Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween

It took about 2 hours to braid them into my hair. I learned the hard way that I should have been using smaller amounts of hair because we (my husband and I) ran out of hair before we ran out of dreads. So I tied the 25 or so that were left over into hair ties and looped them on as a pony tail in the back.

Other than the hair, my costume was fairly mild so a lot of people looked at me and wondered if that was my normal hair and if I was dressed up at all!
I might wear them again, but just as pony tails for an evening. I slept in them last night so I could wear them to the Grand Cinema where I was volunteering today. However, I slept horribly in them and they gave me a headache.

I rushed home from volunteering and removed them. My hair is all kinky and wavy now. Since my hair is normal stick straight, I will enjoy this for the rest of the evening. I do not understand how people can stand to have long hair, let alone dread-locked hair!

Notice how dark my henna octopus has gotten; I absolutely love it!
Happy Halloween! I am sad that my favorite month is over!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Ancient Minoan Octopus Meets Modern Body Art

I am not sure where my fascination and delight with octopuses began, but it has been going on for at least a couple decades. Maybe it's because I live in the Pacific Northwest, home to the largest octopus in the world. Maybe it's just because they are beautiful and smart.

The ancient Minoan civilization on Crete was fascinated with the octopus as well as seen on many vases. When I studied art history in college, I really fell in love with the jewelry, painting, and mosaics of the Minoans.

I love how abstracted this one is. Pure simplicity in color and form.
For a few years now, I have been thinking about getting another tattoo. (And it is officially on my 37 Things I Want to Do Before I Turn 38 List.) I keep coming back to the idea of an octopus. Now let me just stop for a moment and expand on my personal theory of tattoos: They should be beautiful and ornamental. My biggest pet peeve is a tattoo that is just plunked down on the body somewhere without thinking of color or form or placement. How will it look with clothing? How does it look without clothing?

I know, I know, some people take a more personal slant with tattoos. It means something, yada yada yada. Me, I think it should look more like jewelry.

So I knew I didn't want a realistic octopus tattoo. And then I thought of the beautiful Minoan octopuses and my mind connected the dots: Minoan octopus tattoo! I've been puttering around online and have yet to see anything like it. I am sure someone(s) must have a tattoo like this, but if they do, they aren't good at tagging their photos!

But I want to play with placement and scale and so I am starting with temporary henna to get an idea of what I want before making it permanent.

My friend Antoinette does henna up in Seattle (Henna by Antoinette) so I took a little trip yesterday to see her. I sent pictures of the three octopus vases above a few days before to give her and idea of what I wanted and then let her just go for it as she saw fit.

This is when the henna was still drying:
Here it is today with the henna flaked off and the stain left behind. Last night it was very faint and today it is a lot darker.
If I end up with this as a tattoo, I will definitely have it inked darker. Yet I love this orange hue. I'll also probably want the octopus more centered on my arm and maybe, just maybe, slightly larger.
This is also a double bonus because it will look very steampunk with my black and red dreads I am wearing tonight for Halloween. Speaking of dreads, I have like 15 more to make, so I need to go, go, go! I took the extra step this morning of dying my hair black so the dreads will blend in nicely. Yes, I am a geek for my art.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Computer Components, Hair Dreads, and Felted Critters

What do all three of these items have in common? I worked on them all in the same day.

My computer has been very slow lately and keeps telling me I have low disc space despite my trying to clean things up repeatedly. A little investigation, however, showed that my audio and visual files were taking up an obscene amount of space. This newer Nikon camera of mine takes enormous photos which is great for looks, but bad for disc space. We decided that instead of getting a new computer (that is on the list but more research has to be done), what I needed was an external hard drive. So my fabulous husband did some research and ordered one and installed it yesterday and moved all of my documents and audio files and photos over. The results are "Yay!" I now have a ton of space for photos. I don't know if I will ever fill it all up (famous last words) and my computer is no longer stuttering and stalling because it now has plenty of disc space. The only problem I have now is that my desk is swimming in cords. Another problem for a different day.

I also spent a good two and a half hours yesterday working on my synthetic dreads for Halloween. I love how they are looking. I only need to make about 15 more and then I will be done. Although I may have to dye my hair black to get the best look; we'll see.

