Wednesday, March 26, 2008

100th Post Contest

Woo-hoo!  It's my 100th post!  And I love contests, so you know I have to have one.  So here's what you're playing for - a lovely set of blank postcards featuring some of my paper cuts: octopus, frog, bird & nest and bee.  (Sorry the photo is cruddy - I need a light box.)  You can't buy these in stores, people!

Maybe you're saying - "Sure, Julie, those are nice, but I'm not really a "notecard" kind of person. " Well, they make great gifts - especially for teachers!  
Okay, so here's what you have to do.  You have to come up with a title/caption/poem/song or anything else to go along with this illustration:
Okay.  Simple enough, right?  I'll leave this up until Monday when I (and probably my husband) will go through your creative entires and pick a winner.  Good luck!  Have fun!  Thanks for visiting!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Bubble Time

Because it was a no candy Easter, Magoo looked into his little plastic Spiderman eggs and found cold hard cash! (Next year, I will plan things out better and try to come up with something a little more creative. But I have to say, he liked it just fine.) Anyway - on Monday I took him to Toys - R - Us to go shopping with his cash.

Ug - that place! I can't stand that place! I never noticed before yesterday that they put all the really expensive box set toys on the lower levels and all the less expensive toys up high. So everything Magoo was seeing was between $40-50. So there were a lot of "No, I'm sorry, honey. That's too expensive." How is that fun?! So then I suggested we go to the smaller toy store in town. Good idea. Note to self: go there first next time.

After much browsing, Magoo settled on a big bubble wand and I thought that was a very good choice.
WOW - what a huge bubble! (Sidenote: In the background is our neighbor, K. K is the girl Magoo occasionally says he is going to marry.) (Another side note: I can never spell "occasionally" the first time. Just now I had to do spell check three times to get it right.)
Since the neighbor kids came over and wanted to play too, and Magoo was very nice to share, I pulled out another big bubble wand. This one is actually pretty cool. It's like a sword and you pour the solution into its sheath and then pull it out and press a button at the base, and it opens up to make a bubble. I find it's a little easier for the kids to use too.

Okay - so this is my 99th post. Whoo-hoo! Tomorrow is Lucky Number 100 - so you know what that means? It means I have to do a contest. Tune in tomorrow...

Monday, March 24, 2008

Oranges in a Bowl

Last week I started teaching my evening watercolor class again.  It was good to get back to painting.  My picture book is collage so all day I cut teeny pieces of paper and put them together.  And I love that too.  But I haven't worked on a "painting" in a while.

I started with still life. 
I'm not sure it's DONE done.   Sometimes little things speak to me after a week or so.  But I also don't want to over paint it.   But it's done for now.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Egg Hunt

It wasn't the best day for an egg hunt.  The sun was out - sure, but it was bitter cold and windy.  I was sorta afraid the eggs would all blow away.  But here in New England - we're rugged.  So we had an egg hunt.  Here's the crew of neighborhood kids.  We sit them on the bench and then we yell, "Go!"  (Actually, that honor fell to the big guy in the back, Jon.  He was the Easter Bunny's helper this year.)
In years past, Magoo wasn't much into the gathering of eggs.  Well, last year he was.  And this year too.  He shot out and got a bunch of them right away.  See his new Spiderman basket.  That's a gift from Nana Pam and Grandad.  (Thanks!)
Here's a shot of the side of the park.  It's funny how fast this all went.  I think that's partly due to it being so cold.  When we have an April Easter - we all hang out and look in the eggs and what not.  This year it was like, "Got your eggs, kids?  Let's go!"
But I think they all had fun and, fortunately for us, Magoo is more into going out and finding the eggs then the stuff that's inside them.  (Because on his new diet, we're cutting out sugar, yeast and gluten.  Here, have a carrot, kid.)

Happy Easter everyone!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Irish Soda Bread

My apologies for no post yesterday.  The illness has finally crept into my system.  Yesterday I just had to sit on the couch and nap.  I will definitely take it easy today too.  I have to rest up for the egg hunt tomorrow!!! (Provided we don't get rained out.)

But I did make some bread.  (I washed my hands first.)

This ties in nicely to St. Patrick's Day - no?  Actually, it hadn't even occurred to me until I sat down to type this right now.  I've been making this bread for a little while now - it's very easy and I think it goes well with soup.  It's a denser bread, so sopping up a liquid is very yum!

(I have to confess though, this current loaf turned out a little uglier than usual on the outside.  I don't think I had such a smooth ball to begin with so it cracked in places other then my "x".  Still yummy though.)

