Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year! With Greens . . .

I'm from a Southern family, (see how I even capitalize it?) and it is a Southern tradition to eat black-eyes peas on New Years Day for good luck. In my house, you were supposed to eat one black-eyed pea for every day of good luck you wanted in the new year. I don't think my dad actually counted them, but he was very diligent in his bean consumption.

This is one of my favorite recipes for black-eyed peas, which I made up one year after I had discovered the glory of cooking and eating kale. Since it's made up, it changes a lot, and I'm constantly adapting it based on what I happen to have on hand. Leeks have found their way into the mix, as has chard. Needless to say, all amounts are approximate! Adjust to your taste.

And here it is, written out:

New Year's Day Black-Eyed Peas with Kale

2-3 bunches of kale, cut into 1" ribbons
2 tablespoons olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 large onion, diced (you can dice and freeze the other half to use later, or just use a smaller onion)
1/4 to 1/2 water (depending on amount of kale used)
2 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
2 cans of black-eyed peas, drained

Heat oil in a large stockpot. Add onions and garlic, and cook garlic and onion 'til tender. Add kale, and toss in the onion, garlic, and oil mixture. (The kale will be bulky, so this will be tough - just get as much off the bottom of the pot and onto the greens as possible). Add 1/4 cup water, cover and cook entire mixture over medium heat until tender. The kale will brighten and wilt down when it's ready. Add extra water only if pot starts to run dry.

Toss in crumbled feta cheese (I love goat feta!) and black-eyed peas (depending on your taste, and the number of people you're serving, and how lucky you want to be, you may want to add extra black-eyed peas). Add salt and pepper to taste. I have also been known to add toasted pine nuts over the top. Serve it with ham! YUM!

I feel lucky already . . .

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Wordwear Workshop: On Tag Team Teaching

At the beginning of December, Gretchin and I taught The Strong Silent Type: Creating Your Own Wordwear at Scarlet Star Studios. The workshop was based on Gretchin's development of wonderful metal tag jewelry featuring meaningful phrases, jewelry she called wordwear. After a few conversations with her, I started doing some word tag jewelry of my own, using different techniques. Finally, we came together and developed a class that brought the best of both our worlds together. I'm certainly not the first to blog about it - Gretchin put a few words in on her blog, as did one of the participants, Dayna. And I've got samples of finished jewelry posted on my website.

This is a shot from the workshop - it shows how gloriously chaotic the workspace gets and how intensely everyone focuses on their individual projects. I love it!

And I loved teaching with Gretchin. We had several great conversations about our theories of teaching and how to structure the class - each of us focusing on the things that we do best. Gretchin started the workshop with some writing exercises, helping everyone find their own words - something I wouldn't have done if I'd been teaching the class alone. When it came time to demonstrate, I did my big letters, pounded deep, and ornamented with lots of extra bling, colors, and beads - bringing in all sorts of jewelry-making know-how. And then Gretchin showed everyone how to use tiny letters for a neat, precise, clean look well-spaced on the tag. And by teaching both methods, Gretchin and I (as well as our students) learned a lot of new things!

Including the fact that Gretchin and I had each developed our own ways of doing wordwear based a lot on our own personal styles - I do a lot of big, bold, loose art, mixing media - always with an eye towards the emotional impact of the whole. Gretchin has worked as a calligrapher and poet, and all that attention to detail and spacing as well as an incredible respect for the words themselves has informed her way of working much smaller and cleaner, with a focus on the words themselves.

And it was marvelous to see the students experiment with both styles, to see them have so many options to explore. To see how some reveled in my style of unbridled enthusiasm and experimentation, and to see how others felt so at home with Gretchin's introspective calm and gentle precision. And some who happily rode the wave of both.

And this is one of the biggest challenges of teaching. To stay true to your own style while accommodating the needs and styles of as many students as possible.

On a very different note, the Sweetie and I went and saw Enchanted yesterday. Very fun - especially the whole singing in Central Park scene - it was like seeing one of my private fantasies played out on the big screen. Grin.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Cookies and Birthdays

If my math is correct, my dad would have been 59 years old today. Sadly, he died several years ago, when he was only 54. But I associate these cookies with him. Like so many memories, it's all a little blurry, but I seem to remember that this recipe came from his mother, and I seem to remember him making them. I certainly remember him enjoying them. I made them for Christmas this year, and am giving you all the gift of this easy, high-calorie, high-taste, and slightly addictive recipe in his honor.