And finally, last night I continued my trend of streaming a Netflix movie on the Wii while working on felting. I am slowly moving into larger items and really liking the feel and the scale. I am now creating the base of the critters by felting cheap fiber fill and then putting the wool over the top. Much more economical and I had a huge bag of stuffing in my office closet so I am finally putting it to use. I made this sea slug last night while watching The Girl Who Played With Fire.
I started this hedgehog three nights ago while watching The Madness of King George (thumbs up) and finished him the next evening while watching the BBC miniseries State of Play. This is the show that the American movie with Ben Affleck and Russell Crowe was adapted from last year. I actually liked the American version (which is surprising because I am not a fan of Affleck's) but the BBC version is awesome. It has Bill Nighy and Kelly MacDonald and a young James McAvoy and Polly Walker. The second disc doesn't get here until tomorrow. I can't wait to watch the rest of it.
Now I have to sign off now to go finish my quarterly taxes. I always procrastinate this when really it doesn't take that long to do. Then I am heading up to Seattle for the rest of the afternoon to get a giant octopus hennaed onto my arm. This is a trial run to see if I can stand having an octopus on my arm for the rest of my life. It will also look cool with my steampunky Halloween costume. But more about my theories on tattoos later and photos of the henna tomorrow. Happy Friday!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Halloween Costume Stage 1

I just had to share the start of my Halloween costume. OK, I don't know what or who I am going to be. All I know is that I am going to have a hundred handmade dreads/hair falls/whatever you want to call them in my hair.

I've been thinking about making a wig out of wool for a while. Either dreaded ropes or pig tails but then I started thinking about how expensive that might be and then I started doing research on synthetic dreads and spent all morning watching tutorials on YouTube. What a hoot. I wish I was still a 17 year old goth girl and discovered these skills; what fun I would have had!

Back to 37 year old reality. It took 3 beauty supply stores and a serious drive to South Tacoma to find what I wanted. 100% Kanekalon hair in rainbow colors. When I finally found the store that had them, I had asked for "Kanekalon" and she was confused and when I pointed out the ones in the display that I wanted, she said, "Oh! We call those the kinky! If you had said you were looking for kinky, I would have known what you were talking about!" Funny.
I couldn't decide what I really wanted, and they were so cheap, so I bought a ton of different colors to play with.
These are my second and third tries. I don't have the right kind of comb for the back-combing (ratting) before the hot processing so I need to go get one tomorrow and hopefully they will turn out better.
All in all, I like them quite a bit. It's fun to do and easy to put in and take out. We went out to one of our favorite restaurants tonight for dinner and I wore them and nobody commented and I was a little disappointed. But once I have a full head of them this weekend, I will be sure to get some response.

Garlic Heaven on Fresh Pasta

Whether you make the pasta from scratch or buy it from a store, I heartily recommend using fresh pasta for this recipe. With no overwhelming sauce, the pasta really gets to shine here, so using good pasta is key.

Roasted garlic is one of my most favorite edible things on the planet. Usually, I think to slather it on bread, but it is also perfect for a pasta dish because it will blend in with the other ingredients and stick to the pasta. Yum!

Allow time to roast the garlic properly. Sauteed garlic will not give you the same depth of flavor! This worked out perfectly to roast the garlic while I was making the fresh pasta.

Roasted Garlic and Walnut Pasta with Sausage
adapted from The New Basics Cookbook

1 whole head of garlic
olive oil

1/2 heaping cup walnut pieces
olive oil
2 pre-cooked sausages, cut into 1/4" slices (I like Adelle's Chicken and Gruyere sausages)
handful chopped parsley
8oz. fresh linguine or spaghetti
salt and pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmesan

Preheat oven to 375F

Peel off outer skin of garlic bulb and carefully cut of tops of each clove.
Place garlic in foil and drizzle with olive oil. Fold up foil tightly around garlic and cook for 1 hour. Test for squishiness at 50 minutes. It can take as long as 1 hour 15 minutes if it is a really big head of garlic. Once cooked, carefully open up foil and allow to cool a little before squeezing out all of the delicious garlic yumminess. You might want to go ahead and roast 2 while you are at it so you will have enough to put in the recipe and still eat some on the side!
Once you have your roasted garlic and fresh pasta, this goes very, very quickly.

Keep oven on after roasting garlic and spread walnuts out on a baking sheet and cook for about 5 minutes, shaking the pan once or twice. Set aside to cool. (You will no longer need the oven.)

Heat olive oil over moderate heat in a roomy saute pan or even a dutch oven. Add walnuts, the mashed roasted garlic and sausage. Gently saute for about 5-10 minutes, or until sausage is starting to brown.

Meanwhile, boil a giant pot of salted water. Fresh pasta needs lots of water otherwise it will cool too quickly and stop boiling once the pasta is added. Cook per package instructions of your desired fresh pasta. My homemade pasta cooked in less than 4 minutes.

Drain pasta and return to cooking pot. Toss with enough olive oil to coat and then toss with Parmesan and salt and pepper to taste. Add pasta along with parsley to garlic/walnut/sausage pan and toss again.