IRISH SODA BREAD

4 cups whole wheat flour
3/4 cup white flour
2/3 cup uncooked oatmeal
1 TBsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. salt
3+ cups of lowfat buttermilk

-Preheat oven to 375.

-Mix all dry ingredients in a bowl.

-shake buttermilk well and add 2 1/2 cups to dry mix.  Mix should be damp, not soupy.  If too dry, add more milk.

-knead dough lightly.

-shape into 2 balls and place on a oiled and slightly floured baking sheet.

-cut a deep "x" into each ball.

-bake at 375 for 35-40 minutes.

Enjoy!


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

My Buddy, Staci

One of my best friends from college, Staci, lives in Chicago, so I don't get to see her very often.  However, she nows comes to the Hartford area every so often for work - so sometimes, when she's not too busy in company dinners and brain-storming meetings - we get to have dinner.

Last night was one of those night.  Yeah!  It was wonderful to get to talk face to face and to be out of the sick house for a bit.  However, since I've been so busy with the sickies and now need to get back to work on my book - which I can't post pics of - I thought I'd post of fun pics of Staci and me back in college - where we were both theatre majors.  (And yes, when you're in the theatre, you can spell it "re".)

So this is a production of Peter Pan.  Look at that set!  Pretty nice, huh?  Staci and I were both in the O-so-P.C. Indian tribe.  Staci is in the front in the white skirt and I am in the yellow skirt.
This one is from The Nutcracker - the play, not the ballet.  Here we are dressed as party guests.  Staci is in the blue (in the front again - camera hog) and I am in the lavender.
Funny story:  On stage, little Marie is begging her Father to let her go to the party then the backdrop - which is a scrim - goes transparent and the audience sees this lush party with guests dancing all over.  It's a nice effect.  That's what is supposed to happen anyway.  One night - all of us party guests are in the green room waiting for our cue - but we just never hear it.  But we do hear the line that Father says right as the scrim disappears.  We all freak out and start booking it to the stage.  So what the audience saw that night was a scrim disappear to an empty room set for a party, and about a second afterwards a bunch of party guests pour in from behind the Christmas tree and windows.  I'm not sure if the audience knew anything went wrong - but our director certainly noticed!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Birds in a Tree

Another day with my boy sick on the couch. Another papercut.

I had been wanting to do a tree for a little while now. My husband thinks these papercuts have a tendency to look sinister, so I thought I'd embrace that tone by adding some pointy birds.


Now I need to try one asymetrical!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Easter Eggs

Yesterday was a much better day for my poor little sickie.  I still kept him home from school, but his energy was returning, as was his appetite.  So I decided it was a good day to dye the eggs.

I've been reading a lot about natural dyes like cabbage and such - but I'm not that hard core yet.  So I used food coloring.   What I didn't do was read the directions.  So, at first, the eggs were coming out very, very light.  Which can be okay - but not what I wanted.  So after cursing the cruddy quality of the food coloring (he, he), I then looked at the back of the box.  OOOOOH, you're supposed to add vinegar.  OOOOOH, boiling water.  Yes, yes.

Here, Magoo has dropped an egg in the pink - ker-plop!  Look at the cool red splash.
Ah vinegar - you have taken my eggs from blah to va-voom!  Look at that top yellow one.  If this isn't a bowl full of Spring, then I don't know what is.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Bird and Her Nest

My little guy was sick yesterday.  He spent the day either on the couch watching TV or in bed.  Since I was sitting near him most of the day, I decided to work on a paper cut.  That's the nice thing about paper cuts, they're pretty portable.

I wanted to usher Spring in a bit so I decided to work with a bird theme.
Bird and Her Nest
I'm starting to play around a bit with part of the paper cut working with a  fold and part of it flat.  So far, no major catastrophes.  
I think one of the reasons I'm enjoying these paper cuts so much is that I can see them working well with the collage art I do for my November show in Hartford.  Like this one, this could be a lovely little gift for a new baby.
I think I'll try a tree next, maybe with crows.  Hmmmm.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

A Day In the Life of Our Cat, Java

Morning:  Hmmmm.  I think I'll go redecorate the office.
Mid-morning:  Time to go help Julie with her manuscript.
Afternoon:  I bet the sun is coming into the office now.  I think I'll go enjoy my alterations.  Ahhhh, shredded paper feels soooo good.
Late- afternoon:  Now it's time to help Julie paint.
Evening: Time to steal some food and get kicked out until bedtime!

You know what's sad?  We still haven't cleaned that shredded paper up yet.  Our hope is that she will continue to shred it until it's tiny enough to vacuum.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Sick House

Sorry for the lame-o post today.  My husband is sick.  My son is getting sick and I am doing my best to fight off all infectious viruses.  My body is a germ fighting mega warrior!  At least I hope it is.

