Monday, December 31, 2012

Ending the Year on a Tasty and Crafty Note

As I look over at my living/sewing room and all the fabric in piles awaiting measuring for backing for quilts, I took a moment to look back over the past year.  It has not been a good one in many ways, but then on the other hand, it has been a good year.  2012, for all it's ups and downs, is unforgettable.

But......not to sink in a morass of doom and gloom, I did do a couple of fun things today to end out the year.  Despite the coughing, sneezing and congestion.

First, I made some No-Knead Bread using the recipe and technique from The Italian Dish Blog .  It has become one of my new drool worthy sites to visit and my list of dishes I am making is long.

No-Knead Bread
The loaf is just the right size for 1-2 people for a couple of days.  Not so much that it will be turned into bird food or croutons.  Chewy, but hearty enough for sandwiches.  There is dough now in my fridge for 3 more loaves that I can whip out at any time.

Then, ignoring the larger projects dotting my living room, I had an urge to try my hand at a little bag for a purse.  One to throw cell phone, ipod, makeup, whatever into.  Just in case you can't figure it out, this is some fabric I picked up for you, Savvy!

Kitty bag

Kitties on the inside too!
This is from a tutorial on The Busy Bean .  Another site which has a long list of things I want to make.  Her instructions were very clear and help me overcome my hatred for zippers in bags.
So I feel that I am ending on a high note rather than dwelling on the low notes of the year.  (But I still miss you Mom.)

Monday, December 24, 2012

Times Have Changed.......

I took my first (actually, my only) quilting class back in the early 1980's.  At that time, quilting was just making a comeback and we carefully created templates out of plastic and traced our pattern out on the fabric.  In fact, I still have a baby blanket I made in the class which still needs to be finished hand quilting.  I don't know what I am going to use for the binding, since it has long been separated from the project.  And the actual double bed sized quilt for the class....never did it.  I guess since it is now about 30 years old, I really should finish up the baby quilt, you think?  An antique before it's ever finished.

I have made a handful of baby blankets out of flannel, quick and easy, since then.  And for Savvy, I made a cross stitched name for her and set it into a quilt (won 2nd place at the State Fair with it too!)  But that has basically been the extent of my quilting for the past 30 years.  I have some of the new 'tools' for quilting today which I used for other projects and have kept a semi-watchful eye on the trends.  But needlework, knitting, cosplay sewing and an old, cranky sewing machine have kept me from really delving into quilting.

Fast forward to now........

This is my fourth quilt in the past 2-3 months.  I have done a couple of baby quilts, one to give and the other for my new granddaughter-to-be.  I have Savvy a quilt top finished, just need to get the backing.  And this is a lap quilt I am making, probably for me.

I used a charm packet from Moda, called Serenade by Kate Spain. The plain cream is muslin I had in my limited stash (for quilting) that I have a ton of.  The  pattern is the Disappearing Four Patch and I used the YouTube video by Missouri Star Quilt Company.  (As it turns out, my center, small square I didn't rotate correctly, but it works for me.)

So this is my finished top.  I have used a huge piece of flannel for a log cabin quilt I made years ago (and still haven't finished....the sewing on it is terrible) to make a planning board.  Actually, since I am now an empty nester, the flannel is on my wall beside my front door and I can see it from my desk.  It seems to work really well there as I can look over at it and decide whether or not I like the placement of the squares before sewing the blocks together.

My plan is to do a small and wide border, probably in one of the oranges and one in the blue.  My backing will probably be one of the blues too.

But the things that have changed over the past 30 years!

1.  Fabrics are being made just for quilting.  Charm packs, layer cakes, jelly rolls, entire collections coordinated together.  You don't have to go to the fabric store and hunt for fabric any longer!

2.  Rotary cutters, rulers and mats, oh, my!

3.  Instructional videos online at your finger tips.

4.  TONS of patterns for quick and easy and beautiful quilts.

5.  Machine quilting....almost unheard on in 'my day'....and probably my first quilting class I want to take.

So now, not only have I got 2 new quilts to finish up, but in the process of all of this delving back into sewing, I unearthed another flannel quilting project from several years ago.  And enough squares for at least 2 good sized lap quilts for the girls (or me).

Let the quilting begin (before school starts and I have to set it aside again).

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Cold Days Gets Heated Up

There are a handful of authors who I follow religiously.  In fact, I have this mental image I am holding a whip, urging them to write faster and more.  So when the latest in the Harry Dresden series by Jim Butcher came out in November, I held off, savoring the moment and ordered it for my Christmas vacation.  For you see, as anxious as I am to get to the next book, I also want to cherish the experience. Reading a new book by one of your favorite authors is like eating Godiva chocolates versus a handful of M&M's.  They're both chocolate, but in completely different leagues.

