Sunday, July 24, 2016

New stuff in the etsy shop.

Trying to find an outlet for my printing obsession!

Srsly. I need to raise some funds in order to support this habit.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015


Another Secret City food offering! I believe this is my third or fourth...
In any case, the theme is fantasy and this was the first thing that popped into my mind. Tomato Sludge. Despite its dreary sounding name (intentional), it's a food that covers so many bases, it HAS to be a fantasy. But it's not!!
It's gluten-free, lactose-free, added sugar-free, organic, easy, economical, amazingly useful and above all, absolutely delicious.
Here is how you make it:

On rimmed baking sheet or glass casserole dish, pour out a few glugs of olive oil and swirl to coat the bottom. Pick a pan that will hold all the tomatoes without many empty spots. A little crowding is fine.

Add halved or quartered tomatoes, ( add some grapes, figs, peppers, a few stone fruits; whatever is on hand). A few shakes of oregano and basil are fine but not necessary. A little salt and pepper if you choose.

Garlic. Lots. Peeled and stirred in so it is buried under the tomatoes. This keeps it from burning.

Roast at 350 for a few hours. Stir it once the tops of the fruits are black/brown and keep an eye on it at the end. You want it to be jammy--but not burnt.

This is optimal. The goo (frond) in the corner is still soft and easy to scrape off the pan, but it's not watery. Scrape off the pan with a spatula into a bowl. Taste and adjust salt and pepper. A splash of balsamic vinegar if you like. Sometimes I run an immersion blender through it and sometimes I don't. Just depends on the texture you prefer.

Pack into jars for the fridge OR zip-lock bags for the freezer. This becomes the base for every chili, pasta sauce, pizza, lasagne, stew you can think of. I like it instead of ketchup on a burger. Mix with some horseradish and it's a cocktail sauce. Spoon it straight from the jar over a disk of goat cheese and eat with crackers; it's a dinner you will crave.

Here is the long version of the info I gave at The Secret City:
Once upon a time, I was a little girl who spent my days reading the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Over and over I read them, fascinated by the rural life, the complete, total focus on domestic chores and of course, the food. There was rarely enough of it, so much time was spent obtaining it and preparing it and what there was, could never, ever be wasted.

The notions of frugality and making something out of nothing, fascinated me. I longed to have a garden, raise chickens, milk a cow. By 12 years old, I had read the books so often, I considered myself somewhat of an expert on homestead survival and self-sufficiency, at least in the food department.

Fast forward to 2007, and my husband and I and our 3 kids are watching the PBS documentaries Frontier House and 1900 House...remember those? Where they took a family and set them up in an exact environment of a period in history and through reality television, watch the modern day people try to make a go of it in an obnoxiously accurate situation. It was while watching Frontier house, set in Montana 1883, that I announced to my family “You know, I'd be REALLY good at this” which the four of them responded by laughing so hard they nearly fell off the couch.
Apparently they saw me more as an “Eloise at the Plaza” girl than a “Laura” from Little House on the Prairie.

Teasing aside, the frontier foods are the foods of MY fantasy. Oh sure, I'd love a fantasy food like a doughnut that makes you lose weight, or french fries that are calorie free and good for your heart. When my kids were little, I used to fantasize about a drive thru restaurant that would serve peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, little containers of carrot sticks and milk in disposable sippy cups, something to make the tedium of toddler life a little easier. Everyone's fantasy is different.

Sadly I did not grow up and live on a farm. Perhaps even more dismaying is that I don't live at the Plaza either. Predictably, I live in suburbia. I'm lucky enough to have space for a garden, but not enough for a goat...this is a good thing for everyone but me. However, like most gardeners, I am usually stuck with more vegetables than I can use and being who I am, I am not about to let anything go to waste.

When I was asked to make this food offering for the Fantasy theme, Tomato Sludge was the first thing that popped to mind. I realized this was NOT going to be anyone else's fantasy. Oh sure I could have made sparkly purple cupcakes with unicorns and luster dust on top...but Tomato Sludge is my dream- come-true food and here's why:

In my 20's, I was a serious canner. I'd not only make jam out of all my garden fruit, I'd actually go buy more or find more fruit to can. Nowadays, once I deal with 3-4 rounds of making jam, I'm done. It's just so much work. BUT Tomato Sludge is easy. You don't need a recipe. It doesn't make a mess. Although it takes some time, you can start a batch at 9 am and at 10, when you want to go to the gym, you turn the oven off and leave it in there. When you get home, check to see how far the residual heat has cooked the pan, and turn the oven back on.

