Tuesday, December 31, 2013

May the Horse Be With You!

I came here intending to bring you wisdom for the new year, which happens to be in the Chinese zodiac - the year of the horse.

I was quite certain that in just a few keystrokes I'd find ancient wisdom in what this horse year had in store for us.

Instead I found a lot of websites that said things like:

-you find good calamity in this year of wood horse
-after the slithery snake of 2013 we can have landslide and forest fire

Not exactly what I was going for. So I've decided to make up my own Chinese zodiac outlook for 2014 if that's okay with everyone. Except I'm not a fan of China. So here's my American Year of the Horse Zodiac by Understand Blue.

-Horses (or as I call them, horsies) are awesome. Therefore, 2014 will be awesome

-Horsies represent freedom to those of us who live in the wild, wild West. So I predict that freedom will actually come back into style in 2014 and replace the NSA, drones and the IRS with cat videos and silly string.

-Horsies are wicked fast, and so I think this year is going to go really fast. Please hang on, and try to be productive.

-I hate to bring this up, but on behalf of my brother I must. Horses bite. So watch out for mosquitos and the IRS.

-If you're single, please note that where there are horsies, there are cowboys. If you're a boy, please note that where there are horsies, there are cowgirls.

-Into every life, a little horse poop must fall. Don't get all bent out of shape about it. Don't whine. Buck up and get over yourself. Get back in the saddle. Don't share the poop. Everyone has their own poop - they don't need to hear about yours.

-Good shoes are very important. You can never spend too much. Seriously. it's the year of the horse. I can't recommend Zappos highly enough.

-While it's said that horseshoes are lucky, that's completely false. You make your own luck. So do it. See the don't whine part above. 

-Take care of your mane. If you're not a Clydesdale, it's the only thing people will notice.

-Be a Clydesdale - they're awesome. 

-Horses aren't afraid of anything except for mice. This is where we get into the part about horses not really being all that bright. Mice aren't scary. The lesson here is not to overdramatize things, unless you're telling a story, in which case bring. all. the. drama. 

-Chew your food. Several times. Eating fast is for carnivores.

-Work hard, Even if it's not glamorous. It builds strong bones and makes you appreciate resting and playing a little more. 

-Have a big heart. Go at full speed until it gives out. :)

Most of all, you should probably watch Secretariat - I think you can get everything else you need to know from that :).

Whatever happens, may the horse be with you.

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Stamps: Happy Watercolor, Ancient Asia, Deadbeat Designs May the Horse Be With You
Ink: Summer Sun, Orchid Opulence, Tempting Turquoise
Paper: Whisper White

Now, you may be here for the Season's Givings Blog hop - in which case - welcome!

This was such a fun and joyful event last year I'm really excited that we're doing it again! I met so many new friends and had so much fun hopping around from blog to blog.

I was really blessed this year with some crafty Christmas gifts, including this Derwent Inktense pencil set (crazy AWESOME price on them on Amazon right now) and a Brother Scan and Cut Machine - OMG! I can't wait to play with these tomorrow!

In the spirit of paying it forward, I will choose one lucky commenter to win an amazing prize package to help them ride their crafty horse into 2014!

This package includes:

 That's more than $80 worth of amazing stampy goodness! You'll need your own horse to haul it all! :)

I'll be choosing my winner on January 6th at noon - so don't waste any time - leave me a comment! Tell me what you got for Christmas and what your plans are for 2014!

If you're hopping along, the person after me is Kelly Klapstein - GO LIKE THE WIND - see what she has for you.

Most of all, happy new year! :)

Here's the full hop list in case your horse ran off and you are lost.

 Happy and safe and blessed New Year to you.


Sunday, December 29, 2013

Because I Always Do What Heisenberg Tells Me To Do

I've been relaxing this week.

I like to take the week between Christmas and New Year's off every year because a) it's a quiet week at work so I don't spend the whole vacation actually working and b) because I have new toys I can play with in the studio.

I got the 72 set of Derwent Inktense Pencils (which Amazon still has an INSANE price on) this Christmas and so I've been Inktensing up a storm! I also got a felting machine so I'm looking forward to messing around with that. Yesterday, my sister and I set up a still life and painted and I'm about to go do that again this afternoon. I'm really not very good at that, so the practice is good for me. I got a new (to me) kind of oil paint that NEVER dries until you heat set it - Genesis - enabled by a Facebook friend - Sunny Carvalho. Haven't played with those yet.

I'm at that point where I don't know what day of the week it is. I love that moment in a vacation. I do sort of need to know what day it is soon though because I'm taking two crafty classes with the BFFs tomorrow. I think.

When I saw the new Happy Watercolor (from the new upcoming mini) set sitting on my desk this morning, I knew what I had to do with it in honor of my vacation. :) The greeting is from one of our custom monogram address stamps that I bent to my own dark purposes. Muahahaha!

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Stamps: Undefined Heisenberg, Custom Address Stamp, Happy Watercolor
Ink: Summer Sun, Lucky Limeade, Basic Black
Paper: Whisper White

I always do what Heisenberg tells me to do. After all, he is the danger.