Like being presented with a box of fine chocolates, I couldn't sit down and just gorge myself in one sitting.  I got the book on Tuesday, started it on Wednesday and finished it last night.  So four days to revel in Harry Dresden again, who is back from the dead.  And once again he has to save the world from all the things that go bump in the night.  It almost makes me afraid to finish Chicago at times. 

This time he is working under the orders of an old foe, Queen Mab (who saved his life in the last book) and must battle not only her foes, but as it turns out, the term "Warden" isn't just an empty title and there is a new set of bumpy in the night things to battle.

But Harry not only has a few new tricks up his sleeves, but he also has a cast of friends he can call on.  His brother, Thomas, Molly, Karrin, Mouse, Butters and Toot and the pizza-eating pixie army all rally behind him as they battle their way from one side of Chicago to another.  You want to  pull on your leather duster and fight right along side them. Jim Butcher does not disappoint.  This is not some Godiva-wanna be, this is the real deal - enough magical tastiness you are left sated and yet craving more.  

One thing I particularly like about the Dresden series is that while Harry is a wizard and can fight the bad 'things' right and left, he is still human, with human failings and questions just like the rest of us.  He has doubts and concerns, but still gets in there despite the odds.

The worse thing about reading Cold Days is that now I want to go back and re-read the 13 books which came before it.  I need more chocolate!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Old Comforts are Sometimes the Best

On Wednesday I took myself out to see "The Hobbit" (which is wonderful by the way) and decided that I would treat myself to lunch at someplace other than a place with a drive through.  I had been hearing about Panera's 'grown up grilled cheese sandwich' on the radio, so I decided a nice bowl of tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich would be the thing.

First off, I apologize for the picture.  I didn't think about it until I had started eating (and thinking) about the meal.  The soup is much more red and I don't like croutons getting soggy in my soup.

The soup was thick and tasty.  The sandwich was cheesy and the bacon was a different touch.  But it was a toss up.  You needed to eat the sandwich before it cooled off and got hard and you had to eat the soup before it became cold tomato soup.  It was a good meal though.

But all the time I was eating it all I could think about was that, while it was good, the good old Campbell's Tomato soup made with milk and a grilled cheese sandwich made with colby jack slices on plain old Wonder bread was just as good if not better.

Tomato soup and grilled cheese, often made with Kraft American Cheese Slices, were a go-to meal growing up.  My girls ate a ton of them.  I still like it if I'm not feeling up to snuff.  Of course, eating the meal at home, I throw little chunks of cheese into the soup to get all melty.  

Still, while good and not fast food, I'll take my comfort food at home, in my pj's, on the couch, watching trash TV.  

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Too Much Bread?

Can you possibly ever have too much bread?  Especially, crunchy crusted bread?  Unfortunately, I think so.  I used the No Knead Bread recipe again because I wanted some artisan style bread to eat during my vacation.  I love the recipe, because even I can make it work.  However, it does produce enough for a whole family - way too much for 1 person (even one with dogs!)

So here it sits in all it's yeasty glory.  All bubbly and wonderfully smelly after sitting overnight.  So taxing....mix flour, water, salt and yeast and just let it sit for 12-18 hours.  Let me wipe the sweat off my brow.

Then dump it into a pre-heated dutch oven and cover and bake for about an hour.  (Actually, I probably  need to cook just a tad longer.)

But it is a huge, dutch oven sized loaf.  

And then I 'found' this blog.....The Italian Dish.  My new, favorite, drool over site.  The list I have of recipes to try is LLLLLOOONNNNGGGGG from here.  Limoncello is probably a project I will do in the spring for some lovely lemonade with a kick for the summer.

Anyway, they used the same recipe, but put the dough in the refrigerator and cut off 'hunks' and made smaller loaves.   Hhhhhmmmmmmm......I could have fresh bread every 3-4 days and not waste any (after all there is only so many bread crumbs and croutons you can have).  It will also allow me some experimentation in seasonings, like rosemary, olive oil and sea salt.  Or a cinnamon, raisin bread.

So I will probably make a new batch on Christmas Eve so I can have some fresh bread on Christmas to go with my roasted hen.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


I came across this a couple of weeks ago while sipping coffee and surfing using  I like Stumble on days when I am feeling slow and want some 'inspiration' or different ideas.

Source: via Judy on Pinterest

I am sorry to say I don't know the 'real' site this came from to give the correct credit to.  But the whole idea really intrigued me.

So last week at work, I did this between phone calls.....

