Thursday, December 31, 2009

Fiber Optic-ness - So How Did That Work Out?

Now that Christmas is over, it's time to de-decorate. Time to take down all those decorations that took so long to put up. Once everything is down it all looks so bare. (We may need to think about jazzing things up a bit - Sharpie art anyone?)

Remember those awesome little fiber optic trees I spoke about just over a month ago? Well, of course those must come down too. Sweet Pea's tree is still beautifully decorated - ornaments just so, garland artfully draped, bird (ornament) nestled in the center on some branches, fiber optic branches nice and fiber-optic-y. Like new, only prettier.

And then there's Snicker's and Doodlebug's tree. It is no longer plugged in or even near an outlet. All the ornaments except maybe one or two are in a pile underneath, rolling behind the dresser and under the bed. The garland is skewed and dragging on one side. And the branches, oh the branches! The poor poor crooked, crushed and bent branches! Pointing every which way in a flat, squished, ouch-this-hurts kind of way. Poor tree. I think it can be puffed back out into shape for next year - or maybe we'll wait a few years 'til they actually care that it's there.

So, back into the boxes until next year. Good bye trees. We'll miss you, but we'll see you before you know it!


Wednesday, December 30, 2009

You Can Do That?!? With a Sharpie?!? (Awesome Examples of Sharpie Art)

Who knew Sharpies were so cool? So popular? Many of you did I suppose. Just not me. Until recently. This past summer I took some Sharpies to a pair of canvas shoes. It just seemed like a fun and funky thing to do.

And since then it seems I keep seeing Sharpie art popping up everywhere. It turns out there are lots of fun and funky things you can do, and people have done, with Sharpies. Check out some of these stellar examples of Sharpie art:
(note: I am not being compensated in any way for this - I just think this is really cool stuff!)

Who would think to take a permanent marker to a Lamborghini? Seriously? But this is uber-cool! I mean, this is a Lamborthini so it's cool just because of what it is. But it's even cooler because of the art. (I'm sure some people don't agree, but I love it!) I mean, this would be cool on any car!

How about decorating a styrofoam cup? Styrofoam cups are so boring, aren't they? They need a little, something, to make them fun. Cheeming Boey creates incredible works of art on styrofoam cups. Now that's a cup!

How about the man who did a room makeover with $10 worth of Sharpies. Cheapest makeover ever! Sign me up! I have some walls that are looking mighty bare right now.

This is the Etsy shop of someone who does awesome things on wood with Sharpies:

And an article about Sharpwood.

How about this cool Honda sport bike:

Sharpie has a blog with lots of ideas, inspiration and awesome and creative Sharpie artists.

And at the "Sharpie Uncapped" gallery you can see Sharpie creations by regular people like you and me, uploaded for your viewing pleasure.

The site also has a "How To' section for when you are ready to get started.

I am inspired to get out my Sharpies again and decorate something. Probably not the walls, or the car (I think my husband might have something to say about that, although the kids would certainly think it was a good idea), but I'm sure I can find something.

So go out, get some Sharpies and see what you can do! I challenge you! Take some sharpies to your shoes, a pumpkin, a plain Christmas ball, your walls, your clothes, your car, your dishes or furniture, frames and lampshades, tissue boxes, appliances, anything that seems too plain - that needs a little jazzing up. Go ahead. It's OK. Get creative! (But don't get in trouble - make sure it's OK before you mark up the car or the furniture ;-))


Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Skiing Snowmen Cake

A couple of years ago I took a cake decorating class. I'd considered it previously and had always put it off because I knew I would really enjoy it. A strange reason to put it off you say? Maybe, but I do that only because I know that the last thing I need is another hobby (aka another reason to spend money on supplies for my hobby and another thing to try to fit into my schedule that is already busy with family, work and lots of hobbies). And once I find one that I like, I usually take it and run.

On a related note, it was the same with scrapbooking. I put that off for a while too, but then was invited to a scrapbooking 'party' (like a Tupperware party) at a friend's house. That was all it took and I was off and running. And now, almost 10 years later, with about 20 or so 12x12 scrapbooks, many tiny scrapbooks, vacation scrapbooks, gift scrapbooks, hundreds of papers, embellishments, die cuts, scissors, paper punches, tools, glues, adhesives, stickers, etc I've taken it pretty far and enjoy it completely. I haven't spent a lot of time on it lately - I'm about 2 years behind now on pictures, but I still plan to catch up and still have it all laid out and ready and occasionally will whip out a page.