And here it is written out:

No Bake Chocolate Cookies (or: The Only Reason I buy Peanut Butter)

Mix the following in a pan on the stovetop:
1/2 cup cocoa
1/2 cup milk
1 cup butter
2 1/2 cups sugar
Bring to a rolling boil, stirring regularly, for 3 minutes

Remove from heat and add:
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup peanut butter (I like smooth)
2 1/2 cups oatmeal (I usually use rolled oats rather than quick oats, but either will work)

Stir! When mixed, pour into a 2 quart casserole dish or drop by spoonful on wax paper. Let cool. Either way, I cut it into fudge-sized pieces after it's cooled because this is some rich stuff! Devour.

Though I'm not sure where the original recipe came from, the version I have here at home is written out in my mother's handwriting, so thanks Mom and Dad! And thanks to Mollie Katzen and the Moosewood Cookbooks , Futuregirl, and Summer Pierre (if you click through, scroll down to see the pumpkin pie recipe) who gave me the idea for making my own illustrated family recipes.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Post-Holiday Ennui

It happens every year, and I guess I should expect it.

The after-the-holidays gray gloom. And I'm not just talking about the weather, though that's been pretty grim, too. The snow Portland was promised for today is turning out to be nothing more than very cold rain, though we did have a few fluffy flakes on Christmas day.

It may have something to do with coming off of an incredible sugar high - I baked like a maniac Sunday night, making Chocolava Cookies, Pineapple-Pumpkin Bread with swirls of handmade cranberry sauce, and my family's infamous No-Bake Cookies which are like the carbo-crack love child of fudge and chocolate-peanut-butter-oatmeal-bars. I finally stopped eating them late last night, and packed up the last few today to hand out to friends. After all, there are still a few gifts under the tree that need to be distributed. And this morning, I finally finished cleaning out the stove, and got the last of the baking dishes done. Yippee.

And just as baking must be followed by clean-up, it may just be that a high like Christmas must naturally be followed by a low.

It was a great Christmas. I had a marvelous time with The Sweetie's family and I got some really good things that were on my list - a bat house so that I can play hostess to flying rodents (read even more about it at; a Versa-Tool and a soldering gun; and a Ratatouille Holiday Ornament to add to my holiday mouse village scene (you can see the new ornament on the bottom left . . . and no, I don't actually need any more mouse miniatures)

But now I just don't feel excited about much of anything. I've got a stack of things I need to do and an oodle of fun projects I could work on, and I just can't seem to work up enthusiasm for any of it. It feels like ennui, though I have no excuse for the boredom and dissatisfaction associated with it.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Happy Holidays!

I'll be taking a break until after Christmas, so here's a happy holiday
for you and yours from me and The Sweetie.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Extra Holiday DEMO! Switchplate Covers

Happy Holidays! I got the last of my holiday cards and gifts mailed off to those far away relatives and friends . . . of course, as usually happens, in spite of expedited shipping and the best of plans, many will arrive after Christmas. Still, it feels good to have them out the door, and a late present just means the holiday lasts a little longer! And the Heifer International gift donation cards that I ordered December 2nd finally came in yesterday, so while they went out to their recipients late, they did go out today. And big thanks to Linda Womack for the idea of giving friends and family beehives for Christmas - or at least donating them to needy families in honor of friends and family.

In celebration of holiday tasks well-completed, here's an extra DEMO! for those last minute stocking stuffers - or just to fill that extra time you'll have this holiday weekend (giggle snort).

When I first figured out my own switch plate decoupage technique 4 or 5 years ago, I made them for friends and then I made them with friends . . . and now almost all of my friends have houses or apartments full of ornamental, personalized switch plates. And this is another fun thing that you can do with kids . . . as long as you don't mind the glue getting a little messy and you stay in charge of the Exacto knife!

To start you'll need the mother of all decoupage glues - Mod Podge - along with a blank switch plate cover, a foam brush, a craft knife, scissors, and some lightweight decorative papers. Collage on Alberta in Portland carries all of these items (except blank switch plate covers), or you can find them in almost any craft store. Blank switch plate covers can be found at any hardware store, or you can find used/reclaimed ones at The Rebuilding Center or similar recycled building supply store in your area.

1. To start, cut your paper a little larger than the switch plate. This works best with lighter weight papers - heavier card stock or calendar weight papers are harder to work with and don't wrap easily around the curved edges.

