Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Why I'm Not an Engineer, For Starters

I know some of you are already laughing, because you've never imagined that I COULD have been an engineer in the first place.

But the why is important sometimes.

I had this revelation on Thursday. Well, I mean revelation in the sense that I'd already set aside the fact that differential equations and imaginary numbers are stupid and that my favorite classes were genetics, Russian literature and art, but still - a revelation in spite of that.

I was taking the new - insert shudder here - flyover that has recently been built near my home on a major highway.

Said flyover is like 40 billion feet in the air and banked like the F1 track.

There's really no amount of convenience that makes any of that okay, but nonetheless, I take it sometimes in weak moments.

And EVERY TIME I do, the same thing happens.

I get a prickly sensation on the top of my forearms. My hands sweat. My heart races. I grip the steering wheel like it's the last donut at a cop convention. I have extremely vivid visions of shooting off and falling to my untimely and undignified death on the road below - also known as - the road SMART, NON-ENGINEER TYPES TAKE, BECAUSE IT'S WHERE ROADS BELONG - ON THE GROUND.

That's when I really knew why engineering was never in the stars for me.

Not ONE single time, in my, er, 29 years on the planet, have I EVER believed I was not going to die on one of those things. I envision the pylons crumbling, the edges falling off, the whole thing swaying like a jump rope before turning into dust - every, single, time.

I don't believe in engineering.

My amygdala doesn't believe in engineering.

My amygdala wants to be on the ground.

I can't help it if some people believe in suspension bridges like other people believe in honest politicians and unicorns. I can see no difference in value judgement that I can make here. They're both crazier than carnies on meth and cotton candy and ain't nobody got time for that.

Back on terra firma, I celebrated a momentous day on Saturday - the day that Whataburger finally started selling their ketchup in the grocery store. For those of you not in Texas, you're in our prayers. It's sad that you've never had Whataburger ketchup and can't comprehend the glory of this day. A moment of silence please.

I actually took an email holiday for Memorial Day and it was really nice. I went outside and stuff :).

Look at my butterfly bush. I did.

And look at this sassy and adorable something or other hanging out on my cucumber plant!

Tomorrow I have more pics of other sassy ant looking thingies that were on there today.

I actually did very little crafting this weekend, because an unexpected event you'll learn about tomorrow intervened. But before all that happened, I did make my hostess sample for this week's Mix-Ability challenge on Splitcoast.

This is part two of my Yin / Yang challenge. This time we had to use a bumpy and a smooth texture on our project. Now, I made the challenge up, but that doesn't mean it didn't take a little thought! But in the end, I thought that the place where you always feel this contrast is at the beach - with smooth shells in rough sand, so that's what I did. I used glitter for my rough texture, and Crystal effects for my smooth texture. And hey - did you notice? They totally listened to me and didn't retire this beautiful set :) The background was made by masking the shell and sponging Pool Party through drywall tape.

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Look how I captured one tiny glint of light on the glitter - what a huge accomplishment!

Anyhoo - please drive carefully - people who believe in imaginary numbers put up those bridges you commute over. And I don't trust them as far as I can throw them.


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Narcissus Revisited

Last week I did my annual RISE session on social media for artists and other humans.

I always get such interesting questions from the attendees.

Each year there is a new social media platform to talk about. When I started giving this session, Pinterest, Google+ and Grumpy Cat hadn't been born yet. So the topics change. A lot.

But this year, we talked a lot about photo sharing. And I had a little revelation while I was putting the presentation together.

I love this video  about Instagram - it cracks me up.

Look at this Instagram from We are Social Media on Vimeo.

I love all the spoofs of social media.

But I have to say that I think a lot of people interpret social sharing incorrectly.

True narcissism is an infatuation with oneself. I love the actual myth of Narcissus, which is painfully sad, and might teach you something you didn't know about having a nemesis.

But I think that when people share pictures of their food, or their pets or a baby bird in their backyard, they are saying what we all said when we were five - "Hey - look! I found this! I love it! Wanna see?"