But back to the cake thing. I knew once I started I would get into it completely. And I did. I took the 3 basic Wilton classes then the Fondant and Gum Paste class. I had so much fun! I'm creative. I like to make things and making them out of cake and frosting is just as much fun as paper and scissors and glue. I have a lot of cake pans in all sizes, bags and tips for piping frosting, spatulas, cake boards, dowels, food colors, fondant rollers and cutters. All the fun stuff I need to make cool and fun cakes.

The latest cake was one I made for a birthday party for the visiting cousins from down south. Knowing that they were looking forward to snow that they rarely get to see any longer I decided to go with a snowy theme. I piped snowflakes around the bottom layer and decorated with marshmallow snowmen on skis, ice-cream cone Christmas trees (awesome idea courtesy of Bakerella), and dangling snowflakes. All in all I think it came out pretty nice. The dangling snowflakes didn't come out exactly how I wanted (I need to find a better way to afix things like that sometime when I'm not in a hurry), but it was close enough. And other than one little mishap with a snowman making a face-print in the snow when he tumbled off his skis and down the slope, it was pretty smooth going this time around. All in all, pretty successful.

Here are some pictures:


Monday, December 28, 2009

The Adventures of Mister Sinister : Snack Time

My son has two apple snails, Frisky and Mister Sinister. They are fascinating little creatures. I read that they will eat vegetables - kale, lettuce, spinach, etc, so I tried giving them some lettuce and then some kale. Frisky and Mister Sinister ignored it completely and continued to crawl all over the plastic plants. The other day, I noticed Frisky by the kale (which I had anchored down with a little gravel) and as I came closer for a better look I noticed he was under the edge of it, like he was hoisting it up with his shell. He wasn't eating it, he was uprooting it! A little while later I noticed the kale was floating at the top of the tank. All I can guess is that he wanted that nasty stuff out of his tank! Now! OK. I get it. They prefer algae covered plastic and fish flakes. I won't waste time with that anymore.

And did you know that apple snails have gills and a lung and that they can survive out of the water for several days, or even weeks? And that they are more active at night? It's all true.

And to illustrate the facts, the following tale happened one evening. I had turned out the lights in the kitchen and before going up to bed I sat at the kitchen table to watch the aquarium for a minute or two. I will often do this and just watch and listen for a few minutes to the soft sounds and gentle movement of the water, fish and snails. It's very relaxing. This is what I saw:

The fuchsia coral glowed softly in the tank. The filter motor hummed, a quiet undercurrent to the soft burbling issuing forth. Several guppies swam lazily back and forth. A ghost shrimp skittered by. All was quiet in the aquarium. From behind the coral, a beady little eye peaked out and scanned the tank from left to right and back again. Sensing no immediate danger, Mister Sinister slowly crept out from behind the coral, gliding across the bottom of the tank. He quickly reached the front wall of the aquarium and slid up it like a helium-filled balloon, graceful and smooth. As he neared the water line he slowed and gazed down across the tank below. All was as it should be in his domain.

He then raised his siphon and poked it out of the top of the water, breaking the surface tension and sending circles outward. He stayed there for a moment, siphon raised as if testing the air currents, then slowly he slid up, above the water line.  As he pulled himself off the surface, the water snapped back into place like a rubber band and undulated for a moment before stilling again. Mister Sinister stopped, as if listening then continued his upward journey. He disappeared behind the top plastic edge of the tank, but within moments, the top flap lifted ever so slightly and a tiny appendage poked out. A tiny, dim light shone forth and scanned the room from left to right, then down along the outside of the tank to the floor.

