Saturday, January 29, 2011

pining for spring

I'm ready for spring. The only kind of "snow" I want to see is flowering tree petals on the ground.

I did a bit of work a couple weeks ago on some "spring" photos and got a number of them up on Artfire. You can find the images here. Of course, right now when I look out my window - the Bradford pear tree is covered with snow...

How about an early spring this year? I'm tired of winter...

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

cold days are best spent indoors

The world's blandest chili
  • 1 16oz can dark red kidney beans
  • 1 16oz can mild chili beans
  • 1 26oz can tomato soap
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tbsp Hungarian paprika
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 1 lb ground chuck
  • 1 8oz package shredded mild cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 soup can of water
Brown ground chuck, drain grease. Add beans, add soup, add water. Stir. Add spices. Stir. Add generous handful of cheese. Stir until it melts. Serve garnished with cheese.

I'm sure this is full of calories and "bad" for me. But it's cold, and well, it's dinner. Plus, it's delicious, especially on a cold day in January.

I am the daughter of a craft project hoarder. My mother has hundreds of unfinished craft projects... and while I don't have hundreds, I do have a few. I did a bunch of paintings a few years ago for a project and just never got around to phase 2 of the project. So, they have been sitting in a pile in a cabinet in my office. They were sitting in a pile on a shelf in my office, but I "reorganized," so, yeah, they ended up in the cabinet... Not the greatest place to keep paintings.

So, I pulled them out, separated them from themselves... spent a morning with brushes and a bottle of alcohol and the exacto knife with the curved blade cleaning 'transfer' off their fronts (they're painted on illustration board; the backs are gessoed, the weight of the pile stuck blips of gesso onto the surface of the next painting...). I spent a morning scanning them (see last entry)... And yesterday I varnished them and signed them. Well, okay, there are still like 5 paintings I haven't scanned yet, but I got most of them.

So, now the place has that faint odor of varnish... I suppose I'll choose to think of that as the scent of accomplishment. It definitely feels more purposeful than shoveling the road out in front of the house - yes, it snowed again.

I'm ready for spring, how about you?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

this post is "not exciting"

I do a lot of things that I could only describe as "not exciting." And I spent the weekend doing "not exciting" things. While painting is fun, there is something ironically rewarding about the part right after the painting where I'm sitting there in my living room waiting for paint to dry while chuckling at the idea of waiting for paint to dry and trying not to act impatient about it... it's downright existential.

It'd be one thing if I was going to keep them all for myself, because, well, then I could just leave them be until I got around to framing them... but that's not how it works when you want to sell the things that you've made to other people.

So, I spent the weekend doing the "not exciting" task of burning files off my desktop onto cds in order to make more room on my desktop to scan my paintings... which in the circle of life will eventually need to be burned to disc so I can make more room for new things on the desktop. It's really quite "not exciting." But it is time consuming.

Yesterday I scanned, edited, and saved 13 watercolors (not unlike the detail pictured below), and this morning I scanned in 20 acrylic paintings. The thing about both of these endeavors is that the paintings are larger than the scanner bed so they have to be scanned in two parts and then I have to align those parts and mesh them together...

Are you bored to tears yet? ; )

(this is a little snippet from "astral indigo")

Yeah, it's not exciting (the post-painting process stuff), believe me. It's time consuming, but definitely not exciting.

Anyway, I have a project percolating in the back of my mind... something about doing watercolor painting over a print. I sat down this morning and sketched up a prototype for the "print" portion of this endeavor while finally watching the Johnny Depp version of "Alice in Wonderland." I like Johnny Depp. I can't say I'm an uber-Depp fan or anything, because I've never seen any of those Pirate movies (nor have I ever been able to convince or force myself to watch "What's eating Gilbert Grape") - but I do generally enjoy anything Johnny Depp or Tim Burton. So, yes, I know, I'm way late to the party when it comes to finally watching Alice on dvd (which I think has been hanging around the living room since at least September)... but somehow, this weekend was just right for it. Besides, my other movie choice involved homicidal clowns... apparently I was just not down with the idea of killer clowns this weekend.

Time will tell if I get on this current project - and finish it. Ironically, the acrylic paintings I scanned in this weekend were painted 4 years ago. I made them for a project that I just never quite got around to finishing... and now, I suppose, it's time to let them go. Eventually, they will appear in my "sarahknight" shop on etsy... that is, of course, after I type up the listings, calculate the shipping, and format graphics for the listings.

Yes, the painting part happens so fast... it's the post-painting activities that draw this out.

In the mean time, I look forward to season 2 of "Archer" this week. It's apparently my new favorite show. I caught a little marathon of it on FX a while back and I was smitten. Plus, new episodes of "Supernatural" return this week. And "Fringe" is back from the abyss of mid-season reruns and whatever happens to tv shows when they disappear in the middle of the holidays. Yes, I have the tv likes of a geeky college student, I know. I'm just not ready to start watching "Nova" yet...

I hope you have something keeping you busy during these dreadfully cold January days.

