chapstick size tubes last for about, oh lets see now, 10 minutes of crafting. Uh-huh, very helpful. NOT.

Anyway, here's Step 1: A little time carefully measuring and cutting trapezoids and triangles and --voila! My simple, yet elegant tree. I chose three fabrics that all had some metallic gold accents. Because Christmas is all about glittery, shiny stuff, isn't it? Glue stick on the fabric did the trick here.

Step 2: More glittery stuff. A couple of swooshes of Angelina fibers add some textural and detail interest. A swipe of glue stick on the tree laid a snail trail for the angelina fibers to stick to.

Step 3: One stylized ornament made out of a coil of colored wire completes the design. I sign in pencil and I'm done. Woo-hoo! Glue stick doesn't work for wire at all so I switched to a more goopy adhesive: Uhu glue.Search for uhu glueSearch for uhu glue This glue does not soak into the fabric and disappear like water-based Elmer's and is, well, nice and goopy. Thus, the pea-sized blob of Uhu sits on top of the fabric and then encompasses the wire coil and bonds the two together as it dries.

I ended up making 80 cards. I have about half of them written and sent out and (sigh) a bunch more to go. But they're HOLIDAY cards, and the holidays last until January 6; the Feast of Three Kings (Epiphany), right???

Well, that's my story, anyway, and I'm sticking (ahem) to it.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Cuban Black Bean Salad

For those of you that are overdosing on sweets right about now (between my 2 sweet treat posts and the general excesses of the season), here's a goodie that I created from scratch. Normally I don't much care for cold bean salads but this one is an exception. This salad is bright and colorful, healthy and a great dish to take along to a potluck or serve at a summer barbecue. With no mayo or egg based ingredients, there are no safety concerns if it sits out a while at that picnic either. Best if made a day ahead of time so that the spices can marinate and the flavors blossom. This recipe is vegan friendly.

Cuban Black Bean Salad

4 15.25 oz. cans unseasoned black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can sweet corn, rinsed and drained
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 yellow bell pepper, diced
1/2-1 purple onion diced
5-10 green onions chopped
1 c. chopped cilantro
1/3 c. veg. oil
1/2 c. red wine vinegar
1/4 c. lime juice
1 tbsp. cumin powder
1 tbsp. turmeric powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper

Rinse and drain canned items and place in large bowl. Dice all fresh ingredients to about the same size and add to corn and beans. Add liquids and spices. Adjust spices to taste. Stir well--doesn't it look pretty?? Chill before serving. Refrigerate overnight for best flavor profile.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Another sweet treat

Here's a recipe I turn to time and again. It never fails and pretty much does whip up in 5 minutes. You can add nuts if you like or leave them out. Delicious either way.

5 minute brownies

3/4 c. cocoa
2 eggs
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/3 c. unsifted flour
2/3 c. veg. oil, split
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 c. boiling water
1/4 tsp. salt
2 cups sugar
1-1 1/2 c. chopped nuts--I prefer pecans for their sweetness

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 13 x 9 pan or 2 8 x 8 pans. Dust pan (s) with cocoa powder (rather than flour).

Mix cocoa and baking soda in bowl. Blend in 1/3 c. of the oil and hot water and stir until thickened (its magic!). Stir in sugar, eggs, and remaining oil and mix until smooth. Add flour, vanilla and salt. Mix until smooth. Add nuts. Pour batter into pan (s).

Bake for 30-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove and let cool before cutting.

And yet another Christmas card...

Here's yet another one of my cards from the archives.

This card also features spray paint (love that stuff). I used a circular stencil for the ornament and made sure to apply the spray paint unevenly to give the illusion of roundness. The ornament's hanger and the greeting was picked out in silver ink.

I added some glittery star decorations on the surface of the ornament (I own some just like this, go figure). Guess what I used for the stars?

Believe it or not, silver glitter nail polish did the trick nicely. I use it frequently for small accents on projects like this. Not regular nail polish--it has be to the stuff with visible glitter flakes suspended in a clear polish matrix. It comes in all colors these days but I just used the silver stuff here.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Scone pix!

After writing out the recipe in my previous post, I just had to have some,so I whipped up a quick batch. They mix up quickly and bake in a flash. Here they are along with some tips.

Here's my pastry cutter. I think it came from my local grocery store. There are several different designs of these things--make sure you have a good sturdy one.

I've cut the stick of butter into slices and added it to my mixed dry ingredients here.

I've put my pastry cutter/blender to use and am done with the integration of the butter. Remember, don't go for small even bits--larger uneven chunks yield melt in your mouth scones!

The white chocolate...

coursely chopped.

Wet and dry ingredients have come together and everything has been lightly mixed. Overmixing kills the texture so only mix until all the dry ingredients are barely moistened.

The batter has been spooned into my handy-dandy scone pan. Its pretty lump bumpy sticky stuff.

The final sprinkle of demerrara sugar has been added. it will contribute to a crisp upper surface.

I love using large crystal sugar as a baked topping. It sparkles so nicely.

Fifteen minutes later... here they are! Wish I could share with all of you!