Mister Sinister crept over the top of the tank and began the descent down, following the light trail. He reached the bottom of the tank and turned, gliding across the top of the table on which the aquarium rested. Without pausing he slid over the edge and down and soon reached the floor. There was no sound except the continued hum and burble of the filter. The light again scanned the room from one side to the other, and then settled on the pantry door. Mister Sinister followed his light trail across the floor, to the pantry and disappeared beneath the door. A faint light shone out softly from the crack in the bi-fold doors. After several more moments of silence, a sharp crinkle and crackle reverberated through the room. The noise continued for several moments, then stopped. What replaced it was the sound of crunching. Mister Sinister had found the potato chips! (And I thought salt was dangerous for snails!)

After a seemingly endless time, the crunching ceased. There were several more minutes of crinkling and rustling, then silence. Before too long, the light shone out from beneath the pantry door, shining across the floor toward the tank. Mister Sinister, covered in a thin dusting of crumbs like new-fallen snow on a sidewalk, glided out from beneath the door and across the floor.

He reached the aquarium table and slid up the side, then up the side of the tank. As he reached the top, he turned and scanned the area around the aquarium. Seeing nothing out of order, he lifted the lid and slid over the side. The light darkened and went out and he slid down under the surface of the water, leaving a trail of chip flotsam and jetsam like a capsizing ship. As he slid quickly down the side, the guppies swarmed upward to gobble up the crumbs. They continued to snack as he slid across the bottom of the tank to his usual spot behind the coral.

Now I know why he never eats the kale and romaine I put out for him! He is full of something tastier!


Saturday, December 26, 2009

Random Quote of the Day

The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart.
- Helen Keller


Friday, December 25, 2009

Best Christmas Song Ever

I absolutely love The Calling's version of Carol of the Bells. It's one of the best Christmas songs ever. Have a listen.

And while you're at it. Have a very merry Christmas too!


Thursday, December 24, 2009

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus

Santa Claus visited this weekend. I took Sweet Pea, Snickers and Doodlebug to visit my mother and Santa stopped by for a quick visit with a gift for each of my kids and a lot of Ho Ho Ho'ing, hugs, kisses (Hershey Kisses) and some Christmas singing. It was awesome.

Despite the fact that I, my mother, father and Sweet Pea knew who was under the disguise, it was still magical. The disguise is so good that we all wonder if it really is a disguise or maybe some sort of magical transformation. I've been married to the man for over fourteen years, but when he shows up, Ho Ho Ho'ing and stamping his big black boots, hefting his bag of gifts and making a regular Christmas ruckus he is not at all identifiable. Maybe it's the thick white beard and mustache, the soft red and white fur suit and hat, the Santa glasses and big black boots, or maybe it's the sparkling Christmas magic circling him like a tiny fleet of winter fairies, or the reindeer bells jingling faintly somewhere in the distance, or the smell of freshly baked gingerbread wafting in from some unknown source. Maybe it's the large eyes, full of wonder that gaze up at him, and then shyly look away, with a glance at the big red bag. Maybe it's the smile and anticipation as Doodlebug climbs up on his knee, shyly telling him what he'd like for Christmas. Whatever it is, in that moment, he is 100% Santa Claus through and through. We all believe.

It brings to mind Virginia: "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus"  I absolutely love this editorial response from 1897! Of course there is a Santa Claus!

May the magic always remain.


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Baking

I was going to blog about my Christmas baking in much greater detail, but with the baking, shopping, wrapping and everything else that is going on I just didn't have the time. So instead I'll just post the pictures of some of the favorites.

Nutmeg logs

Italian chocolate pepper balls
These are a personal favorite that the majority of the household will not touch. Everytime I make these it smells and tastes like Christmas to me. I never would have thought mixing chocolate, cinnamon, allspice, melted shortening, sugar, flour, whiskey and coffee would even be edible, let alone tasty, but I think these are the most delicious little morsels ever! My husband thinks maybe they would be improved with the addition of some cigarette butts - to go with the coffee and whiskey. (I guess you had to be there.)

Butter Cookies
The butter cookies are always a favorite. Fun to cut out, fun to frost and decorate and best of all, fun to eat!

An Assortment

I decided to forgo the fudge, buckeyes and other candies this year because the stress of everything was killing me. I'd rather enjoy the holidays than get all stressed out over some fudge! I can make fudge anytime, but Christmas memories are only made at Christmas.