Tomato Sludge makes use of all my tomatoes. It is fool-proof. It's gluten free, lactose free, there's no added sugar. It's good for you and economical. It freezes like a dream and it becomes the base of every pasta sauce, pizza sauce, chili, stew, minestrone soup you can make. Mix in some horseradish and it's cocktail sauce for shrimp. Add some liquid smoke and spice and it becomes BBQ sauce. It is versatile. And the whole clearly is greater than the sum of it's parts. Roasting the fruit elevates them to a realm that's unexpected and complex. And that's all there is to it: On an oiled pan, I toss tomatoes, garlic and some salt and pepper. If I have other fruit to use up, those go on too. I mostly have grapes and figs from my yard, but if I have a plum or peach languishing on the counter, I'll include that as well. It all goes in the oven at about 350 degrees and when the tops of the tomatoes are deep brown, I'll mix it up a bit with a spatula. When the whole pan has evaporated the liquid, but it still moist, it's done. You take it out and scrape the pan really well and tip the whole lot into a bowl. If I have time, I'll run an immersion blender through the mass of it, but if I'm feeling lazy, I let it cool and dish it up into small zip lock bags and pop them in the freezer where they can live for at least a year.

My favorite way to enjoy Tomato Sludge is to put several spoons of it over a disk of room temperature goat cheese and eat it with those little rice crackers you get from Trader Joe's. Add a cocktail or glass of wine and you can call it dinner. No regrets. I suppose indulging in cocktail hour means there's a bit more Eloise in me than I'd like to admit, but I'm positive that if given the chance, Laura Ingalls would have sat down around 4 pm, kicked off her high buttoned shoes and enjoyed a drink and a little nosh. Here's to Laura.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

T-Shirt Hack

There are a lot of t-shirt hacks out there, this is mine.

I wanted to try to make one without sewing and specifically for converting long sleeve winter t's into summer wear. Today at the thrift store, all women's shirts were a dollar. A DOLLAR. So, yeah! I loaded up. Here's how I took a cute Chico's shirt and made it work for July weather.

Turn the shirt inside-out and cut make the sleeve very flat, seams matching up. Then you'll cut a line like I drew. The distance from the arm pit seam down the sleeve is your gauge for determining how long you want the sleeve to be. Mine is about 2.5 inches. If you want a longer sleeve, go 3-4-5 inches.

After the first cut.

The second cut will be from the point along the fold (where the sharpie is) ---just cut along the fold, then cut a tear-drop shape. Not too big, remember once on your arm it will be twice as big.

After the second cut.

Repeat on the other sleeve and you can use the cut scrap sleeve as your template.

Turn the shirt back out and tie the ends together.


I like it. It's a million degrees cooler and I didn't mess it up with needless sewing. Because it's knit fabric, the ends won't fray and because it's a busy print, no one will notice that the edges are raw and not hemmed. For a dollar and 10 min. time, I'm thrilled with my new summer shirt.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Tile Fundraiser

When my friend Danny posted about his "Ability First: Stroll and Roll" fundraiser, I wanted to contribute but really didn't have the funds to make a nice donation. I know, I know, every little bit helps, but sometimes I feel like a moron donating $10.62....

So I thought, what if I listed the tiles I've painted recently (and there are many, many tiles) on my Etsy shop page only as a fundraiser?

I couldn't offer the sales to be tax deductible, but I did promise to donate all proceeds to Dan's program, specifically his earmarked charity Camp Paivika.

I listed the tiles, plugged it a few times on Facebook and low and behold...I SOLD SOME TILES.
It's nothing short of a miracle to me. You know me and my hangups with sales (see a few posts down), so this success on Etsy is super exciting to me. "Thrilling" is not exaggerating :)

So far, I have made sales to some of my Facebook friends both here in town and across the US. I am so hoping to one day meet my goal of selling something to a stranger. That will be amazing.

In the meantime, I have $265 to give to Dan's camp. So far...;-)

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Alcohol Ink

To say I am obsessed with this new medium is an understatement.

I'm kinda kicking myself since I saw these on Pinterest over a year a go and never got around to exploring them. Now they're all the rage.
In any case, I'm transfixed with them. One Friday during winter break, Sean and I were at Home Depot and I picked up 12 tiles to experiment on with my newly purchased inks. I got the first set at MICHAEL'S.
By Sunday, I went back to Home Depot and bought a case of 100 16 cents, it's a cheap thrill ride.

