Tuesday, November 30, 2010

I've been away too long...

I can't believe so much time has passed since my last post! I have been away on a remote island, isolated from my friends and my artwork. Even though this beautiful photo shows an idyllic spot for a restful vacation, the truth is they work you to the bone out there! While the sun is shining warmly outside, I was stuck inside laboring away. No working on my tan on a pearly beach, or sipping an umbrella accented tropical libation for me. Cut, cut, cut! Stamp, stamp, stamp! Emboss, emboss, emboss, emboss, emboss! One day I will need to have an X-ray and the doctors will be puzzled about the metallic spots on my lungs. I will explain that years earlier I was stuck on this island and inhaled so much embossing powder that I have silver lung disease!

Truth is it was a labor of love. I have been making wedding invitations for my youngest son and his fiance for their New Year's Eve wedding. 

The color theme of their wedding is silver, platinum, and ivory. I used the Amuse shimmer card stock in platinum and silver brocade, with metallic silver for the outer folder and ivory matte card stock for the actual invitation and accessory pieces. I made a couple of different samples of invitation styles and they ultimately chose the original vision that they had for their invitation.

The invitation measures 5"x7" and is in a "landscape" format instead of the usual "portrait" mode. It has a flap that tucks under a label which is printed with their initials and embossed with a silver snowflake. I used Ranger super fine detail silver embossing powder and a snowflake stamp from a Making Memories cling stamp set I bought last year at Ink About It.

A sneak peek of what's inside

For the actual invitation, I printed it, justified right (all printing done with Microsoft Word and my trusty Epson printer) then stamped with the beautiful new Memory Box #E1410 Crystal Snowflake and embossed in silver.

When opened it measures 5" x 15 1/4" with a 1 3/4" notched and folded pocket. Now when we decided on the format, it didn't dawn on me that even though I could obtain 11" x 17" stock, there isn't a paper trimmer around the store or in my studio that can cut the card stock lengthwise! Thank god for Printing Solutions next door; they swiftly and efficiently cut the 100 sheets of card stock in half for me for a nominal fee. However I wasn't out of the woods just yet. I had to figure my plan of attack carefully. First I scored all fold lines with a scoring blade on my Carl paper trimmer (that is after I lost my scoring blade, purchased a new one, only to find the original one later). With the strip of card stock folded up on a score line, I then scored (through 2 layers simultaneously) 1/4" line down the length of the card stock, on either side. I snipped a 1/4" notch at the pocket score line, then cut off the rest of the 1/4" score line that I had just made, on either side. All this to get a scored 1/4" gusset to fold under and make a pocket with. Lastly, I cut the squared corners off the other end for the flap. The cutting for the silver metallic outer folder took 11 hours alone.  Have I talked you out of doing invitations yet?

There are 3 components inside the pocket; the reply card, reception, and direction information cards.

These pieces were cut so they would stack uniformly, and each one has - let's say it all together now -  more embossed snowflakes.

Now just for fun, I decided to make them a "fantasy" style invitation sample. I got the idea for this invitation on a drive home from work one night and had to make it come to fruition. One of the decorations for the reception are silver branches that will be in large vases on the tables. I took my cue from these silver branches for the following sample....

Imagine receiving a thin ivory box in your mail box....

When opened, it reveals a wedding invitation under a silvery branch, tied up in platinum organza ribbon and...

yes, snow!

Underneath is all the information needed to attend the crystalline event.

I had so much fun making this sample. The box is from the Paper Source and it is legally mailable (albeit costly). 

Please bear with me as there is more projects to be completed before the wedding in 32 days - yikes! I will post as often as possible in this time period and look forward to the quiet month of January when I can begin anew on my artwork and blogging about it.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Apple Season

Here in the Northeast the air is turning cool, which signals apple harvest time. Like any dyed-in-the-wool New Englander, this is my favorite time of year. I much prefer my fall/winter cooking and baking recipes over my spring/summer barbecue fare. Two weeks ago my husband and I went apple picking to get some apples for eating as well as for making delicious apple recipes. We traveled an hour to Cider Hill Farm in Amesbury specifically for their fabulous apple cider donuts. You can watch them being made, and then snatch them while they are still warm and sugary!

This one didn't even make it out of the parking lot.

They have a beautiful property all decked out with the season's bounty.

We walked up the hill to pick Honey Crisp and Macintosh.