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

To Boldly Go Where No Tree Has Gone Before

At our house we have an 'Outer Space Tree' (Can you hear the echo when you say that? OUTER, outer outer SPACE space space TREE tree tree). The Hallmark Keepsake Star Trek and Star Wars ornaments were taking over so they were moved to their own tree, complete with sparkling white stars (lights) and planets (sparkly christmas balls).

For your viewing pleasure:

This tree is really out of this world! (Ugh! I know, but I had to say it!)


Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas - A Photo Journey

The Christmas Village

A Favorite Ornament

The Snowman Family

Our Tree

Christmas Ball

Another Favorite Ornament


Sunday, December 20, 2009

Make Some Music

At the state fair this past summer they had a booth set up in one of the agriculture buildings with a man selling hand-crafted mountain dulcimers. The hubby and I stopped over to check it out. They were beautifully crafted instruments and the gentleman was very knowledgeable and friendly. He mentioned that there was a local dulcimer group (who knew?) that would be stopping by for a demonstration later. So later in the day we stopped back for a listen.

And, you know, I really needed another hobby. I mean, I must have about 5 minutes of each day where I'm just twiddling my thumbs. Inexcusable! So, to take up that slack and put my thumbs (and indeed, all my fingers) to work I found an affordable yet decent quality tear-drop shaped mountain dulcimer. I've had it for almost two months now and I'm really enjoying it. I'm cheating - by using the 'tabs' rather than trying to learn the notes and chords, but hey, it's a place to start. I can always learn the 'right' way at some point. For now I'm just enjoying playing a few tunes and learning how to make it sound decent.

If you're looking for an instrument to play, and don't want anything overly complex and like the sound of a string instrument I highly recommend the dulcimer!


Saturday, December 19, 2009

Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery . . .

. . . But damn it can be annoying! I'm a busy person. I'm always doing something, be it cleaning the kitchen, or making a meal, drawing or scrapbooking, rearranging stuff or de-arranging stuff (aka, making a mess), wiping a nose or doing laundry, reading a book or helping build a Lego house, baking, running errands or just turning in circles trying to figure out what I'm supposed to be doing. Since I'm almost always in the middle of something when I hear "Mommy, can you get me a drink?" or "Mommy, can you help me fix this computer game?", or "Mooommmmmmmmmy, he called me a zebra butt!", my response is, "Hold
on just a minute, let me finish this up."

So of course now whenever I ask the kids for something, "Get your pajamas on now please" or "Can you get me a pen?" or "Supper is ready!" it's almost guaranteed that I will hear a chorus of "Hold on!", "Just a minute!", "I'm almost done!"

What happened to "Yes Mommy." followed by immediate action?

But can I blame them? After all, they learned it from me. And sometimes it's OK. I don't mind if they finish up a game or watch the last 3 minutes of a TV show. It really becomes annoying when the game drags on for another 25 minutes, or the TV show has an hour and a half left, or they forget altogether that they need to do something.

But this unconscious imitation manifests itself in other ways too. Just the other day I asked Doodlebug what he wanted for breakfast. "Toast," he replied, paused and continued, "Of the cinnamon variety."

Oh my goodness! That is me all over! I say that and things very much like that all the time. It's funny, cute, and somewhat disconcerting to hear my weirdnesses (of course that's a word!) coming from someone else's mouth. I'm just waiting for them to start saying "Goodness!" or "Good Gravy!" or "Heavens to Murgatroyd!" or singing "When I was a young warthog!" or any other variety of strange things I'm known to sing when it's just me and the family to hear.

I'd be so flattered if they did! ;-)


Friday, December 18, 2009

Incredible Paper Crafts

I'm a crafty person. And by that I mean I like to make things not that I'm tricky and scheming in an underhanded evil sort of way. I enjoy crafts, especially paper crafts. Paper crafts can be very cool.

I like scrapbooking - all that cutting and gluing and laying out of photos and such. It's an enjoyable way to pass the time and a great way to do something meaningful with photos.

I've also been known to give origami a go. It generally becomes frustratingly difficult, but for short periods of time it can be fun. I even have a huge (like, dictionary size) origami book that shows you how to make everything from paper. And I mean everything - birds, animals, furniture, people, planes, trains and automobiles, and other extremely complex paper folding creations. Maybe someday I'll crack it open.