As luck would have it, I was browsing Craig's List and found a woman GIVING AWAY 4x4 ceramic tile in pink and yellow. I drove out post haste. I took perhaps 1/8 of what she had and I'm happy to say it is probably a lifetime supply of tile for me.

Don't know what I'm going to do with them, but for now I don't particularly care! They are just that fun.

OK: Here's how ya do it.


Alcohol inks in a variety of colors. I bought Adirondack brand, but I hear Pinata is a better brand.

Rubbing alcohol in 91% and 70-72%. I didn't even KNOW there were different solutions! Perhaps that's why I got a D- in Chemistry (Thank you Mr. Hague).

Flat, non-porous surface to paint on---Like the 16 cent white tiles at Home Depot!

Slender paintbrushes. One about 1/4 inch and the other one should be a tiny one.

Little glass cups to pour 1/8 c of the 2 different types of alcohol in, Q-tips, paper towels, newspaper, drinking straws. Optional- a hair dryer.

Work Area

Give yourself a large area to work. Cover surface with newspapers---the ink stains everything. A well ventilated area is also good, the fumes from the alcohol will make you think you're at the flu shot clinic.

1. Clean off tile with alcohol, either kind.
My Alcohol is "dirty" with pink ink. It matters not. You can wipe the alcohol off or leave little puddles.

2. Put a few drops and squiggles of 2-3 colors on the tile.

 3. You can get the ink moving in a few different ways. You can guide it around with a paintbrush. You can tip and tilt the tile. You can blow the ink around the surface of the tile with a straw (surprisingly effective), you can roll the straw on the ink like a rolling pin (good for making well blended color areas) or you can simply wait and watch it run together.

4. Adding more ink will "push" the existing ink (wet or dry) out. (see second photo)

5. Adding "dots" of alcohol will create white spots. The 91% will REALLY get things moving. The 72% is a little less dramatic. I'm using the hairdryer to control the size of the white spots. By touching the wet brush to the ink and then drying it quickly, I was able to make smaller dots. Later, I learned to just use a little less alcohol. Using a Q-tip damp with alcohol to make the dots is interesting too as the Q-tip will absorb some ink AND deposit alcohol. Makes for a bigger dot that doesn't move as fast.

6. Tips:
*If you start a tile and hate it---just wipe the ink off with more alcohol and start over.

*They sell a Blending Solution which is alcohol and ether. I bought some. It didn't really seem to do anything different than the rubbing alcohol so I wouldn't buy it again.

*If you are just going to display this as an art piece, I would leave it as is. The ink dries SUPER SHINY and looks amazing. It will not however, take kindly to being wiped clean or scraped. Also, If the ink is diluted with too much alcohol, it loses it's shine (NOT A BAD THING), but you'll want to spray them.
If you were to use these as coasters, you'll need to seal them.
Let me tell you right now: this is my only stumbling block.

When you spray them with Krylon or Rustoleum clear gloss, the ink will re-hydrate and continue to run. NOT OK. So I painted them with water-based Varathane and they ran a teeny bit. Then I sprayed them with Krylon. Still had some run. OK I said and set those aside.
 Next batch: I sprayed this group with water based Varathane. Many, many thin coats. Then many, many thin coats of the Krylon gloss. "Many thin coats" does NOT suit my personality as I want to glob it on all at once, but this was the only way I could get it to work. It still isn't the perfect sealing solution, but for now it is OK.

This was made by swiping a damp (72%) brush through the blue ink and then dabbing lightly on the "stripes" once they were dry. The color of the dots is a result of a dirty brush and the color of the ink under the dot.

The, uh, first 60...

So. Fun easy and even a novice can do it. It's REALLY absorbing too---just watching the ink flow and blend. Kinda like being stoned without being stoned...or maybe it WAS those fumes?

When you do a Pinterest or Google image search, there are LOADS of images of these psychedelic dot dot dot tiles. It seems to be there are two camps: the clear, bright colors OR the muddled, subtle, multi-layered colors. I like the clear. There are also  many "Fantasy Moon/Dreamscapes". So many, that I quickly abandoned that possibility. I have been playing with traditional landscapes and I very much like these two:

Monday, December 16, 2013

Why I Don't Sell My Art

Sometime shortly after I finished my first mosaic guitar, I was met with a familiar feeling. It's a slightly manic and charged emotion and although it feels good, it's really not.
This feeling is best described as "I could sell this and make a TON of money".