Part of my relaxation has included cooking.

My two favorite things I've made are Beef Stroganoff with Polenta (instead of noodles) and Panettone Bread Pudding.

Here are the recipes for your enjoyment! Go relax!

Beef Stroganoff (Adapted from Epicurious)

2.5 lb. beef tenderloin, cut into stew sized chunks
2 TBS oil
6 TBS butter
¼ C finely chopped shallots
1 lb. small button mushrooms, sliced
1 C beef broth
2 TBS cognac
¾ C creme fraiche
1 TBS dijon mustard

Pat meat dry with paper towels. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat oil to high. Working in batches, add meat in a single layer and cook just until brown on outside - about a minute per side. Transfer to rimmed baking sheet.

Melt 2 TBS butter in same skillet over medium high heat. Add chopped shallots and saute until tender, scooping up brown bits. About 2 minutes. Add mushrooms. Sprinkle with pepper and saute until liquid evaporates about 12 minutes. Add beef broth, then Cognac.

Simmer until liquid thickens and just coats mushrooms, about 14 minutes. Stir in creme fraiche and Dijon. Add meat and any juice. Simmer over medium-low until meat is heated through but still medium rare. Season to taste.Serve over polenta

Polenta  (dramatically adapted from Ina Garten, Food Network - terrible errors in their recipe)

4 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
1 cup polenta
1 tsp salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
1/4 cup creme fraiche
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter


Place the chicken stock in a large saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat until the stock comes to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and very slowly whisk in the cornmeal, whisking constantly to make sure there are no lumps. Switch to a wooden spoon, add the salt and pepper, and simmer, stirring almost constantly, for 10 minutes, until thick. Be sure to scrape the bottom of the pan thoroughly while you're stirring. Off the heat, stir in the Parmesan, creme fraiche, and butter. Taste for seasonings and serve hot with extra Parmesan cheese to sprinkle on top.

Panettone Bread Pudding (Courtesy Giada, Food Network) 


1/2 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup whole milk
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup amaretto liqueur
2 teaspoons cornstarch

Bread Pudding:

1 (1-pound) loaf panettone, torn or cut into cubes. (If you are in Austin RUN to Mandola's and get theirs - INCREDIBLE.)
8 large eggs
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
2 1/2 cups whole milk
1 1/4 cups sugar


To make the sauce: Bring the cream, milk, and sugar to a boil in a heavy small saucepan over medium heat, stirring frequently. In a small bowl, mix the amaretto and cornstarch to blend and then whisk into the cream mixture. Simmer over medium-low heat until the sauce thickens, stirring constantly, about 2 minutes. Set aside and keep warm. (The amaretto sauce can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Rewarm before serving.)

To make the bread pudding: Lightly butter a 13 by 9 by 2-inch baking dish. Arrange the bread cubes in the prepared dish. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, cream, milk, and sugar to blend. Pour the custard over the bread cubes, and press the bread cubes gently to submerge. Let stand for 30 minutes, occasionally pressing the bread cubes into the custard mixture. (Recipe can be prepared up to this point 2 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Bake until the pudding puffs and is set in the center, about 45 minutes. Cool slightly. Spoon the bread pudding into bowls, drizzle with the warm amaretto sauce, and serve.

Whisper my name. Heisenberg says so.

Friday, December 27, 2013

If Life Gives You Lemonade, Make Lemons!

I was half listening to Modern Family tonight while I was cooking and I had to stop and laugh out loud at Phil. As usual.

That just cracked me up.

I had some lemonade - in the form of some Arches Watercolor paper. Beautiful, smooth, hot press paper my dad gave me for my birthday. It's the kind that you have to free from the adhesive with your palette knife.

Sometimes, some people - not mentioning any names - get impatient and try to free it too fast. And sometimes it rips. Then sometimes, some people - not mentioning any names - are sad that they made lemons out of it.

BUT - I chopped the salvageable part up into ATCs and painted tiny paintings. So is that lemonade again?

First, I masked the edges with drafting tape. I like drafting tape better than artist's tape because it really doesn't tear your paper - sometimes artist's tape does.

After that I made an ATC for this week's Mix-Ability challenge, which is super cool - we had to use triangles, circles and squares and at least two mediums. I chose mountains, and moons and a masked off rectangle. I used my Lukas Aquarelle watercolors and my Montana refillable acrylic paint marker.

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I love this tiny scale. It lets you be creative, but it's not big enough to feel lost in.

Here are two others I did in the same session - all are ATC sized - 3.5" x 2.5".

Hopefully life is all "WHAT???" now! :)


Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Joy of Light and Dark

Last night I listened to Pope Francis' Christmas Eve homily.

I'm partial to this Pope, not just because he ditched the ridiculously expensive papal wardrobe, reprimanded a German bishop for spending $3 million on a marble courtyard,  sneaks out at night dressed as a priest to feed homeless people in Rome, and used to ride a Harley.