So, how would you like to see some absolutely incredible, eye popping, unbelievable, gorgeous, simply amazing, complex, intricate and extraordinary (is that enough adjectives, or should I throw in a few more?) examples of paper art? I knew you would want to! These are, like I said, absolutely incredible, eye popping, unbelievable, gorgeous, simply amazing, complex, intricate and extraordinary:

I especially like Simon Schubert's work. Amazing! And Brian Dettmer's Book Autopsies are incredible. I've made some very simple book cuttings, but nothing, and I mean nothing like that. I've managed to cut out a roughly square chunk from the center of a book. I'm inspired to try something more complex.

And Yulia Brodskaya's quilling is awesome! I feel an urge to pull out my quilling supplies again.
And oh my god check out Jolis Paons dress. I'm speechless.


Thursday, December 17, 2009

Creepy. And Crawly.

To continue the new aquarium saga we stopped at the pet store the other day to finish stocking our tank. To complete our guppy 'collection' we purchased a 'fancy guppy'. And boy is he fancy! He outshines the plain old feeder guppies like you wouldn't believe. He is a bright shining beacon of fanciness! Really! He is bright yellow with fancilicious waving fins and sparkling eyes. He is the new king of the tank! Quite pretty really. We named him Sunny.

And we have a tiny catfish - one of those that will remain tiny. The last thing I needed was a fish that was going to outgrow the tank that I was forced into buying because I had outgrown the tank! He's a cute little albino cory catfish. I would have rather had a nice unassuming gray or speckled one, but Sweet Pea insisted on the albino one because he was so cool! And he really is very cute, despite the evil red eyes. As of right now, his name is still to be decided. Probably Whiskers, although I was partial to Meowsers and there was some call for Cloudy.

And finally, much to my utter dismay we now own three ghost shrimp - Creepy, Crawly and Crud Muffin (yes, Crud Muffin). Ghost shrimp are creepy (and crawly). They skitter around the tank like little, um, creepy, crawly . . . things. They are semi-transparent and covered in long, spindly, hair-like legs and antennae that move a mile a minutes, twitching and skittering and bouncing and jumping. And I don't think they are very nice either. I think I've seen them nipping at poor sweet Frisky and the guppies. But they are supposed to be excellent at cleaning up left-over food, algae, and any manner of disgusting things that fall to the bottom of the tank. And Snickers loves them - he thinks they are the cutest little things. To each their own I guess.

Here's a picture of one. This picture does NOT do justice to the legs and antennae. You should just see them skitter through the water, all their legs moving in unison. I suppose it could be pretty or graceful if I could get past the fact that they look like creepy, crawly, bugs!


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Snaily Snorkel

OK. So we are the proud owners of two snails and seven guppies. And let me tell you, those snails are so cute! One is a black mystery snail, the other is a golden mystery snail, or as I often call it, the orange one. Then I hear a chorus of "It is NOT ORANGE Mommy! It's yellow!" Like, get it right, would ya! I still think it's orange, thank you very much. A nice yellowish orange. In any case, we are working on names. The orange/yellow one is Frisky. He's the more active of the two and wow! you should see him take off across the tank. It's like watching a marathon. With one contestant. Going very very very slowly. But for a snail, he's really going fast! Really.

As for the name of the black one, it's still being debated. Some possibilities include Black Beard, Fang, Mr. Sinister, Cumulonimbus and Snailinator. However, we can't get everyone to agree on one name. With each name someone is extremely opposed to it. So the search continues. I'll call him Mr. Sinister for now.

Mr Sinister is more laid back than Frisky. (A laid back snail? Really?) He tends to lurk in dark corners under the edges of the fake coral and under the fake plants. He prefers to maintain a low profile. While Frisky is zooming around the tank like a balloon loosing air, Mr. Sinister is lurking behind the coral, peering out with his beady little snail eyes and making plans to take over the world! I believe he is working on becoming the 'Plankton' of the tank.

Watch out Frisky! Watch out Small, Crooked Tail, Guppy 1, Guppy 2, Guppy 3, Guppy 4 and Guppy 5! (As you can see, we were not very creative in naming the guppies. I mean, we can't even tell them apart, other than the very small one and the very crooked one.)