However, like most bad feelings, it's pretty detrimental.
When this feeling enters into my mind-set, my production rate sky-rockets. My quality doesn't suffer too much and my rational thinking disappears. I start to make things for some unseen audience. That effects every choice I make. Like I said, it really doesn't effect the quality too much, but it ceases to be an emotional endeavour. It also causes me to "rank" my pieces, "This one isn't good enough for selling, I should just pass it off..." bla, bla, bla.

At the very core of this is the fact that NOTHING of mine ever sells. Doesn't matter how good, original, well-crafted, high quality, beautiful, etc. my things are. The bottom line is they never sell.
The painted tennies.
The children's furniture.
The mosaics.

After 25 years of this, I can honestly say I couldn't sell a dollar for fifty cents...
I've never even aspired to that. It is like a strange, alien land that whole sales thing.

I plod along. Time heals a multitude of wounds and dulls the memories. I got really PUMPED UP after making Laura's mermaid guitar. I dove back into mosaics with a vengeance. So after a big summer of major mosaic making, I had a small show at a shop in town.
I sold a few little things, but not enough to warrant the 11 weeks of work and pounds of tile I'd bought.

And right then and there I gave it up.

I spent the following week feeling down. Unmotivated. I didn't want to start any more projects. I realized it was the feeling of failure that had dampened my drive. "Feeling" of failure. Because, when you look at it, I didn't fail. I only was unable to get a big pat on the back from a monetary source. Granted, our society is 99.9 wired into gratification and validation from financial sources, but certainly I'm better than that. Aren't I?

Mostly what I disliked and actually dreaded were the conversations about what I "should" do. There's a certain groove you "should" have to self-promote. Everyone has an opinion. E-v-e-r-y-o-n-e.

I know it is because we are all consumers. We all buy things therefore we all fancy ourselves a bit of an expert on what makes things sell. Despite what I know in my heart are people's good intentions, these conversations always made me feel awful. Talking about selling made me feel more of a failure as people addressed skills and strategies that I could never dream of having, and above that, skills I don't even want to have. Being good at sales is like aspiring to be a gymnast. I admire it, am in awe of it but I know there's no way on God's green earth I could ever do it. And again, I don't want to.

No one has anything bad to say about my work.
Not about the quality or creativity or color choices or anything.
What I do get are loads of comments about how expensive it is. It feels a little silly that it would just dawn on me that I couldn't make a small living selling my art...but here we are.

My mosaic shoes and skulls are small items. However, they take about 14-18 hours to complete each one. Then there's the cost of tile, grout, adhesive, etc. It adds up.
And most people would like to pay about, oh, $35 for one.
It's laughable and sad.

This is what Target/Wal Mart/Ross has done to us. Everything is disposable. Everything is replaceable and thus, NOTHING has value.

When you make something FOR someone, it is very different.
I've made a few quilts. When you are sewing that quilt for someone you know, you think about that person the entire time.
When you knit a sweater for someone, you have that person in your head every stitch.
When you are finished, your end product is elevated to a realm that is untouchable. It may not look that way to anyone else, but it will to you the creator.
There is no way to put a price on that. The validation is between you and the recipient.

Tom's guitar

Back to the failed sales at the show:
I decided shortly after that to NOT try to sell my work. I would continue to make things as I desired.
 If I found a worthy recipient, all the better.
It became just as difficult to discuss this "new" groove as the old one. People, friends, family all were stubbornly arguing against just giving the art away.
Key word in that last sentence? "just". It implies a weakness or a step down in stature.
"I'm just a stay at home mom."
"It's just an old sweater."
" It's just what we do in my house."
There's a silent apology hidden in there, but it is NOT how I feel when I just give the art away.

It is also difficult to explain that making art---and knowing full well you are NOT going to be compensated with money---is my WORK. People want to label it a hobby or tell me I'm spoiled in that I get to play around all day, but I see it very differently. It is my work and I am not ashamed by it nor do I really feel any need to defend it. I am LUCKY in that I can do my work and not have to take a salaried job. For now at least.

Without getting too weird, when I give something away, it does feel as if I've released a bird to the sky. My art is out there. It is all over the country. There's a toaster in New York. There is a guitar in Cathedral City, CA. There are yoga mat bags in Texas and mosaic shoes in Las Vegas and Indiana. This is success to me. I gave things to people who admired them. Everyone gets to be happy. I don't get off on being unselfish or gracious. What does it for me is putting something (anything) that I feel has worth into the hands of someone who values it.