Serve immediately!
We couldn't stop oohing and aahing over the fresh pasta taste and the roasted garlic and the walnuts. You don't really need sausage even in this recipe. You might be tempted to start adding other veggies to this dish but you really want to let the garlic and walnuts and fresh pasta taste to come through. Hmmm, I might need to make this again soon!

Friday, October 22, 2010

37 Things I Want to do Before I Turn 38: Make Pasta From Scratch

I've been wanting to make pasta forever, but the tiny little thing holding me back was not having a pasta machine. So I wrote it into my 37 Things I Want to do Before I Turn 38 list to give myself a nudge.

Turns out my buddy Greg owns one and happily let us borrow his.

My verdict: easy, fun, and extremely messy. Messy like flour all over myself, the counter, and the floor.

It seemed like every cookbook I have has a slightly different recipe for pasta and most of them are pretty vague on how long to knead the dough or how much flour to use when rolling.

I ended up using the recipe out of The New Basics Cookbook by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins.
It's so simple. 2 cups all purpose flour. 3 eggs.

That's it. Put flour in food processor and run while adding one egg at a time through the feed tube. Once it forms a ball, turn out onto floured surface and knead for a few minutes. Then cover and let rest for 1 hour to allow the gluten to do its thing.
Now let me stop to ask (before you do)--what about fancy shmancy semolina flour or "00" flour? When making egg pasta, all purpose flour works fine. When making non-egg pasta, that is when you want to break out the semolina. And "00" is hard to find and expensive so don't worry about it unless you want to become a pasta expert.

I like egg pasta.

After your hour is up, divide dough into 5 pieces. Keep four covered while you roll out the fifth. Just roll it out enough that it will go into the largest setting of the roller. Not making the spaghetti yet, just rolling out the dough.

Start on the largest setting, roll it through. Fold in half and run through again. Repeat one more time.

Then gradually work down to the third smallest setting. (You could probably go even thinner, but I found this worked great for me)
Then liberally flour your thinnest dough and roll it through the pasta making part. I screwed this up a few times because I hadn't put enough flour on it and then the dough was immediately sticking to itself when it came out of the roller.
I ended up only making one piece of the 5 non-functional. The recipe suggested throwing some chopped herbs in the dough and I'll spare you the photos, but it looked disgusting.

So I boiled the pasta for about 3 minutes and it turned out perfect. Also, you should have a GIANT pot of boiling water because if you just have a normal amount for what you would use with dried pasta, it will cool too quickly when you add the fresh pasta and can make the pasta gummy.

This turned out so delicious, we both were amazed at the difference. I honestly don't know what the point of dried pasta is. If I can't make it fresh, I might not want to eat it at all anymore. And now I need to get my own pasta machine! I still want to make ravioli and semolina pasta as well.

Pictured below is what was left after we devoured our pasta.
Fresh Pasta with Walnuts and Roasted Garlic recipe to come tomorrow!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Most Beautiful Box in the World

The desk in my office looks right out at the front street and today when I was working on the computer I heard a truck and looked up and saw the brown blur of a UPS truck coming to a stop in front of our house. I perked right up. I have been waiting for a very special package: my birthday gift from my husband.

We are of the more pragmatic than romantic type of people when it comes to gift giving. Which means I knew exactly what he was getting me because I picked it out: A 5.5 Liter Le Creuset Casserole in Cassis. Ooh, does color get any lovelier than this? A purple casserole in a bright orange box is a pretty beautiful thing.

When a friend heard this was what I was getting, she was surprised because she thought I already owned a Le Creuset. No, I owned a 7.5 Liter Casserole by Martha Stewart. And that product is junk. The bottom scratched up right away even though I was religious, RELIGIOUS! about only using a wooden spatula and using a soft sponge in soapy water to clean it. I still begrudgingly use it so we decided the smaller size would be a good way to go for now and then when I finally can't take the Martha Stewart pan any longer, I can get a larger Le Creuset as well. My friend Greg must own at least 5 of theses babies. I think collecting cookware can be an addiction like covering your body with tattoos or needing to fill the back of your car with stuffed animals. Something like that. But, oh, so much more delicious!

Meditations on Physical Therapy

I've figured out the secret to physical therapy and rehabilitating my sore ankle. It's so amazing.

The key is that you actually have to work hard and follow directions.
OK, I might be sounding a little snarky and sarcastic here, and I slightly mean to. But I am very, very serious as well. Working out and taking care of yourself is work. I don't think I am ever going to become one of those triathlon-type personalities, and shoot me if I show up at a bar or restaurant in my workout clothes, but I am starting to notice a lot of people around me that are indifferent to their health. If something goes wrong, they go to a doctor and expect drugs or surgery to make them feel better, but god forbid if they are asked to stop eating garbage food or walk once in a while.