A very interesting feature of mystery snails, and I don't know if you know this, (really, why would you) is their little antennae-like thing that they unfurl and stick out of the water. It's called a siphon and it acts as a breathing tube, a snaily snorkel if you will. They have both gills and a lung so they can stay underwater or come up to the surface for air if necessary. When they come to the surface, they suck air in through the siphon. Very cool.

So anyway, we moved them from the too small tank to the 10 gallon aquarium late last week. They spent the first couple of days just sitting in the middle of the tank. Occasionally they would raise up their little siphon (snorkel) and reach into the air. I imagine them thinking something like this:

"Air. I need air! Where's the surface?" "Nope. Not there."

And later:

"Air. I need air! Can't reach! Where is the air?!?!" "Nope. Still not there."

Eventually, they started to move around a bit more and even found the sides which they quickly scaled. I was relieved. I'm sure moving from the tiny, overcrowded, cloudy tank they were in, to the nice big one with clean water was probably a bit of a shock, but they seem to have adjusted well.

Now I'm just waiting for Mr. Sinister to make his move.


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Would You Like Grilled Cheese?

I am not good at grilled cheese. I am good at a lot of things but grilled cheese is not among them. I can write, I can bake, I can create a web page with HTML and CSS, I can draw, I can create a java web application, I can plant a garden, I can scrapbook, I can paint, I can do many many things fairly well. But I cannot, for the life of me, make grilled cheese. Oh I try. Guaranteed, it will burn. It doesn't matter if I do it on the stove top or an electric frying pan. It will burn. It doesn't matter if I cook it at 200 degrees or 400 degrees. It will burn. I've tried checking it periodically. I can often get it to the point where it is almost done. Almost. But it needs another minute so it's not soggy but nicely (and lightly) browned and slightly crispy. But without fail, in that last 10 seconds, it will go from almost done to pure and utter char from the deepest pits of hell - blackened and covered in ashes. So far beyond recognition that the char cannot even be scraped off. The char goes right though to the cheese.

I can bake cookies, and while sometimes they are over-cooked, most of the time they come out just fine. I can bake a lasagna just fine. I can make pancakes on that very same electric frying pan and they very rarely get overdone. So what is is about grilled cheese? I'll probably never know, but if you come to my house and you want a sandwich, do not, under any circumstances, request grilled cheese!


Sunday, December 13, 2009

Random Quote of the Day

"Things are more like they are now than they have ever been before.
-Dwight Eisenhower


Saturday, December 12, 2009

Random Quote of the Day

"Strength is the ability to break a chocolate bar into four pieces with your bare hands - and then eat just one of those pieces."
- Judith Viorst


Friday, December 11, 2009

Tiny is so Cute!

Have I mentioned that I like tiny things? Cute, teeny, tiny, miniature little things? Lady bugs are cute. Like this one that visited recently.

And of course teeny tiny little guppies are cute. With their tiny fins and itty bitty faces and little darting bodies. And gerbils are sweet. With their tiny little furry bodies and little wiggly noses and twitching whiskers. I also like to make tiny little things (when I can find the time). I've been known to do tiny works of art on ATCs (Artist Trading Cards). I love the smaller size. And I love to make tiny little scrapbooks. I have many of them on a bookshelf at home, from 5-6" across to 1" across. The smaller the better. This past summer I made a tiny little book out of two rocks, some paper, wire, beads and glue. I really like the way it came out. It even won second prize at the state fair's craft competition.

I like to bake tiny things too. Tiny little cakes made from sandwich cookies stacked one on top of the other and covered in frosting and tiny buttercream flowers. Tasty sweet little petits fours and miniature brownie bars.

I love my kids teeny tiny little feet and toes. (They are getting bigger now, daily, but they are still smaller, and thus cuter, than my own.) I love the tiny little baby teeth that get put under the pillows for the tooth fairy. I love tiny little forget-me-knots, blue and pink and tiny violets and johnny-jump-ups. Teeny tiny little green inch worms, those tiny little screws that hold your glasses together and the tiny screwdrivers that you use to tighten them, those sweet little zebra finches you see at the pet store with their tiny feathered bodies and tiny little peeping voices. Oh tiny is so cute!