They have a small petting zoo with farm animals like goats,

and a big tom turkey

We brought home two enormous bags of apples and a dozen eleven apple cider donuts. I planned on making some kind of dessert with some of the apples the following weekend....

Later on that week,  I was walking my dog in the neighborhood, when I saw a couple of boxes sitting by the curb. Of course my inner dialogue said "there could be something I could use in an art project over there", so I walked over to check it out. In the first box I saw a bunch of empty glass spice jars. I rationalized that these could either be used for storage or could be part of a mixed media project.  I gathered as many as I could and stuffed them in every pocket I had. In the last box, I found three cast iron skillets. There were two small ones and a larger skillet that all looked like they were in fairly good condition but entirely too heavy to carry home with the spice jars and a dog on a leash. I quickly finished my walk with the dog so I could take my car back over there to retrieve the skillets. 

I knew they just needed a little cleaning, but being cast iron I thought it was a good idea to find out how to clean them. Whenever I need to learn something, I immediately turn to my new favorite instructional guide: You Tube. Sure enough, I found quite a few videos on how to clean and season rusty cast iron cookware. I followed the instructions to wash in soapy water (after all they were living outside), scrub them with a warm oil and salt mixture, and finally season them by buffing in a little oil. After about 1 1/2 hours of elbow grease later, I had three velvety black skillets.

I passed on the two smaller skillets to my sons, and kept the large one for myself. The great thing about cast iron cookware is that it is the original "non-stick" cookware and using it regularly actually supplements your daily iron intake! It cooks as well on top of the stove as it does in the oven, and it's practically indestructible. I say "practically" because my mother, who was know in my family as the "destructor-bot" broke the handle off of her large black iron skillet.

For my first foray into cast iron cooking, I found a Skillet Apple Cobbler recipe on the blog "The Other Side Of  Fifty". I made it as shown with the exception of the boiled cider and as I always do, I substituted half of the white flour with half wheat flour. It filled the house with the sweet scent of cinnamon and it was delicious with a little vanilla bean ice cream on the side. 

So if you have a cast iron skillet in the back recesses of your kitchen cabinet, get it out and try this recipe with some of this season's bounty.

Monday, October 4, 2010

A Studio Tour

I thought I would show you my happy place: my home studio. My husband and I redecorated our son's bedroom when he moved out to his own place. Before then, I had always worked wherever I could find a place to temporarily spread out. When we lived in apartments, I would use the kitchen table as my craft lab. When we bought our house, there wasn't any room for my stuff, so I took over a small part of the dining room. Problem was our dining room is a pass-through to the rest of the house and my piles of fabric; I was a quilter at the time, was expanding with no where to go. 
When my son went to college I asked him if it would be alright to use one wall of  his room. After all it was completely empty on one side and I really could use the space. He graciously agreed. Little did he know that over the course of his four years away at school,  my art stuff would grow like one of those giant pumpkins you see at the county fair. I had not only started art school myself, but I discovered the wonderful world of Altered Books, Collage, Sculpture and Mixed Media.  When he came home to visit, he literally was sleeping inside of a craft closet!
Today I have a beautiful room all to myself. I painted the walls a sunshiny yellow, which was inspired by the quilt artist Freddy Moran and her beautiful quilt studio. I saw an interview on television with her and I always remembered her saying that her yellow studio was bright and sunny even on the grayest of rainy days. I feel instantly happy when I open my studio door. The woodwork was painted with a hint of yellow mixed into the paint, and I painted the ceiling a light sky blue. 

This is my cutting counter that I bought for $25.00! It was a discontinued floor sample. I keep my altered books, unfinished projects, a sewing machine and drill press behind the doors.

These mannequins were made by members of my Altered Arts Group.

This is my chandelier with a little friend perched on it. It really is more useful than decorative.

I do most of  my work on this drafting table that I got for $15.00. Notice the beautiful quilt on my chair which was a Christmas present from my friend Peggy.

This inspirational fortune is taped to my swing arm task lamp for me to ponder every day.

This is my main ink pad storage and little drawers for tiny bits and bobs.

Plenty of tools to color and paint with in pots on the counter.

This is my favorite storage piece. It is a Closet Maid drawer system which holds tools in the two top drawers and the other deep drawers hold adhesives, paints, glitters, embossing powders and punches.