White chocolate & macadamia nut scones

Trying to catch up on my posts and I've promised to post this recipe for a while. The basic scone recipe came with a scone pan that I ordered from the King Arthur's Flour baking catalog If you haven't checked them out, you should! They have the highest quality baking supplies, including many hard to find items. Anyway, I've played around with the recipe for a year now and here's what I've come up with. I think its pretty perfect--I won't be messing with this one any more!

2 3/4 (12.5 oz) A.P. flour
1/3 c. regular white sugar
3/4 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. fresh baking powder
1/2 c. (1 stick) cold, sweet butter
3/4-1 c. chopped macadamia nuts (or other nuts or dried fruit)
4 oz. bar Ghirardelli white chocolate, coursely chopped
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 c. milk, buttermilk or 1/2 & 1/2
1/2-3/4 c. demerrara or other large grained sugar for topping

Preheat oven to 425F. Grease the scone pan or a cookie sheet. In large bowl, whisk together all dry ingredients except the large grained sugar. Cut in the cold butter with a pastry blender or 2 knives until barely crumbly. The crumbles should be about the size of peas and should NOT be uniform. Overworking the dough is more of a sin than underworking it! And nuts/fruit and chocolate and mix briefly. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs, milk and vanilla. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix just until evenly moistened. Scoop batter into scone pan or onto cookie sheet. Sprinkle liberally with the demerrara sugar (I go for solid sugar coverage which looks like a lot but when the scones rise during baking the sugar is spread out). Bake for 15 minutes or until scones are golden. Remove and let cool 5 minutes before removing from the pan. Be sure to enjoy while they're still warm and the chocolate is still melty!

Friday, December 04, 2009

Christmas cards cont.

More christmas cards...

Each one of these cards is a unique original mixed media collage featuring fabric, Angelina fibers (you know I love that stuff) and more, permanently mounted on heavy white card stock. This series is a limited edition and so they are all signed and numbered in pencil by the artist (me!). The card is 5" x 7" and, of course, comes with a matching white envelope. There is no interior text; I end up writing something different in each card when I send it.

Up close you can see the different components. I think the shiny cellophane tape helps to hold it all down (I did have adhesion issues with this one) and helps to make the image sparkly and shiny. Perfect for a christmas image.

A nostalgic Christmas tree graces this 5" x 7" card rendered in molded heavy paper. Heavy white card stock is the base that supports the Christmas tree rectangle. The tree rectangle is made by pressing wet pulp paper into a springerle mold. The rectangle was carefully dried and then spray painted gold at a sharp angle to accentuate the three dimensional aspects. When that was dry, the rectangle was mounted on some thin foam on the actual card. This allows the rectangle to float above the surface of the card and cast a slight shadow.

You can really see the floating aspect from this angle. Cool, huh?

Tomorrow: more cards and a few recipes, too. Stay tuned for 5 minute brownies, white chocolate/macadamia nut scones and black bean salad.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Christmas cards of yore

Every year at about this time I create my annual Christmas cards. They have to be different each year is about the only rule that I have. And, since I make 100 or so, they have to be easy to make. Or at least, not ridiculously tedious~~of course I say that so glibly here, but I'm often kicking myself by about the 50th card when I'm committed and there's no turning back...

Anyway, here are some of my cards from years gone by that I didn't end up sending. I will be offering these for sale on my etsy site in the next day or two.

This little beauty has a textured paper star adhered to a royal blue card stock card. Gold spray paint applied at a sharp angle highlights one side of the ridges of the star. The blue card was artfully spattered with gold paint as well.

Vellum envelopes allow the star to shimmer through. I think a pen with gold ink would be best for addressing these, don't you?

One year, I just took a photo of one of my quilts, "Mixtec Sun" and printed it on heavy card stock on a matching gold background. Simple but effective. And maybe even a little pagan.

This card represented my experimentation with stamping. I used a commercial stamp with a tranquil winter scene and stamped it in a subtle sepia tone to match the cream card stock. Then I added the text, stamping each letter individually. Next, I hand colored the scene with various shades of colored pencils, keeping the palette subtle and low-key.

To finish this card, I applied a few dots of fine stamping glitter of a clear iridescent shade to mimic a light snow fall. Hard to photograph, but trust me, its there.

I'll post some more cards in the coming days. Still to come: fabric collages, home-made paper accents, more spray paint, even some nail polish.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Thanksgiving creations

I hope everyone out there had a great Thanksgiving like we did!

Here's what started off our series of Thanksgiving creations--a lovely turkey with herbed butter under the skin. Oh man--it smelled heavenly!

And here is the pristine table and the eager eaters. Fiona chose the table linens and set the table.

Of course, for every yin there is a yang, for every black there is a white, for every exquisite Thanksgiving dinner there is the mess created in the kitchen. And so here is ours. sigh. I love how Frodo managed to get into the picture on the right with his nonchalant, hopeful look. Roasting anything drives both dogs crazy. Not to worry, they had Thanksgiving kibble with turkey pan juices (defatted, of course).

After dinner we played games including one of our perennial favorites, Jenga. We didn't set any height records worth mentioning but then Fiona created this amazing construction (no glue, tape or photoshopping, I promise!)