2. Next, coat the switch plate with a thick layer of Mod Podge glue.

3. Position the plate face down on the paper. To position the paper, and make sure that nothing significant is in the outlet holes, hold it up to the light and adjust it before the glue dries. Fill in the edges with more glue.

4. Fold the paper up around the edges.

5. Pinch the corners up. Don't trim the edges yet!

6. With your thumbs, press the paper to the plate, smoothing out any wrinkles and bubbles. Make sure that the paper is pressed firmly to all areas of the plate.

7. There is no need to fold the edges around the back. Just let it dry. Really. Go get coffee. Just let it dry. Don't try to trim it yet. Trust me. It'll take about 15-20 minutes, depending on how much glue you used.

8. Now that it's dry, use an art knife to trim the excess paper off the edges.

9. Use a pair of scissors to clip the paper corners off.

10. Again using an art knife, cut out the outlet holes and screw holes.

Using an art knife makes the edges very clean and pretty!

12. Now it's time to add some more bling. Add extra papers or even lightweight three dimensional objects. To add papers, use Mod Podge. To add 3D elements use Crafter's Pick Ultimate Glue. Make sure that you're not positioning 3D elements in such a way that you won't be able to plug things in or switch the light on easily.

13. Let it dry again, and trim any holes or edges again as needed.

14. Now apply a few protective coats of Mod Podge over the front. Let it dry. You can also spray it with a protective acrylic coating or coat it with Diamond Glaze or resin for a harder more protective finish.

And see how tidy the back is? Lovely!

And here's some sample switch plate covers. The possibilities are endless!

Still stressing over last minute holiday wrapping? Here's a few cool links I found - one for some cool gift tags from Angry Chicken and another for a nifty recycled scrap gift wrap idea from Sister Diane and DIY Alert. Have a happy, crafty holiday!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

My Banner?

What the heck happened? It's all squished. Did I somehow lose my Blogger pixel allowance? Help?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A Little Holiday Cheer

This weekend, the Sweetie surprised me and put together the tree! I was looking forward to decorating it, but not assembling it. The Sweetie read my mind and got the whole thing in ready-to-decorate mode which utterly refreshed my holiday spirit! I went crazy putting on little bird ornaments . . .

Sweet little felt ones from Tanya Harvey . . .

And some glass ones, too, with actual tail feathers! I had a few cast resin bird ornaments that I'd gotten on sale at Fred Meyer last year after the holidays. Finally, there were some carved and painted wood bird ornaments that I'd picked up at various import stores and on my travels. It's as close as I've ever gotten to having a real "theme tree" like you see in magazines.

Of course, there were a few exceptions - a few non-bird ornaments. After all, it's important to be well-rounded. Celebrate Diversity. Have a tree that doesn't look exactly like it came out of a magazine, but that looks like real people decorated it.
So we threw in a few extras for good measure.

Han Solo.

And Optimus Prime.

What can I say? We're Geeks.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Holiday Flights of Fancy

The Holidays! Weeee! Haven't been home this week, so still haven't taken my-fake-tree-in-a-box out of its box. But I'm still feeling a bit giddy . . . what's been exciting and delighting me this holiday decorating season?

My new wreath from Bodywreath . . . lovely holiday linens that I got on after-holiday sale last year and am just now getting to use . . . a marvelous tea towel that I found at a grocery store yesterday with bright green dingle-balls on it . . . and collecting and making birdie ornaments for my tree.

The tree may not actually go up until the 23rd, but hey, I've been gathering some of the coolest bird ornaments ever . . . and been keeping my eyes open for more. I won't be able to get any of these - Aux petits oiseaux made these for holiday trades that I was too late to participate in - but you have to check them out for their shear cuteness . . . is it too late for me to buy some felt? UPDATE: Here's the link to the family fun site where Aux Petits Oiseaux found the inspiration for her ornaments . . . warning: they may want you to download flash to see it!

And I did get a few of these from Tanya Harvey at the Audubon Society's annual Wild Arts Festival - dear me, the roundness and the attention to detail! She knows her bird species . . . searching the site is like a lesson in ornithology . . .

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Other Side of My Brain

Right now, I'm in Eugene, Oregon with my dear friend Helen, assisting her on a credit union audit.

I came off of a week full of art teaching - finishing up Memory Jewelry, posting a new DEMO! and teaching The Strong, Silent Type: Creating Wordwear with Gretchin - and art making. I'm working feverishly on holiday gifts and trying to put the finishing touches on some pieces for the Gresham Postcards from Afar show.