Anyway - if I'm not cleaning then I'm working on my ninja book.  I am mid-way through a challenging spread and having a hard time with the colors and patterns.  

Hopefully I will have something a little more fun up tomorrow.  In the meantime I leave you with a few jokes I lifted from the Prairie Home Companion Joke Show:

Me: Knock, Knock
You: Who's there?
Me: Control Freak.  Now you say 'Control Freak who?'

Why do cherry trees smell?
Because George Washington cut one.

How do you sink a submarine filled with blondes?
Knock on the hatch.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

International Women's Day

On Saturday it was International Women's Day. How did I know? Because my friend and neighbor, Shannon, invited me to her annual International Women's Day Potluck. And that's pretty much the only way I knew.

I guess it's a big deal in other parts of the world. Here - not so much. Then I started to wonder, why is that? It occurred to me that women have it pretty good in the U.S.A. Maybe it's not 100% fair. Maybe male lawyers get paid more then female lawyers. You can count all the ways it's still a "man's world", I suppose. But we can go to a soccer game if we want. And I, myself, haven't had any issue of not being able to do something I wanted to do because I am a woman.

In college, a male friend was always sort of put off that February was devoted to learning about African Americans. He'd say something along the lines of, "Where's the white man month?" And we'd answer, "All eleven others." So maybe , in the U.S., we don't go out of our way to celebrate women because we celebrate them more often in general? You think? I sort of enjoy celebrating myself! Just ask my husband. :)

But still, it's good to party. Here's a sample of the potluck.
Curse my lactose intolerance for not allowing me a slice of that cheesecake!!!
Here I am trying to eat a skewer of chicken satay. My friend, Angela, thought I looked kinda ridiculous, so she took a picture. I, for one, never mind looking kinda ridiculous, so I let her.

I hope all you women out there had a wonderful International Women's Day. And if not, have one today! And tomorrow!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Lime Zingers

The Cookie of the Month for March is the Lime Zinger.  When flipping through my cookie magazine, these caught my eye because of the green aspect.  St. Patrick's Day isn't really a big holiday for me, but I do enjoy green.  And I can't get behind Easter in March - so St. Patty's Day it is.  Although these cookies taste more like a vacation in the Florida Keys than St. Patrick's Day.
I describe these as a "cookie in three acts".  Act I - When you first bite into it, it's like a standard shortbread, only flakier.  Act II - Then the nutty flavor starts coming out and doing its thing.  Act III - You've chewed.  You've swallowed.  Now that zingy lime starts dancing around on your tongue, in your nose.  And that's what makes you go back for another.  And another.  Ahhhh!

If you like lime, this is a cookie for you.  That said - not the easiest cookie in town.  With the shredding of lime peel and juicing the limes - it's a bit of a high effort cookie.  But man-o-man, are they good!

LIME ZINGERS
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons finely shredded lime peel
(buy 4 limes total)
1/4 cup lime juice (about 2 limes)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup finely chopped brazil nuts of hazelnuts  (I used hazelnuts)
Frosting:
1/2 of an 8 oz. package of cream cheese, softened
1 cup sifted powdered sugar
1 Tablespoon lime juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
green food coloring


1. Preheat over to 350.  Beat butter w/ electric mixer for 30 seconds.  Add sugar: beat. Beat in lime peel, 1/4 cup lime juice and 1 teaspoon vanilla until combined.  Beat of stir in flour.  Stir in nuts.

2.Lightly flour work area and roll out dough.  I used a 2" circle cutter - but this is up to you.  Roll out dough to 1/4" thick and cut your cookies.  Place on an ungreased cookie sheet.  Back 8-10 minutes.  Cool and move to wire rack.

3. For frosting, beat together cream cheese, powdered sugar, lime juice, vanilla and food coloring. I, FINALLY, bought an appropriate icing bag and tip to decorate the cookies, but in the past I have used the old cut the corner off a baggie trick.  Let set until icing has hardened.

Makes about 36 depending on the size of your cutter.  Enjoy!

Friday, March 7, 2008

The Puppet Show

All went well in the land of Frog and Toad.  I remembered my lines.  Magoo pulled the snail.
Here are some shots.

But you know what - I just don't think it was very funny.  Granted, Frog and Toad are usually a little more sweet than funny, but I think the next time I do it, I will try to find a story/script a little more inclusive and silly.  

Frog and Magoo

This afternoon I go into Magoo's school to preform my Frog and Toad puppet show.  I chose to do the story, The Letter, in which Toad is quite sad because he never gets any mail.  So Frog rushes home to write him a letter and gives it to a snail to deliver.  Frog rushes back to Toad's house to wait for the letter, which takes four days because the snail is so slow.  Cute.