If only I'd had an Iphone when I was five... I'd love to have shared pictures of our cat Pittypat, our dog Scout, the copperheads in our backyard, and the world's best BBQ at the now closed legendary establishment - Tom's. I'd have shared pictures of my mom teaching us how to make cakes in 4H, our red white and blue eagle infested wallpaper in our astonishingly patriotic house, my dad's Kharmann Ghia which honked every time we turned left, and the numerous times my brother set the garage on fire. I would have shared a billion horny toads, crawdads walking up our street, and the butterflies that were the size of my head. I would have done this because we are friends.

That, my friends, is love, not narcissism. Share what you love. It's not selfish - it's generous.

I forgot to blog one of my embossing class cards.

This was my favorite technique that we did - the faux patina technique. I used this awesome tutorial by Angie. Amazing how easy it is to get this pretty finish.

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Word to the wise - if you want the supremely awesome Word Play stamp set used here, you only have a few days to get it - sniff - it's retiring. Click here to get your paws on it.

And don't forget to share.

Oh - and here are some cat ears that are controlled by your emotions and also a cute origami fox and my new favorite Iphone app.


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The End of The Property Owner As We Know It

I haven't swapped in YEARS. More than ten years, I believe.

But if you haven't visited the swap forum on Splitcoast, you really haven't lived a good papercrafty life yet.

Thankfully it's my job to see all the new stuff there. So when one of our amazing swap moderators, Joyce, posted a Downton Abbey character ATC swap just after the end of the last season, how was I to resist soothing my aching heart from the last episode without participating??

Clearly it was a mandate, so I signed up. And I was early enough to get.... Bates. My beloved, beloved John Bates. *sigh*

Now normally in a character swap you'd use an image of the person, but I remembered the scene with Bates holding an umbrella in the rain at the front of the house in his beautiful, perfectly felted bowler, and I realized I had the perfect stamp for my trade.

It nearly broke my heart to even make it, truly. I misted my watercolor crayons on my Union Jack stamp with my tears for sweet cousin Matthew and that lonely prison cell for John. Or I used my mister. Whatever. Don't trifle with my details.

I found the perfect Bates quote to span my image.

When will we see you again John Bates??? WHEN??

Splotchy asks this question every day, while dreamily looking off into the distance. Maddie? Maddie could care less about John Bates and she's sleeping. Please be quiet. 

Now. On to my rant.

This weekend, I took a tour of Casa Neverlandia.

Casa Neverlandia is owned by a local artist - James Talbot.

Prior to 1979, Talbot lived in a neighborhood in Austin known as the Clarksville area. This became a sort of artists' neighborhood in the late 70's, and became too expensive for him. Sad to leave his hilltop view in Clarksville, he found a house off South Congress in 1979, for $13,000. At that time, that was extremely expensive for a working artist, but he managed.

The neighborhood was made up of board on board houses on teeny lots - his lot is 50 x 150.

He began to improve the house with his incredible mosaic work, stucco and lighting designed by his wife, also an artist. He rebuilt the house slowly and by hand, and built straight up, all the way to three stories, since expanding the footprint wasn't an option.

Long after the house was paid off, his taxes continued to climb. As the address became more trendy, his own home, which he thought he owned, became a source of anxiety and stress, as his property taxes climbed to their current level of $500 a month.

He will never truly OWN this home. None of us will own our homes.

In order to afford to live there, he has to conduct public tours of his little national treasure just to pay the "rent" on the house he's already paid for long ago, and try to use his art income to survive in his other earthly needs. This time steals the time he needs to create his amazingly detailed artwork, which is the sole source of his income.

This is a crime.

What if you bought a package of Jelly Bellies in 1984 and you paid 10 cents sales tax on them. Then you ate them. But long after you ate them, you continued to be assessed an ever-growing sales tax on them. A tax that would haunt you for the rest of your life and grow by 25% a year?

You would wish you had never had those Jelly Bellies. They would haunt you like the ghost of Jelly Belly past.

Property ownership used to be the pinnacle of achievement in our culture. Now it's just rent.

This makes me angry.

This man is incredibly talented and hard working. And he paid for his house in the 90s. And now he can't afford to live in it.