Then, I'm off to Eugene for an audit.

So, how the heck does an artist end up working as an assistant to an auditor?

For many years, I worked in market research. I designed, conducted, analyzed and reported surveys and their results to help companies design products and communicate more effectively with customers and constituents. I loved working on government and non-profit projects, projects where I really was working with the organization to help them identify and meet people's needs, and to foster more effective communication with the people they served. And the analysis? That was all about seeing patterns. So the job in market research ended, and morphed into doing similar survey work inside government agencies, talking to people on large-scale government IT projects about their needs and how to foster more effective communication within the team and with stakeholders. I also started doing more work asking people about procedures and processes - was the management structure effective? Was there a clear process in place to address issues and conflicts? Etc. Combine this awareness of processes and growing awareness of best practices with an ability to see patterns, and poof, I got a gig working on audits. I talk to people. I understand their processes. I see the gaps that make it less effective. Of course, in both cases, I'm working with subject matter experts - people who've each been in their respective fields (IT project management/QA/risk assessment and Credit Union management/audit) for over 20 years. In both cases, it's part-time sub-contract work, and it pays well. When there's work.

Of course, the fact that I'm carrying my iBook on the job is an immediate hint to the end client that I'm not their typical IT/CPA person.

And it's nutty, but the skills do cross over. Different lingo. Different applications. Similar skills. It's still about asking questions, listening, seeing patterns.

Friday, December 7, 2007

DEMO! Memory Magnets

I love making the memory magnets . . . and finally, here is a picture-by-picture demo of how to make them. You saw me talk about making them on AM Northwest a few months ago, but I think this is a little easier to follow . . . Get Crafty!

You'll need: large clear flat glass pebbles (at least 1" in diameter) or flat glass marbles, a cutting implement, Diamond Glaze glue, heavy duty ceramic magnets, and either E6000 or Goop glue. If you're local to Portland, you can get all these goodies at Collage. If you're not, JudiKins makes Diamond Glaze and you can get a free sample here. One good on-line resource for the glass pebbles is Stampington. They also carry Diamond Glaze. Most of the ones you get in the floral supply sections of craft stores are glazed or cloudy: some bubbles are to be expected, and add to the effect, but try to find the clearest ones you can!

1. Make color photocopies of your favorite family photos.
Ink jet prints don't work well, as the glue can make them bleed. I also don't recommend using originals - photocopies will protect your originals, and allow you to reduce the images to a variety of sizes.

2. Position the pebble so you can get the best composition, and position any flaws or bubbles in the pebble away from faces!
This is part of why it's nice to have reductions in a variety of sizes.

3. Then trace the outline of the pebble and cut the image out.
I find that it works well to trace around the pebble on the image, and then cut it out slightly inside the trace line. Keep in mind that the edges of the image won't show up under the glass because of the magnifying quality of the glass. I like to have the paper image just a bit smaller than the glass. Sometimes, I'll also just use my craft knife to trace and cut at the same time.

4. Assuming an image that's 1" to 2" in diameter, squeeze a dime-sized dollop of Diamond Glaze brand glue onto the image.
Diamond Glaze is the glue of choice because it dries really hard and clear.

5. Place the glass pebble over the image. Press the image into the glass, starting with your thumbs at the center. The glue will start to spread!
You want to end up with a very thin coating of glue completely covering the space between the paper and the glass. Press from the center to the edges, spreading the glue evenly between the glass and the image. Use your thumbs to smooth out bubbles and make sure that the glue is covering everything. It's like a sandwich, and the glue is like the mustard or the mayo. Wipe away any excess glue that oozes out - and trust me, glue will ooze out!

6. Once the image has started to dry, you can clean any gluey fingerprints off of the glass with rubbing alcohol. It gets harder to do after 24 hours.

7. Let the glass-glue-image sandwich dry for about 15 or 20 minutes. Then squeeze a blob of Goop or E6000 glue onto the back of the sandwich.

8. Press a heavy duty ceramic magnet into the glue, and let it dry. And it's done! Using a slightly heavier paper is a good choice, as with very thin paper, the E6000 or Goop can bleed through the paper leaving a little bit of a dark shadow on the front of the image.

This is just a taste of the techniques I cover in my memory jewelry class . . . intrigued? There's another class starting in February . . . Until then, make merry with the magnets! And I love to get photos of what people make with the DEMOS!