Now that I have entered the ripe era of my life called "the late thirties" I know I need to keep focused on exercising and eating well. My body does not bounce back from injuries like it used to. But it is work and it is worth it. Because I would rather age gracefully, with strength and pain-free.

And luckily, I have a fabulous physical therapist, Melissa, that keeps me motivated. But the physical therapy will only go on so much longer and then I will be on my own and it will be up to me to keep it up. My mind says, yes, I can do this.

And the funny thing, is the more I work out, the better I feel. Somehow, we always think working out is hard. And you will be sore. And grumpy. But is doesn't have to be painful. I have entered a stage where I am starting to feel guilty if I even think about postponing a work out because I don't want to admit to my physical therapist that I'm not following her instructions or taking my recovery seriously.

I'm not trying to preach here as much as say it is never too late to think about your health!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Getting Ready for Art at Work Month

November is Art at Work month here in Tacoma, which means, it is time for the open studio tours! I just looked at the calender and went "ack!" because the open studios are less than 3 weeks away.

Is my studio clean from my big mosaic project? uh, no.

Is the garden looking nice and pretty and manicured since people will be walking through it? uh, no.

Do I have plenty of product on hand to sell? uh, no.

But I have started. I just posted some new items on ETSY (including that Animal Crackers Tiger necklace above) and I am busy making more.

I just went to the Goodwill on Friday and found some fabulous tins. I have a huge backstock of tins, but a lot of them are Christmas-y types of tins and not the best colors.

I love this Versace perfume tin. Orange tins are hard to find. And this one is a double score since there is a turtle on each end of the tin. That will make a fabulous pendant. Good thing there are two since I will probably have to keep one for myself!

I am a horse girl and I know there are other horse girls out there so I couldn't hold back when I saw these beauties.
I just finished this Blue Crow Scavenger as well. Lots of tin and bottle caps and buttons on this fellow.
Happy Monday!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

My First Attempt at a Fascinator

Here is my first fascinator. It was a little bit of a cheat since I bought the black feathered hair clip for the base. Then I cut out a felt circle for the base and did some delicate stitching on the edge which, unfortunately, can't really be seen, and then added a little green twirl of felt at the bottom and made a bird which I sewed on top.

It's not very fancy and I sort of want to add something else to it (tin perhaps?) but I have to start getting ready for the event in a couple hours and I still haven't chosen what to wear! My friend Jenn who just finished beauty school is coming over to do my hair; I hope she can make the fascinator work!

I'll be sure to get a photo of it when I am all dressed up!

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Lost Art of Beautiful Fascinators

I really, really, want to make a fascinator. You know, those funky little dainties women have been perching on the tops of their heads for a day at the races?

I especially love the fabulous fascinator king, (my title, not his) Philip Treacy. He designed Camilla Parker-Bowles wedding hat (see above) and Sarah Jessica Parker's Sex in the City movie premiere hat. So lovely; I think SJP is licking her lips because she is not immune to how delectable her hat is. Philip Treacy basically makes hats for anybody who is anybody in the UK. Hats are not so popular in the U.S. OK, maybe in the south at the Kentucky Derby they are still popular, but I live in the Pacific Northwest, a place where if someone puts on socks they think they are dressed up.

This butterfly hat of Treacy's is especially out of control--I love it!

I want to take a hat making class but, again, it is slim pickings in this area. There is a class in Seattle and I found one in Portland, but they are multiple day and hundreds of dollars. So, I am going to start with embellishing some simple hair clips and ordering a book from Amazon and moving on from there. I bought some lovely green and gray felts that I want to use in a hat and I am thinking a matching purse too. But that is going to be a little more complicated. I found some hat bases on ETSY that I might just have to order too.
We are going to a dinner and auction tomorrow night for the Emergency Food Network and I want to felt something and attach it with some feathers to the little black feather clip I picked up at Joann Fabrics today. Too many ideas, so little time.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

It's Becoming an Obsession

This felting, it is really starting to eat away at my time. I hunker down in front of a movie at night and barely watch the movie as I am focusing on my felting. Maybe I should just listen to music instead because I poke myself with the needle A LOT.
But seriously, what the heck am I going to do with all these little creations?
Start a bunny farm on the window sill?
Sell mushrooms to Mario Bros. fans? Or what about a cyclops in a spotted cap?
This really has to stop, although I know it won't because now I am starting to make more complicated shapes.
Next up I want to make a little wire armature to make a bird.