Did I mention I have a few jars of paint?

Another drawer holds Colorbox chalk and Fresco ink pads.

This is my sweet baby Singer Featherweight.

Sometimes I like to type out some text for collaging on this old Royal typewriter.

My collection of art & craft books sits on a long shelf over my work area. I also display little works of art from friends here too.

This is my itty bitty, extremely awkward closet. I have it packed to the max with raw materials and magazines, magazines, magazines!

This is the latest addition to my studio, this fabulous storage unit from Ikea. It holds so much stuff.

More paint - Golden Glazes.

These old metal lunch boxes makes great storage for all sorts of things.

This is my new rubber stamp storage. I used to have my wood stamps stored in 2 six drawer rolling carts and my unmounted stamps stored in four over sized plastic shoe boxes up high on a shelf. Now everything lives together organized and labeled in these Stampendous "Thickers" storage containers. Each one holds a single layer of stamps so you can easily see and get to your collection. 

This is my BIG storage cabinet for fabric. I got this for $25.00 too!

The shelves can barely hold up from the weight of the expansive fabric stash. Each basket holds a different color. On the top shelf is my ribbon storage in Snapware containers.

On the back of the studio door is my large art paper storage. I used five curtain rods to hold over 75 sheets of paper organized by color. When I want a sheet, I just unhook the curtain rod, get what I want, then clip it back on the fixture. Underneath are a few tote bags and to the right,  a step stool.

Home Sweet Home Studio 

Saturday, September 18, 2010

What's in a name?

Here is my little mascot, all 2 1/2 inches tall,  who has recently had a makeover. Thank you to Sandra Evertson for her wonderful blog tutorial on making little crowns: 

I was able to make this teeny tiny one for her.

 I am requesting your help with naming my little mascot who will pop up from time to time in my posts. Please leave a comment with your idea for a name. Whoever comes up with the name that is chosen will get credit for naming her as well as a little thank you gift from me and I'll post a link to your blog. Thanks for your help!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Can't get enough of these blueberry muffins

Last week I baked some blueberry muffins, a recipe I have been using for years. They are soooo.... delicious I decided I just hadn't had enough of their blueberry goodness, so I made another batch this morning.

Those of you who know me well, know that I am not a morning person, but somehow I can pull myself together, just after getting out of bed no less, to make muffins in the morning. I find it not only a relaxing way to start my day, but I must admit that I love homemade muffins for breakfast. I usually make Jiffy Brand bran muffins at least once a week. It makes just 6 small muffins but I haven't found a "by scratch" recipe that I like better, and besides, how easy is it to empty the mix into the bowl, add egg and milk, stir, and spoon into a little muffin pan? You don't have to even be fully awake to manage that.

I started out with the recipe for my blueberry muffins from this great little book, "Muffins" by Elizabeth Alston.

The Best Blueberry Muffins
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature                
1 cup granulated sugar                                         
2 eggs                                                                                                                                     
1 teaspoon vanilla extract                                     
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt                               
2  1/2 cups fresh blueberries (mash 1/2 cup with fork) 
2 cups flour (I substitute 1 cup white and 1 cup wheat)  
1/2 cup milk
1 tablespoon sugar mixed with 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Grease 12 muffin cups including area between cups or use foil baking cup liners.
In medium size bowl, beat butter until creamy. Beat in sugar until pale and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Beat in vanilla, baking powder, and salt. Mix mashed berries into batter. Fold in half of the flour with a spatula, then half of her milk. Add remaining flour and milk. Fold in remaining blueberries.
Scoop batter into muffin cups. Sprinkle with nutmeg-sugar. Bake 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Let muffins cool at least 30 minutes in the pan before removing.

The sweet cream butter mixed with the sugar makes for a beautiful soft yellow glow in the bottom of my mixer bowl.

This recipe has 2 secret tips. The first one is to mash some of the berries and mix it into the batter. It helps release the berry juice and make these muffins so much better.
I do change Ms. Alston's recipe just a little: I replace half of the white flour with wheat flour. It has no effect on the taste of the muffin but does change the color of the muffin slightly.

The other secret tip for these muffins is to sprinkle each one with some nutmeg-sugar just before popping them into the oven.

This makes them a little crunchy on the top. It is a challenge to let them cool completely before carefully prying them out of their little cup cradles.
This makes mornings just a little bit more palatable.