Friday, January 21, 2011

couch potato

The head cold officially ate my week. I bought the sinus tabs, I bought the cold medicine, I drank orange juice like there was an orange juice fountain in my kitchen and I was very thirsty, I ate soup, I slept... and I still sort of have the cold. I did watch a lot of CSI reruns though, somewhere, somehow that must count as an accomplishment.

Yes, that really is my couch. I believe, technically, it's a Klobo. However, I upholstered it. Yes, I picked out that fabric. And I measured and cut out all the pieces, and I sewed the vast majority of it by hand on a muggy June evening while watching "Carolina Moon" and some other Nora Roberts movie from Lifetime on onDemand. I recall it distinctly. Mostly because the couch sat in pieces in my living room for about a month before I suddenly upholstered it that evening... oh, projects.

I'd like to thank LarimarLounge, I am totally honored that my "nest" photo was included in their collection, which then awesomely made the Artfire homepage! Very cool.

You can check out my Artfire shop here.
Hopefully, the cold passes soon... and I can get back to more productive activities than watching tv.

Sunday, January 16, 2011


I was never a child who liked to take naps. When I was too young for school and was at home with my Mother, she used to try to sneak in a daily nap. Translation, as a 3 year old I was like "Sleep during the day? What, you mean peak playing hours? What about my dolls?" So, basically, as I recall these events I would lay down and wait for the sound of my mother's door closing, and then I would get up and play 'quietly.' This sleeping in the middle of the day thing never made sense to me... it still doesn't.

And yet, it's January. January isn't so much a time for napping as it is a time for 'hibernating.' I don't mean I go into my bedroom and sleep for a month, I just mean January is the month when I'm just tired.

It snows here in Michigan. And what that actually means is that it takes me an additional 20 to 30 minutes to drive to and from work, plus 5 minutes of scraping my car, plus me driving in my car with frozen fingers waiting for the 2 mile point when the heat might finally come up. In other words, a 35 minute drive just turned into an hour... cold weather = giant time suck.

I hate being cold. It just makes me cranky and tired (not unlike napping — which never made me feel refreshed, it just made me cranky; my brain chemicals don't like to be tricked with the prospect of sleep (8 hours) only to be pranked into wakefulness after an hour). Napping never worked for me, and I just find cold weather to be unbelievably irritable.

Anyway, one morning last week while I was watching CSI reruns on Spike tv, I did manage to crank out 15 new paintings. Which, of course, meant that I spent a day waiting for them to dry, spent a good hour 'naming' them, and then spent a morning & a half scanning them into the computer and saving them in 3 file formats after color correcting the scans. And then I varnished the paintings (another morning). And then I gessoed the backs to counteract warping (another morning). And then I printed out info sheets (artist, title, media, date) for the back. And then I remembered to stop at Walmart on my way home from work because I couldn't find a freaking glue stick, and then last night I glued the backs on all the paintings...

Considering how relatively quickly I can paint them, the process-y stuff after the painting part is enormously time consuming. Anyway, painting — or moreover: playing with color — makes me happy. So, I suppose that's my counter-January measure: colorful paintings.

I like color — as can be evidenced from the photo I took for the entry. My bedroom is actually lemon yellow, and those are, in fact, my sheets (300 thread count, from Target). I actually have 2 of my larger paintings hanging on the wall, one it very magenta-y and the other is peachy toned. Most of the 15 paintings I made last week were orange (except for the 2 blue ones). Apparently I was in an 'orange' mood, whatever that means.
Anyway, "astral orange sunshine" is one of the new ones, you can see it here.

Ironically, I seem to have contracted a cold: sore throat, cough, runny nose, weepy left eye... So, this morning I'll be going to the drugstore to acquire some more kleenex and stand in the pharmacy aisle for 20 minutes reading cough syrup boxes... and then buying some orange juice.

So, go have a big tall glass of vitamin C for me & take a nice long nap, maybe 8 hours?
; )

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Christmas cookies... part 3

Welcome to Part 3 of what I have otherwise come to characterize as the 5 hour cookie making extravaganza.
In the event that you missed out on Part 2 you can find it here.

So, yes, finally, these are the 135 cookies frosted in 16 different colors...

Yeah, that was a lot of cookies. But I only do it once a year. So, now I have 11 months until it's time to do it again :D

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Christmas cookies... part 2

Welcome to Part 2 of what I have otherwise come to characterize as the 5 hour cookie making extravaganza.
In the event that you had something to do yesterday (being that it was a holiday and all or something) and missed out on Part 1 you can find it here.

So, I suppose I should have posed this in the form of a question — as no one guessed how many cookies the sour cream cookie recipe yielded this year (except for my Mother when I asked her on the phone, she was off by 3) — but the recipe suggests that it makes about 10 dozen cookies. That's a lot of cookies. Generally, every year I count the cookies based on groupings of frosting color, and then add up those totals. Yes, Virginia, there is a Christmas cookie inventory.