I drew it in pencil, regular, plain old yellow school type pencil and then smudged the edges of the hands a bit to give some shadowing

This was a really fun exercise and one I plan on revisiting at a later date.  And a simple one to do.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

700 Pictures, But Whose Counting

I had two photo excursions today.  The first was at sunrise.  It was cloudy and I love the look of the sunrise with clouds as it gives the sky such a wonderful texture.  So Amani (who will stay with me) and I trotted down to the usual spot.
approach to the lake

tip of cloud reflected on the lake
Amani blends in with the leaves nicely

leaves still hanging in there

red leaves are a nice contrast

sun coming up

more sunrise

sun up

So then is was time to go home and hit the coffee for my walk later in the day.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

End of the Semester.....

Well, another semester is almost at the end.  A couple of tests and turning in a couple of projects and then I will get to PLAY until January 7 when it all starts again.

Here is my final project in my Photoshop class.  We had to design a magazine cover we would like to see.  Since I am not aware of any, I picked cosplay as my magazine theme and used pictures I had taken at last year's Animazement as my pictures.  No worrying about copyright then.  Well, except for the center picture, which Savvy took.  But if she gives me issues, I'll just withhold chocolate and polymer clay and she'll fall into line.

So there it is...."Cosplay" the magazine.  I think I got in all the elements she wanted included, so keeping my fingers crossed.  Of course, I still have to take the final text. 

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Getting to the end of......

my rope, my SEMESTER!

And for some reason I want to do everything and anything but complete what needs to be done.  I want to quilt and knit and clean and organize - but don't want to do schoolwork.

Anyway, I did force myself to work on this, my final project for my InDesign class.  We were suppose to take a town and write a newsletter about some aspect of it.  So I picked my local town and did a spread on local farmer's markets and restaurants which feature local food.  So here goes.....

The stories were not written by me, but were from local newspapers and magazines, as you can see by the credit lines.  Same for the photos in the newsletter.  But all the boxes and design and layout, etc were done by me - for better or for worse.

One problem with learning InDesign and starting to get a hold on it.  I have "projects" in mind....big projects.  A family cookbook could be designed very easily with this.  And something I have been wanting to do for years.....a weekly, pictorial calendar using my pictures.  My only problem is that I can now see asking other artists to submit artwork for the calendar and it gets bigger and bigger.  This is definitely a 'retirement' project.  

Back to being 'interactive'.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

And Yet More Homework.....

Once again Savvy gets drafted to be part of my homework assignment.  We were using the 3D function in Photoshop for this week's lesson.  And I can think of a lot of things down the road (no pun intended!) I can use it for.

Being In The Moment

I am waiting while Photoshop renders a 3D assignment for class.  And it will take awhile it seems.  Actually, it probably wouldn't take so long if I wasn't so impatient and keep poking at it, which makes it stop and have to restart.  Which leads me to the topic of "Mindfulness".

I am intrigued by the whole concept of mindfulness and have done a bit of reading on Buddhism and try to meditate on a regular basis.  In fact, several years ago I took a course on Mindfulness Based Meditation.  My meditation practice however is in line with my dieting practice - almost nonexistant at the moment.

But the idea of 'being in the moment' was a concept which on one level I could acknowledge and understand.  However, it was not something I think I actually experienced.  I have lists, mental, if not physical lists.  And I seem to constantly be going over them in my mind.  (Actually, I don't have a monkey mind - it is more of a gorilla mind.)

And then it happened......I actually experienced being in the moment and I have to thank Texter for it in a way.

This was the scene.  I had gone to measure Texter for her ball gown and since I was only a few minutes from the beach, decided to spend a few minutes on a beautiful fall day, strolling the beach, before heading back on my 2 hour drive home.  Texter and I took one of the dogs and headed for the beach.

Now it was a beautiful day.  Not to cold, sun out, a little windy.  Texter and I were having a pleasant conversation. I was getting a little disgusted that I couldn't find any 'good shells'.  No good shells!  Really? Besides that, ALL I COULD THINK ABOUT WAS ALL THE THINGS I HAD TO DO!

So for about 20 minutes I trudged down the beach, pouting over the shell situation and ignoring everything else around me.  Then it hit me.  I was not in the moment in any form or fashion.  Here was the perfect situation of company and location, and I wasn't mentally there.  I was fretting about things I had no way of doing anything about at that moment and I wasn't enjoying where and when I was.

I suddenly realized what I was doing.  I was doing everything but being in the moment.  I stopped myself and asked myself 'what the heck?' and took a deep breath and made the decision to let everything but the beach, Texter, the 'moment' take over.

And with that decision, I felt about 20 pounds lighter and there were good shells!  