In addition to those things, I also admit to a bias with regard to his choice of name, because St. Francis is my favorite - the patron saint of animals and little children - how could he not be everyone's favorite? I have a life sized, hand hewn mesquite statue of St. Francis in my living room, if that tells you anything about my bias. (You can see pictures of him in this blog post.)

But the real reason I'm partial to this Pope is that I think he's an artist. If you listen closely to what he says, he speaks a very visual language.

I particularly liked this section: "There are both bright and dark moments, lights and shadows," Francis said in his homily. "If our heart is closed, if we are dominated by pride, deceit, self-seeking, then darkness falls within us and around us. "

I also just got done with a four week drawing class where our teacher kept teaching us to look for points of tension in our drawings - those places where things were out of balance, and where the viewer might get trapped in sameness with nowhere to go.  To escape these points of tension, you need contrast. You need light and dark, up and down, complementary colors. To appreciate the white of the paper in your drawing, you need deep, dark shadows.

That was one of the most useful art tips I've ever gotten. And it's not a bad life lesson either.

But again, I'm biased. My go to art is high contrast, black and white, yellow and blue. No feathered edges here :).

This year's Christmas card, while it praises light by contrasting it with some crisp dark, is a bit of a departure for me from my normal neat and clean Christmas cards. I've had such fun with the Mix-Ability challenge on Splitcoast this year, I had to do a little mixed media for my Christmas card.
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To create the world (how's that for an ego trip? :D ) I watercolored a full sheet of Canson Watercolor paper with a diluted Tempting Turquoise reinker. While it was still wet, I sprayed it with some Stream Adirondack ink in my mister to get some deeper blues. Then I spritzed it in spots with a mixture of Kiwi Kiss reinker and rubbing alcohol, which pushed the water-based inks away and made the fun, well defined spots of "land" on my world. I punched them in two different sizes - 1.75" and 1.25" and used Joy to the World for my greeting in Basic Black.

And, since every year I break down the anatomy of my card - for 150 cards, I only used three sheets of the Canson ($1.23), and 75 sheets of Whisper White cardstock ($17). So the total consumable cost of these 150 cards was $.12 each. How about that for a bargain? The cheapest I could find on Amazon were cute, but about $.72 apiece. And not lovingly handmade by yours truly.

I had fun making them, and I always have fun writing a note to my friends each year. It's a time that I really treasure, because I rarely (sad, but true) make time to just write notes to people for most of the year.

I like (despite my Virgo tendencies) that each one is completely unique this year. here's a sampling.

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Maybe you recognize one of these as the one you got!

Joy to you and yours today. I hope you have a great holiday!

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Where's Eve?

Well hello there. Merry Christmas Eve!

I wonder why we don't have "eves" for new holidays - only old ones?

Instead of just All Hallow's Eve and Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve, shouldn't we have Independence Day Eve, Thanksgiving Eve and other assorted modern eves?

There's so much more festiveness involved with an eve, don't you think?

It's a two-fer!

Last night was the 4th (we think) annual wrapping party that my brother-in-law came up with. They invite the neighborhood over and we provide wrapping paper and ribbon and cards and tags and everyone can wrap their gifts (or we wrap them for them) without messing up their house or revealing secret gifts to their children. It's a really fun tradition and we had a great time last night.

I made some cookies, thanks to my friend Tandra - that were AMAZING and also the easiest cookies I've ever made! Here's the recipe. Bonus - they are very low calorie and gluten free!

Coconut Cornflake Meringue Kisses


  • 3 egg whites
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 cup sweetened coconut flakes
  • 3/4 cup cornflake crumbs (from 2 cups cornflakes crushed almost to powder)


Preheat oven to 350°. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper or silpats.
Whip the eggs whites, cream of tartar and sugar into a meringue until you form thick soft peaks, about 8 - 10 minutes.
Fold in the coconut and cornflake crumbs.
Drop by spoonful onto parchment lined cookie sheets.
Bake for about 18 minutes or until golden.

Original recipe here

Try to eat less than 10 in a row - I bet you can't.

I'm so behind on blogging that I'm bringing you a card I made in October!

I stamped the little hydrangea from Best of Flowers in Memento London Fog and colored it with Touch Twin Markers ( Y45, RP9, GY48, RP138, F124). Then I masked it off and sponged Daffodil Delight through drywall tape on top of the image. The greeting is from Oh, Hello.

For those of you who are having a severe coldsnap or like my poor friend Ronda Wade, are without power in a 45 degree house, maybe at least some artistic summer sunshine will warm you up!
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What's up for your holiday? We are having Christmas with my family, and my mother says she has some new trivia game that is going to show us all how much we don't know! The challenge has been accepted. We're also going to make these CUTE binder clip angels. Pictures to come. 

I hope today is full of fun and cookies! I'd love to hear what crafty products you've asked Santa to bring you - I love to be enabled!

Oh - and in case you missed it, the engineers who did the original guide to cats are out with a sequel - and it's hysterical!


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