And, as with all the DEMOS! feel free to use these instructions yourself or link to them, but please don't reprint, republish, or distribute without permission. Thanks!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

More Octopus Love - and Ms. Crafty Manners!

Futuregirl had this lovely post today about a woman who had made 99 Octopi ornaments from the Octophrost: Santa of the Sea pattern . . . and then I wandered over to the flickr pool dedicated entirely to Octophrost . . . it's making me - and Ms. Crafty Manners* - think a lot about generosity and reciprocity.

I mean, yes, this is the holiday season, and yes, we all want to give something meaningful to our friends and loved ones (like Octopi ornaments), and yes, we all want to be generous as teachers (like sending out patterns early or giving lots of free advice). And - at the same time - we want to be compensated for that time and energy that we put out as teachers. Sometimes, I get frustrated by how much I am asked to give away - lots of information, advice, etc. Yet most people don't really want to be greedy - and the compensation that comes back doesn't have to be money.

And Ms. Crafty Manners reminds me that the compensation I want often comes from a completely source or in a completely different form . . . for instance, I recently asked for a photo of a finished project from a women who had corresponded with me via e-mail after seeing my craft segment on AM Northwest. She is having so much fun with the project - and having this photo of the magnets she made as a gift for a school teacher has left me with a wonderful sense of accomplishment and satisfaction - and it now it all feels like a really good exchange . . .

All this is not to say that the exchanges have to be one-for-one or that every action needs reciprocation from the same source in an I-give-you-this-you-give-me-that way. Just that the energy needs to flow both ways. And this was a wonderful energy flow . . . just like what happened with Futuregirl and the Many Octopi Makers. Ms. Crafty Manners would approve. And now I have to go buy an Octophrost Pattern.

(*Ms. Crafty Manners is my much better behaved alter-ego, exploring the etiquette of all things crafty. I expect her to pop her head in from time to time, putting her two cents worth in on copyrights, teacher treatment, workshop manners, and all things polite in this frequently rude - but ultimately well-intentioned - beg, borrow, and steal world of the arts.)

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Fame in the Blogosphere, or, NaBloPoMo is Over - Now What?

Well, fame would be a bit exaggerating things a bit - I ran into Eyecon Arts at a gallery opening last week and she totally recognized me from my blog! Came up and said, "hi" and we got into a lovely conversation about teaching! Then, I got blogged . . . Alley Arts, a participant in Artmaking as Playful Prayer, blogged about the class! How cool is that?

NaBloPoMo is over - I did it! - I blogged every day during November, so I doubt I'll be blogging every day during the next few months - but it has been amazing to start really following a few blogs on an almost-daily basis. It's amazing the tidbits you can pick up! Thanks to MK5, I know what quilting gloves are and what it is to quilt in the ditch - and I got some great Scrabble tips!

So what happens after NaBloPoMo? I skip a day of blogging, and throw my annual Holiday Craft Party (which really needs a catchy new name, folks!). It was the first time I'd had a bunch of people over to play in my studio * - a converted two-car garage attached to my house - and so I finally christened it: The Hearth. (see how "art" appears in the middle of the word? feel the warmth?) This is the heart and home of Eyes Aflame . . . egads, I'm getting a little weepy! Time for pictures . . .

Believe it or not, these were taken as the party was winding down, and I finally remembered to pull out my camera . . . check out Susan in that amazing hat! Pele looks on in . . . well, Pele looks on. Michael is totally concentrating on getting his switchplate covers just right . . .

And here are the stars of Scarlet Star Studios . . .Gretchin and Sven! Gretchin made these amazing little snow folk (look close!) . . . and Sven crafted a creature with magnetically attached poseable - and removable - arms!

And this cute couple - Chama and Sandy - met at one of my Holiday Craft Parties - three years ago?! Four years ago?! My, how time flies . . . See how gettin' crafty and gettin' your art on just brings people together? And keeps them together? Ok, I'm getting weepy again!

On a groovy note, Sandy brought a really cool card idea to the party . . . I've got to figure out how to do a demo of it for you . . . but in the meantime, keep your eyes peeled for TWO great gifty demos this week . . . inspired by my Holiday Craft Parties!

* Added later: A month ago or so, for a Women's Networking Group meeting, I had six or seven folks over to the studio - and that felt like a warm-up.  The fifteen to twenty who showed up for the Holiday Craft Party?  That, well, that was a full-on christening! And yeah, I really think the space can work for classes . . . hmmm