And there was a crab.  Texter and I have a long history with the beach and crabs and it seemed like an omen that after I got into the moment, here on the beach in the fall was a crab about the size of my hand.

So now I know what 'being in the moment' feels like and it is a wonderful feeling.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Call Me Cinder-mother

Yep, that's me....old Cinder-mother.....everyone else gets to go to the ball and I'm sitting at home.  But only after I made the ball gown.  But who can complain as I helped to create this couple.

Texter and Gibbs are ready for the ball.  Picture taken by her father.

When Texter found out 2 months ago there was a ball and knew that she was newly pregnant, there was a dilemma. 

(1) They didn't want to shell out a lot of money for a one-time dress.  
(2) They didn't want to shell out money when saving for the baby.
(3) She didn't know what size she would be.

So, after an hour or so checking out patterns online and armed with Joann Fabric coupons, we set off.  The bodice was from one Burda pattern and the bottom from another.  And Cinder-mother got to put the two of them together to create one dress.

Warning to Self:  Ignore the size on the pattern!  

Luckily, I had this 'feeling' and took it to her a couple of weeks ago, before I sewed the top to the bottom.  Baby Kayden was making her presence known and I had to insert a panel in order to accommodate the hitch hiker.  

Another thing I learned, I really am not wild about Burda patterns. The directions were a bit flaky and I would definitely not recommend them for a novice to sewing.  And you have to go by measurements rather than 'size'.

The fabric was a satiny blue with small glitter flecks in it.  The over fabric is a light blue tissue.  You can see the flecks through the outer covering.  But the bodice is draped and the skirt falls from the empire waist line.

But we got it together and off they went to the ball while Cinder-mother, with a kleenex to her nose, sank into a tub of hot water.  Yep, I was fighting a cold.  Oh, and did I mention I was babysitting, 4 cats and 3 dogs.  Wild Saturday night being had here!

So now, I am THROUGH with ball gowns and onto quilts - baby ones mainly.  And a long, long list of quilts I want to make.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Decadent Typography

One of my assignments was to create a frozen treat.  I, having extensive and continuing ice cream experience, figured this would be a snap.  (It was also an excuse to indulge all in the name of homework!)  My idea was an 'adult' line of ice cream based on alcoholic drinks.  So there would be a White Russian, Brandy Alexander, Pina Colada, etc.  You get the idea.

So then this week we had to design a logo based on our new treat.  Here are a couple I came up with.

This was my first design idea.  I liked the 'racy' look of the red and black and thought the reflection added something to the overall design.  

Then I had this idea, if I really wanted rich, luxury, what is more rich and luxurious than gold.

So then came these ideas.....

My favorite so far I think.

And then I went for the intertwined letters.  I need to work on my embossing a bit, there are a few 'dimples', but this was my late, last project I worked on.

I could work for hours on playing with tutorials and then using my images and designs.  Unfortunately, my wrist feels the same way!

Monday, November 05, 2012

Video for Homework

In my class where I am learning Photoshop, we had to do a video this week.  It was suppose to be a 'commercial' of our choosing.  Since I have been walking on the Neuse River Trail near my house and they have done so much work on it recently, I thought I would highlight it.

Actually, they are building a suspension bridge right by my house, I can't wait for it to be finished and I will have literally MILES of paved walkway for the dog and I to walk and bike on.

But it is so beautiful.  And while there are times you are walking behind houses, for the most part, the trail is wooded and lovely.  Where I am getting onto the trail now, there is a dam across the river which I could sit there and listen to the water over the dam for hours.  So I hope you enjoy the video.....

Another Homework Assignment

This week, along with creating a video (which will come later), I had to paint a picture.  Well, actually I had to paint an existing photograph to make it look like a painting.  And I couldn't cheat and use filters. Just me, Photoshop and brushes.

So this was the original picture I started with.


And then, there is my 'painting'.  

Ok, so Monet doesn't have to worry about being kicked out of painting stardom anytime soon, but it was a fun homework assignment.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

To Continue Downton Abbey Fix

To me, BBC does some of the best programming going.  And I am willing to go to the trouble of finding where I can stream online as I have cut the cable cord and it is sometimes hard to watch current episodes.  But Downton Abbey is one of my current TV fixes.  The third season is ending up which means I now have to go find and view online, but it won't happen until December, as November is CRAZY!!!!

But, in the meantime, I have flown through this book to get a similar fix.

At 985 pages, this is a book which would lend itself to an e-reader as you will spend vast amounts of time reading this book.  You literally can't put it down.  So a warning to your wrists.