Soon I won't be able to afford to live in mine, either. My taxes are about the same.

Is this what we want?

I'd think about that before entering the voting booth next time. Just sayin'.

In the meantime, please enjoy this incredible journey through his home. And if you are in Austin and would like to take a tour, let me know.

Here's his mosaic work on the front of the house. 

Everywhere you look, there's whimsy. This is a tiny gathering in the front garden, with St. Francis and a few of his friends.
This is the peak of his roof. Wow.
The front door features a variety of ways guests can announce themselves.
My favorite art piece of his is behind him while he explains the living room. It's called "The Longing Behind Mirrors" and it's a stunning 3D broken mirror mosaic. It's very hard to photograph so I'm sorry, but I like this picture of Talbot.
Here I'm on the stairs up to his loft bedroom which features a stunning A frame and skylight, a loft, leaning walls and a beautiful balcony.
INCREDIBLE work in progress in his studio. He's a little older than me so I have no idea how he sees these tiny beads. This is so beautiful in real life.

His entire house and studio have no central air or heat. His electricity bill is $15 a month.
 His studio has 5,000 jars of beads in ROYGBIV order. It was heaven.

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I hope you have a good week. :)


Friday, May 10, 2013

Mold and Millibars

We've had a bizarre "spring" here. First of all, we don't typically really get a spring. We go from a mild chill (by most people's standards) to the ice cream kill zone in fairly short order, and normally in February.

But this year, we've had this unusual, record-breaking period of cool temperatures that I think if you weren't from Texas, you'd call spring. It's been beautiful.

Odd for those of use who are growing veggies, because things are a little farther behind than they'd normally be, but pretty weather nonetheless.

However, what comes with this is a horrid plague of mold in the air. In Austin, we have dry and wet molds, and they are absolutely deadly.

I'm allergic to both, and for the last three days, I've nearly died from it. The particular offender this week - Alternaria -  will only die when the temperature is 90 and above. Which it normally is. And which is needs to be RIGHT FREAKING NOW.

I've plotted a Michael Crichton style revenge, involve nanobots, that I can't really tell you about right now, because the last thing I need is those boobs in homeland security stealing my idea.

But when mold death comes, it will be shock and awe, believe me.

I did manage to hold my head still long enough to play in today's Mix-Ability challenge though - and I had a BLAST doing it.

I made a little collage strip base out of Baked Brown Sugar cardstock. Then I used direct to paper to dye some First Edition DSP with our upcoming In Colors - Crisp Cantaloupe, Baked Brown Sugar, Coastal Cabana, Strawberry Slush. I tore up these scraps and glued them to my strip of cardstock and trimmed off the excess. Then I sprayed the strip with Goosebumps Shimmer spray to seal it and give it a little glimmer. It dried really fast. I tied linen thread around it and put it on a Baked Brown Sugar base that I embossed with the honeycomb embossing folder. The greeting is from the new set - Label Love. I love those pretty colors against the brown.

In the days when I could enjoy being outside without dying, I was pleased to see that my roses are going crazy. I have a nice, compact fuschia rose and a white one. I believe they're fraternizing though, because today I saw pink buds on my white rose. 

I turned on CatTV today too - i.e., filled the bird feeder outside my studio window - and caught some fun squirrel shenanigans, much to Maddie & Splotchy's delight.

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Hope your day is full of squirrels and free of Alternaria!


Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Tyranny of Handwashing

I have nostalgia for the old Food Network.

You remember - the one with Good Eats and Iron Chef and Julia and Jacques (best show ever) and the Two Fat Ladies and other actual cooking shows.

On the old Food Network, there was no crying.

Now it's hard to get through a show without someone fake crying over their overly dramatic childhood and how that impacts their culinary point of view.

Gag me with a spoon, as we used to say.

Also, I'm tired of the handwashing PSA. No one handles raw bacon and then puts Orajel on their baby's sore gums, so enough with the obligatory artistic closeup shots of chefs washing their hands. We get it. People who died from trichinosis from being morons in the kitchen aren't watching your shows, people! It's your momma's job to teach you to wash your hands, not Giada's.

