Thursday, December 13, 2018

Poetry, Paper Art, and Publishing

For years my husband has been suggesting that I write & illustrate a children's book. I played around with a few plots & characters, but coming up with the story was daunting. Should it have a moral? Or just be silly? With all of the possibilities out there, how do you narrow it down to one story? 

Sunset with a Friend - Cut paper art

And then one night (early this year) he mentioned that we should write a book of children's poetry, Shel Silverstein style. My mind was immediately flooded with story ideas and rhyming lines of verse. I started writing the next day, and continued for months. My husband and I worked through countless edits, and I relentlessly researched the world of children's books and publishing.

Lake Dragon - Cut paper art

I also did a lot of drawing. For an illustrated book, you have to create a complete mock-up with sketches, and about 2-3 'finished' pieces. I've worked with a lot of art mediums over the years, and decided to use cut paper artwork with painted details for the book.

Woman in White - Cut paper art

While I can't share the poetry or artwork I created for the book (yet), after I finished my mock-up, I started creating other pieces of cut paper art which you'll find in this post. These samples will help me put together a gallery of my work to share with potential agents and publishers.

Flamingo Friend - Cut paper art

Most of these pieces are also available as prints and/or originals in my Etsy shop, and I'll continue to add to the collection next year.

Feud - Cut paper art

This year I discovered that the publishing world is much more complicated than you'd expect, and pretty hard to get started in (especially for a poetry collection!). But I have also found that publishing a children's book is something I really want to do now, and I'll continue to chase hard after that dream in the coming year. 

Lovely Lady Locks - Cut paper art

Monday, December 3, 2018

Metal Patina Bracelets

I don't post often in my blog anymore, but I am very active on Instagram. You can find my current artwork on my art account (and I also have a personal account for pics of my kids and food and such). But sometimes you need more room to write, and I've been itching to post about a few projects on here lately. 

First I wanted to go back and bit and update on what I've been working on the last year or two. A long time ago I shared my idea to make some nerdy fan art necklaces, and talked about the metal supplies that I bought to make them. While I was researching metal work, the thing that actually appealed to me the most was playing with patinas, and so when I started working with the metal that is the first thing that I explored.

I created patinas on copper and brass cuffs with just salt and ammonia or vinegar. It was so fun to dry different combinations and techniques and see the results, which were always a surprise! 

Wrap the copper with ammonia soaked paper towels and a sprinkle of salt, and you can create swirling teals ~

Patina Bracelet - Sirene

Let it soak for a long time, and you get deep black with teal peaking through ~

Patina Bracelet - Bellatrix 1

Or, spray it on directly every few hours and the teals become intense!

Patina Bracelet - Alcyone 1

You can also coat brass in salt and then suspend it above the ammonia to let the fumes do the work. This creates some lovely spotting ~

Patina Bracelet - Cytherea

Using large, coarse salt gives you a completely different look ~

Patina Bracelet - Aurum

This one I fumed covered with fine and coarse salt, and added some vinegar in there for fun  ~

Patina Bracelet - Ferrogold

Fuming copper instead of brass brings out the teals again, as well as some flecks of white ~ 

Patina Bracelet - Phanerite

While I had a lot of fun experimenting with the patinas, my real thrill was in trying different combinations and methods to reveal something new. I did not really enjoy the actual metal work (cutting, polishing, coating), and just creating the same bracelets over & over would have gotten old for me quick. Going beyond the teals to new colors would have required the use of some potent, special-ordered chemicals, and I wasn't really ready to go down that route. The patinas can also be very frustrating themselves, because you often can't replicate something when you want to. I often tried to copy the swirling teals of the first bracelet, only to end up with the deep, black second bracelet. 

Once a had a large stock of bracelets, I figured I needed to move on and work on some of the fan art pendants - but they brought me nothing but frustration! Any design I wanted to work on seemed to need $50 of more supplies. There was one issue after another, like discovering my jump rings were spotted with tarnish. And *all* of the work was the cutting, polishing, and coating work that I did not enjoy. I quickly dropped that idea.

The bracelets turned out lovely, but in the end I moved on from the metal jewelry to a new project. While I may make more one day, I probably won't be making more soon. You can still find a few of the bracelets in my Etsy shop.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Spicy Sausage & Pasta Skillet

Spicy Sausage & Pasta Skillet, 1

Slices of smoked sausage, pasta covered in warm, bubbly cheese, with a hint of spice - pure comfort food! The unique shape of the campanelle pasta gives the dish an elegant look, and the ruffles are perfect for scooping up the cheesy sauce (but you can always sub with penne or bowties if needed). And don't skip the turkey keilbasa if you haven't tried - my husband is always skeptical, but it tastes just like the real thing with a fraction of the calories and fat. Adapted from this blog, based on an America's Test Kitchens recipe.

Spicy Sausage & Pasta Skillet, 2

(For those of you counting calories, I've added the amount for each ingredient so you can easily make tweaks without having to re-calculate everything.)

Spicy Sausage & Pasta Skillet

1 tsp. olive oil (40)
13 oz. (-16) smoked turkey sausage, sliced thin (650) 
1 cup diced onion (60) 
1 tsp. minced garlic (1) 

2 cups water (0)
2 tsp. chicken bouillon (or use broth in place of water, 10)
1 (10 oz.) can Rotel tomatoes, mild, drained (63) 
½ cup heavy cream (200) 
8 oz. dry campanelle pasta (800) 
½ tsp. salt and pepper, each (3) 

1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese (440)
2 green onions, thinly sliced (10)

1) Heat oil in an oven-safe skillet* over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and onions and cook until lightly browned, about 4 minutes, stirring frequently. Add garlic and cook 30 seconds.

2) Add the water, bouillon, Rotel, cream, pasta, salt and pepper and stir. Bring to a boil, cover the skillet, and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer until pasta is tender, about 15 minutes.

3) Remove the skillet from heat and stir in 1/2 cup cheese. Top with the remaining 1/2 cup cheese and broil until cheese is melted and bubbly with brown spots. Sprinkle with green onions and serve.

Serves 4. Calories -  569 for 1/4

*Tip - If you don't have an oven-safe skillet, you can cook this in any covered pan and then spoon it into a casserole dish to broil the cheese at the end.

Spicy Sausage & Pasta Skillet, 3