The book follows the intertwined lives of four different families.  You have your aristocratic Fitzherbert family, the Welsh mining Wiliams, the American Gus Dewar and the Russian Peshkov family.  And boy, do they mix it up.

Starting just prior to World War I, most of the action is set in the Welsh mining region of England.  And from there every one's personal lives get drawn into the world events of the Great War.  Lovers are divided by the war, the noble idea of war is exposed for the falsehood it is in the trenches in France and in England women fight not only the war, but for their rights.

This is only book one in a trilogy.  And it proves out why I really dislike 'series'.  If you get a really good one (like this book) and you get in on the first book, you must silently fume until the next book comes out.  If you come late to the game, then you read like crazy for weeks and are exhausted by the end.  So I am silently fuming, drumming my fingers until the next book comes out. 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Not Enough Time!

I scheduled myself with too much work and not enough time for homework this week.  So after scrambling (and whining) I got a couple of people to  work for me today so I could get all my homework done in basically one day.  And there is a NaNoWriMo kickoff today too.  And housework....

Anyway, we had to do a postcard of a favorite place.  Since I have some pictures I took in Paris and I don't have to worry about copyright, etc., my postcard is of Paris.

I'll take it.  Work for me.  So now to throw in a load of wash, eat some breakfast and back to homework.  

Monday, October 22, 2012

Trying Not to be a Couch Potato

This time of the year makes it easy(er) to not be as much of a couch potato.  Actually, there are times I feel like a 10 lb. bag of potatoes.  I work, tied to a computer for 8 hours a day and then I come home and do school work which has me tied to the computer for 2-3 more hours a night.

But they are really doing some great things just up the road from me on the Neuse River Trail.  They are paving the pathway - which is wide enough for a truck to drive down by the way.  And they are building bridges across the river so there are more access points.  One such bridge is just suppose to be a couple of blocks away from me when finished.

But this is the drive up from the parking area when I have been taking Noel for walks when I can.

I think it is amazing, in the middle of a large urban area, that there is this slice of beauty and peace.  Granted, while walking, there are times you hear the cars and see the backs of houses (boy, would I like to have one of those houses which back up to the trail). But for the most part, it is a really meditative walk if you wish.

There are a few joggers and bikers on the trail, so I haven't ever had it completely to myself, but still, they are few and far between.  And at 20 miles or so, you do get a lot of peace and quiet to walk if you wish.

And you still have the opportunity to see some wildlife like this....

Hopefully, I will keep up some walking and observing instead of sitting all the time.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Latest Homework Assignment

This week's assignment was a doozy.  We had to duplicate a little, red-haired cartoon boy.  The style is not one I really care for, but the tools used will come in really handy.

This is the original.

Cute design.  Learned a lot about blending and shadows and creating shadows and layers.  Tons and tons of layers.  And the pen tool.  The tutorial stated this exercise should take you about 40 minutes.

Well, if you multiply that by about 12, you would get the amount of time it took me to complete the project.

This is my little boy.  I think I did a fair job of duplicating the original. 

Then we had to create a 'companion'.  It couldn't be a 'twin', but had to be something or someone different.  Since Texter is into monkeys these days, I went with monkeys.

The final picture was the boy and his monkey with a ball playing outside.  The background we didn't have to do, but just sitting there on a blank canvas was boring. 

 The only problem is that I now have a huge backlog of videos I want to watch on different techniques and I still have a dress to sew.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Midterm Map Project

Midterms are in process and in my classes I had to submit design projects.  This is the project for my Adobe Indesign class.  We had to create a two facing pages spread about what we have learned so far and where we are going.  In fact, the assignment was labeled Typography Map.

And as it happened, I took a walk this past week and took pictures which flowed well into my project.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Halloween Tweaked.....

Did a little tweaking to the picture.  My tweaks made Savvy a little scarier, which I am sure will meet her approval.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Happy Halloween (Mid-Term Project)

This is my mid-term project for my Photoshop class.  We had to at least use 1 picture from our 'stash'.  My problem with this is I have over 5000 pictures now and I really realized I need to get my pictures better organized.  That will be a job for several hours in front of the TV.  Maybe a "Lord of the Rings" viewing would be good for that.

The faces are my daughters, their significant others, their dad and step-monster (her term, not mine).  They are coming out of a foggy lake picture I had taken.  Played a little with liquify, smudging, cropping.  Actually, it is so easy to forget the time when you start working on one of these.

But this was an easy exercise in that I didn't really have to think about what to do.  When I read the assignment I knew immediately what I wanted to do.  Used a couple of hints from tutorials out of the "Practical Photoshop" magazine I had on hand.

So we shall see if my instructor likes it as well as I do.   I hope she will think treat, not trick.  BOO!