And the stupid product placements where the contestants on some chef show are required to use Skittles in their beef bourguignon. Please. Seriously.

So without crying, washing my hands in slow motion or doing any sort of commercial presentation of a disgusting paid ingredient, here's a recipe for you that I made the other night - it's delicious. I adapted it from about four recipes I googled. None of them were quite right.

Cauliflower Mac & Cheese

1 large head cauliflower cut into small florets
2 Tbs. butter or margarine
3 Tbs. all-purpose flour
1.5 cups half & half
2 C grated extra-sharp Cheddar cheese
1 C grated gruyere
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1.5 tsp salt
2 egg yolks
Panko breadcrumbs
Crumbled bacon

Preheat oven to 350°F. Bring large pot of salted water to a boil. Add cauliflower florets, and boil 5 to 7 minutes, or until just tender. Drain, and set aside. Make a roux from the butter and flour - melt the butter and whisk in the flour. Slowly whisk in half and half until smooth and thick. Remove from heat and add cheese until melted. Add egg yolks. Fold in cauliflower.

Butter a baking dish. Spread cauliflower mixture in baking dish, and sprinkle with a little more cheese and a few Panko breadcrumbs. Bake until warm and bubbly like me :) - I think I baked mine about 45 minutes to an hour - but I'm sure half an hour would be fine.

Today is the Challenge Chicks color challenge and it's a BEAUTY. I designed one of yesterday's class projects around it with the (insert sobbing here) retiring Word Play set and Papillon Potpourri and matching punch.

We just sponged Daffodil Delight and Tangerine Tango ink after masking the card with masking tape, and then sponged a butterfly with Bermuda Bay. Hard to see here, but we added Dazzling Details to the center of the butterfly.

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Now go take on the day.

And don't forget to wash your hands.


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

I Slept Like Bear Food Last Night

Okay so I slept like bear food last night.

Here's the deal.

How can a person sleep SO SOUNDLY that they completely twist and cut off circulation to a limb? HOW is that possible?

How were we designed so that we can sleep like this, ensuring that if a bear stumbles into my encampment - yes, I know it would be hard for him to get past the traffic on the freeway, find my house and then disable the alarm, but WHATEVER - that I will wake up and flop around like a squid (bear food) on my numb and tingly limbs that I've slept all wonky on??


It really makes no evolutionary sense. I cannot understand it.

So my first thought on waking up with one leg and one arm that worked was - I slept like bear food last night.

Praise the Lord we are free of bears in suburban Atown. For now.

I stamped today. Crazy, I know, but I had to take a break from my walk this morning - which I normally do in the wee hours - because I have walked 21 miles in 3 days and more than that's not good for a person. So in the wee hours before work I stamp.

This card is using some goodies from the new catalog! Yes, I'm torturing you :). Ink and stamps and matching punches are all coming up.

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But wait - there's more!

The world's teeniest praying mantis appeared in my yard this week on one of my pepper plants! Keep in mind when you look at this photo that the whole plant is 4" tall.



Click to see him. And thank goodness for nature - it's awesome.


Okay so then last night I got to meet the incomparably hilarious, talented and charming Fabio Viviani!

I was fortunate to have been invited to a blogger Q&A before his book signing thanks to my friend Kay. There were just ten of us hanging out with him for an hour, asking him questions and laughing so hard we hurt ourselves. He is SO freaking funny. Thanks to Bread and Butter PR for allowing us this opportunity!

He gave us such an entertaining evening, some recipe tips, some hilarious stories about Italian families and a story about the time he knocked Pope John Paul II's hat off that I don't know that my abs will recover for a while.

He signed his cookbook for us - and I have to say - it's WAY more than a cookbook. He told us that his mother blackmailed him over the book - she said if he was going to publish the family recipes, she got to tell stories about, and I quote, "what a horrible children" he was. And they are GOOD stories!!

I'm lucky to live in a place where it's pretty easy to meet celebrities, but I have to say - I've never met one this charming, personable and funny. I'm a huge fan. Check out the book here and thank me later.

OH - and he gave me a tip for carbonara - God's perfect food - that I will try out and report back on.

I love you like that.

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