I made a snail to pull along, and gave that part to Magoo.  (We'll see how he does with it.)  But while rehearsing last night, he took a liking to Frog.

Note my messy desk in the background.  :)
Now I just have to make sure I get all my lines down - but I can always ad-lib. ( They'll never know.) And I'll see if one of the teachers will snap a couple shots.  Wish me luck!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Reflections

Yesterday afternoon, on my way to pick Magoo up from school, I noticed all the lovely reflections in the puddles.  Maybe it was because the sun was out and the sky was so blue.  I had to go back into the house and get my camera.  These are some of the results.


This one is so clear it's almost like a chalk artist came along and painted right on the concrete.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Good Things ...

A friend of mine just had a premie. He's just a tiny boy - maybe just 3 lbs. But he's holding strong - as is the Mama who had spent 6 weeks flat on her back prior to delivery. So this is a little gift for them.
Robert Ryan cuts a ton of words in his work. When I first saw them I thought - I'll never do that! That's crazy difficult! But this project came to mind and I thought I could handle a few.
This piece is a little larger, about 7" x 9".

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Easter Scene

While jogging around Blogland the other day I saw this over at Little Red Caboose and it inspired me to make an Easter scene (kinda like my little Christmas Village.)

So yesterday, I pulled out my polymer clay and Magoo and I made some little eggs.  Of course, he didn't want to help me at first.  Me "Do you want to make some eggs with Mama?"  Him "Uh, no thank you."  He is polite.  But I knew once I got started he would join in, that's usually how it goes.
I had some light green fuzzy fabric in the basement.  I'm not in love with it, but it will do. Besides, I like the texture to keep the eggs from rolling.  And I bought the tiny basket a few months ago at a church thrift shop.
Voila!  Easter scene.

Magoo did the self-portrait in school a little while back, but I think it works nicely against the scene.  It's bright and egg shaped!  The elf is borrowed from the Christmas decorations.  For some reason, she was hiding in an Easter basket.  But since I'm looking for something with a vintage feel to it, she can stay.  

What I really want is a small porcelain bunny like this:
Only a little less frightened.  Poor little guy looks like he has a gun to his head!  Here comes Peter Cotton Tail - BLAMO!

Monday, March 3, 2008

Mini Walnut Muffins

In a continuing effort to boost Magoo's Omega 3 intake, I went online to find a recipe for walnuts.  I found Mini Walnut Muffins.  So far, these have been a big hit with both my boys. Michael kept commenting, "Those are so good!"  Which is always nice to hear.


Mini Walnut Muffins

2 eggs
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup melted butter
1/8 tsp. almond flavoring  (The recipe calls for Black Walnut flavor, but I couldn't find any of that.  And I have to say we really like the almond taste.)

- whip eggs.  (Note, I bought an old fashioned egg beater recently, and I just love to beat eggs with it.  Takes me back to my childhood!  Plus, those things are just fun.)
- mix brown sugar and butter.
- add sugar mix to the egg mix.  Mix.  Then add the remaining ingredients. 
- go ahead and grease those little muffin tins up nicely.  Then add the mix 1/2 full per cup.
- bake at 350 degrees for approx. 10 minutes per batch

I had some left-over batter so I poured it into a mini loaf pan.  That had to bake a tad longer, but I didn't time it.  Sorry.  Wouldn't that be nice, though?  Giving neighbors a little wrapped up loaf of walnut bread?!  I'm going to have to do that.


Saturday, March 1, 2008

Rosy Cheeks and Snowball Fights

We had another beautiful snow last night.  I tell you - I can really get behind a good Friday night snow.  You know that all you have to do the next morning is sit back and enjoy it.  No rush to shovel (unless you like to).  No needless driving down slick roads to work or school.  It's just beautiful and fun.  Is there anything better?

Maybe rosy cheeks?

My husband went outside to shovel (because he likes to) and Magoo went outside to help/play.  I stayed inside to tidy and get some bread going in the bread machine.  After a little while - I  heard the wonderful sounds of children playing.

My house is not a big house.  It is not gorgeous from the front.  It will grace no magazine covers.  But we have the best dang neighborhood of friends and kids and they are all welcome to play in our yard and that's what rocks about my house.  

Here Michael, my husband, is playing with a couple of the older neighbor boys.  Magoo is running around somewhere but he's not as into the snow war as the others.  But the boys had a great time with Michael because he's a worthy opponent.  Here was my choice: clean the living room or go play in the snow.  I bet you can guess which I chose.