This year (although my graphic only shows 12) I used 16 different colors of frosting. And the grand total was 135 cookies. Yes, one hundred and thirty-five cookies. In the approximate 2 hours it took me to listen to Van Halen's 5150 (three times) while cutting and baking them, I figured that maybe I'd make about 90 cookies... yeah, 135. It was a slight under-estimate on my part. You know, I was only off by a third... ; )

Every year I buy a sizable quantity of "nonpareil sprinkles." And every year I wonder why they're called "nonpareil" sprinkles... and usually don't bother to google it. Apparently, they're peerless — Ha! Yes, I know, one of the definitions is actually that nonpareil means sprinkles... Anyway, each of the 135 cookies is decorated with these little multicolor sugar balls.

So, when I was a kid, my mother used to make the frosting. And just like when my mother made the dough — she acted like this was the most difficult thing on earth. If only she had possessed a microwave and a pastry creamer — making these cookies would have taken much less effort... of course, she was still weirdly anal about making the dough thin, like as if she had amnesia about rolling out the previous year's cookie dough or something... let's just say, with Mom, all of these steps seemed to take an unnecessary amount of time. I suppose we're lucky she didn't get out a ruler and attempt to measure whether or not the dough had been rolled out to 1/8 inch thickness...

I bought vanilla frosting in a plastic jar and added powdered sugar and milk to it. It was much less difficult than adding milk to an entire bag of powdered sugar... and no one who ate my cookies complained about the frosting. Oh, modern convenience.

So, armed with 2 multi-packs of food coloring (one regular, one neon), my giant bowl of frosting, a soup bowl, the "happy-go-lucky" knife (it's a butter knife), my container of sprinkles, and an old foil pie pan (to catch the excess sprinkles), I began the 2 hour long cookie decorating ritual.

Each cookie would be frosted and sprinkled. I suppose, if I hadn't kept pausing to document the process with photos, this might have gone quicker...

Anyway, I caught up on the season 3 2-part finale of "Leverage" while I was performing the 2 hour long cookie decorating ritual. Apparently, I almost missed the last 4 episodes of season 3 of Leverage due to the fact that I was watching Dexter on Sunday nights and totally forgot when the season would start back up when it went on hiatus in September or August... I really wish they wouldn't do that with shows — because I totally forget when they're going to start back up... but it did prevent me from listening to "5150" for a fourth and fifth time... Otherwise, every time I ate a cookie I may have had to have broken into a rendition of "Summer Nights." :D

Anyway, Damien Moreau was foiled, and I frosted 135 cookies in 16 different colors (there are 2 shades of blue & 2 shades of purple missing from that image) and then photographed them from all manner of angles, and then left them out for the requisite 1-2 hours on the kitchen table so that the frosting would dry. It's very important for the frosting to dry. Otherwise, when the cookies are stacked in the container — they will form one giant messy inseparable cookie clump, and the 5 hours it took to make them from start to finish will seem like kind of a waste...

The next installment will actually contain photos of the 135 frosted & decorated cookies : )

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Christmas cookies... part 1

Okay, while still working a 40 hour week I took a 'vacation.' Which basically means that for a week I came home from work and just vegged in front of the television with my sketchbook and took some quality time with some CSI reruns to try to figure out what projects I want to attempt in the next year...

Anyway, I've taken my week to recharge and relax, so now it's time to get back to the routine. Christmas may be over, but aside from cleaning, the last project I completed was the annual creation of the batch of Christmas cookies.

It actually only took me 5 hours to make them this year. Heh, heh. So, even though Christmas has passed, and I literally ate the last cookie yesterday morning: on with the Christmas cookies!

They're actually sour cream cookies. The recipe apparently came from my grandma, but you can find it online here. I'm not sure where that thing about the raisins comes from (it's not in Grandma's recipe, but anyway)...

The recipe is supposed to make about 10 dozen cookies.

The first hour of my 5 hour cookie making extravaganza was spent making the dough. I decided to microwave the shortening for about 30 seconds this year to soften it up. It definitely made the "creaming" process easier. I didn't even have to break out the pastry creamer. As usual, I skipped the part about sticking the batter in the fridge (my time is limited).

Every year I crank up the tunes while cutting and baking the cookies. Usually I manage to listen to some Warren Zevon and "American Pie" (the album) by Don McLean. When I was a kid we used to listen to that record when we were "helping" our Mother decorate the Christmas tree. Time has colored history, and I doubt she remembers this, but American Pie was a welcome retreat from her terrible Christmas records. Every time I hear the Little Drummer Boy — I groan. I am not a fan of Christmas songs outside of John Lennon and Emerson, Lake, and Palmer. Eartha Kit's rendition of "Santa Baby" makes me want to find every copy of that song and obliterate them from earth...

Anyway, this year, since I'm pretty sure "American Pie" is out in the car — the cookies were cut & baked to the dulcet tones of Sammy Hagar's incarnation of Van Halen, more specifically "5150." Yes, I know, Van Hagar just brightens the holidays :D Besides, the CD was sitting beside the CD player, and the only other viable option was "Dark Side of the Moon" — which is not really Christmas music.

Anyway, check back for the next installment when I reveal how many cookies this recipe yielded this year :D