As good as (or maybe even better!) are the TURKEY SANDWICHES the next day. Here's the one I created to Ed's specifications. So far: turkey, cranberry sauce and mashed potatoes...

next: wild rice and cooked red cabbage (a german and austrian holiday side dish.)

et..Voila! Thanksgiving in a sandwich!

The moist layers enabled the sandwich to hold together really well. It was inhaled in short order and declared a success!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

New show!

This past week I was asked to mount a one-woman show at the Women's Research Center here at the University of Central Florida. The Center occupies an interconnected suite with lots of wall space in the lobby area which they keep filled with art. I was thrilled to be asked and can't wait! The show will open in early January and will be up for about 6 weeks. I will be showing examples from all my different themes so the title "Disparate Threads" presented itself as the best description. I'll post more details soon! Stay tuned...

Time for some "grandma" quilts

I find beauty in traditional quilting patterns, too. I particularly like the log cabin pattern for blocks and triangles absolutely rule. I usually resort to paper piecing to get those precise points. Of course, when I explore the traditional techniques I have to use some outrageous colors to really wow the viewer. See for yourself!

Wonder of wonders, this is actually a functional piece! Its a lap blanket and a play on the colorway you often see in vintage amish quilts: all solid fabrics with lots of black combined with jewel and even pastel colors. This quilt is called "A hare off amish" which is a play on the composition of the black fabric which was a vintage print that had gray bunnies with yellow or blue capes on the black background.

Can you see the bunnies here? Its kind of cute and yet somehow ominous-- all that black, and why are those rabbits wearing capes, anyway? Another wonder--this quilt is hand quilted, something I don't really do anymore. The size is exactly the that of a plane lap blanket ('cause thats what the batting is!).

This quilt features some of the fabulous fabric designed by Kaffe Fasset. He does big bold and colorful prints that really resonate with me. Because of their large scale they are often difficult to incorporate. Using them as a border is a good strategy.

Another one of my favorite fabric designers is Jane Sassaman. Combining brights with black and white is a favorite technique of mine. I think this quilt looks a little like one of the old timey test patterns. The points of the quilt are reinforced with TimTex so they do actually maintain their stiffness even when hung on the wall.

Bright colors, paper pieced blocks combined with black and white stripes--all my favorite tricks!

Friday, November 06, 2009

Creativity from the west coast

Yesterday saw the completion of a trade of items with my new friend from the west coast. Donna, from Giggly Girl Designs on Etsy (that awesome site for creatives of all sorts from all over the world) emailed me a while back asking if we could trade. She liked my stuff and it turned out that I liked her stuff and the rest is history! I sent her 2 prints of my pieces and in exchange she custom designed and made a BEAUTIFUL bag for me. I'm addicted to bags and purses (just ask my family!!) and so it was a trade made in heaven.
Well! My bag arrived yesterday and it is AWESOME! Featured is one of my favorite artists: Frida Kahlo... and it has pockets galore! And the colors are perfect and the size is perfect and, and and--I love it!
Check out Donna's cool shop on Etsy at: and see if you like one of her other models! I can certainly attest to the good workmanship and she is very open to suggestions/requests.

Meanwhile, check it out:

Can you tell how much I love it by how tightly I'm clutching it?? BTW--I'm standing in front of one of my larger, abstract pieces called "Midwest Roadmap".

From the front--the smallest pocket houses my cell phone.

From the back--yet another pocket! And more pockets inside!

Great big thanks and hugs to you, Donna! I now have a lovely new bag, custom made just for me (makes me feel special!) and, even better, I have a lovely new creative friend in California. Talk about a win-win situation!

BTW, I do have a link on the right over there somewhere, but don't forget my own etsy site at:

Embellishments: oddities

Sometimes I like to add odd bits to my pieces. Buttons are certainly on my list, but so are hooks and eye closures, rubber gaskets and even chinese fortune cookie fortunes. I have a little stash going of stuff that I think is cool or pretty or striking and when its right, I add it. One of my goals is to go further and more extreme with the embellishments so I'm keeping my mind and eyes open to future embellishing opportunities!

Since a cookie fortune is a rather ephemeral item, I mounted it underneath a sheet of polyvinyl and then did some quilting around it to anchor it into place.

Here are buttons, hooks and eyes and rubber o-rings all in black or red to go with the color theme of this quilt.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Embellishment: beads!

Sometimes a piece just doesn't look finished when I'm done sewing--it cries out for something more. Angelina fiber, beads, buttons, found objects, chinese fortune cookie fortunes--you name it! Here are some of the shiny, glittery pieces that really wanted some sparkly seed beads.

This is one of a 3 piece set titled: "Studies in Orange and Blue". Lots of shiny stuff here. I used seed beads to highlight a curve here and there.

Here's a detail at a higher magnification.

This piece is a long horizontal panel that depicts the different stages of the sun throughout its daily life. I called it "Celestial Vedas." Each sun and its rays are all accented with matching seed beads. Man--this one took me FOREVER to bead and finish but it was worth it.

A detail from one of the last panels.

Another close-up shot.