Thursday, March 31, 2011

A Taste of Back Home

This morning I woke up wanting a taste of home... and a challenge.  What might fit the bill for this?

One of my very favorite yummy things in the whole wide world. An Old-Fashioned Burnt Caramel Cake.  (And you have to say it right... not "CAR-mel" and not "caraMEL"... it's "CARE-amul")

I didn't realize when I was younger that the Burnt Caramel cake was such a local/Southern thing.  This realization came sometime when I was in college and looking to expand my baking skills.  I've always loved to cook and bake, and I heard that this little cake was a doozie, so I wanted to give it a shot.  I searched online in every search possible and only came up with a regular caramel cake-- no burnt caramel cake.  I finally came across a couple of recipes in my hometown church's cookbook.  It just happened to have two recipes from two women who make what are pretty much LEGENDARY Burnt Caramel Cakes in my hometown.

I had to try my hand at this cake.  And so, a few years ago I began what has become an epic battle of conquering this cake. 

Now the cake part, mind you, is a cinch.  It's the icing.  Timing is absolutely everything, and more times than not, the icing has kicked my butt and I've walked away with my tail between my legs.

After many failures, I've finally had some success! (I conquered this cake probably about a year and a half ago, but until today, it had been a full year since I'd attempted it, so I was a little nervous.)  

Today, I thought I'd share the wealth and the little bit that I know about this in case someone else is searching the internet high and low like I once did. 

I must warn you... I am by NO means an expert, but with lots of patience and lots of persistence, my cake finally tastes almost exactly like the caramel cakes of the legendary baking ladies in my hometown. The appearance, on the other hand, still leaves a lot to be desired-- but I have plenty of time to perfect that in the future... Good Lord willing.  

For the cake part, I got out everything I needed (2 sticks room temperature butter, 3/4 cup Crisco, 2 1/2 cups sugar, 2 tsp. vanilla, 5 eggs, 3 cups cake flour, and 1 cup milk).  Then I preheated my oven to 325 degrees and greased and floured 3 cake pans.  Next, I creamed the margarine and Crisco until smooth (I don't have a big fancy Kitchen-Aid mixer like in my dreams, so I make a hand mixer work, and it does the job).  Then I added the sugar and mixed until smooth.  When that is smooth, add one egg at a time and mix well after each.  Finally, add flour and milk alternately, followed by vanilla.

When everything is nice and mixed together, divide it among the three cake pans and bake for 20-25 minutes (or a tad longer if your oven is a hunk of junk like mine).  It's important not to over bake, though, because you need this cake to have moisture.

When they come out, let them cool on wire racks.
(I still don't have any in this house, so I told myself I did it the "pioneer way" and let them cool on the counter... Hey, it worked for me today...)

Can we say yum???

Once the cakes are well on their way to being cool, it's time to start the icing.  The rough and tumble, hard-headed and stubborn, hard to nail down icing....

I pulled out the whopping 3 ingredients I needed-- 3 cups of sugar, 1 cup Carnation evaporated milk, and 2 sticks of butter.  Yep, that's it.

I also went ahead and pulled out my trusty and very important black cast iron skillet.

I love this thing.

And I got my stainless steel sauce pan ready.
Now comes the tricky part (the part where having as many arms as an octopus would come in handy).  Put 3 T of the sugar into the cast iron skillet.  Put the rest of the sugar, the evaporated milk, and the butter into the saucepan and slowly start bringing it to a boil.

On another eye, start slowly browning the sugar.  (Don't worry, when I first began this battle years ago, I didn't know what exactly browning meant either.  It was the cause of at least a handful of failed attempts.  Therefore, I'll try my best to explain and give you visuals.)

The trick here is to get them both going at the same time.  Timing is everything.  You want the sugar to be fully browned and ready to pour into the sauce pan mixture just as the mixture is starting to boil.  
I always put the skillet and the sauce pan on stove eyes right beside each other so I can stir two things at once.

This photo was when I had just started heating everything.

Pretty soon your sugar will start to look like this.

This is not "browned."  It's is only the first stage.  It clumps up like this at first and turns a tan color.

You will be doing this.... stirring with both hands.
Thank Kent and his awesome photography skills for this blurry photo.  
And thank me for the ridiculous face.

This is what your sugar will look like when it's actually "browned." 
I really think a more accurate description of what you're going for is "melted."

I had to stop taking pictures for a few minutes at this point because I needed my hands plus Kent's.

When your sugar is "browned" and your mixture is just about to boil, pour the "browned" sugar into the mixture.  Keep stirring the mixture constantly.  Continue to stir the boiling mixture on medium head for 8-10 minutes.  If you drop a little  of the mixture in cold water and it forms a soft ball, then it's ready to take off the stove.

It will look something like this.

This next part is another thing I goofed time and time again when I first attempted to take on this cake.  Let the icing cool.  Let it cool at least 40 minutes or to the point that it's barely warm to the touch.  Then it's time to get ready to ice the cake-- the part of this epic battle that I consider a full fledged assault from the cake.

My advice is to make sure you have an apron or old clothes on for this next step because it can get messy (as in an oily, not-coming-out-of-your-clothes-without-a-fight mess).  I didn't have any photos of this final step in the process because Kent was out getting Cruiser parts, and if you ever attempt it, you'll know I had absolutely NO time to grab the camera myself.

Grab your handy dandy wooden spoon, and beat the icing until it's smooth and creamy.  Mine usually looks kind of slimy thanks to what I'm pretty sure is melted butter.  Just mix that oily buttery-ness into the icing as best you can, and when you get it as smooth as you can get it (don't beat it too long), start icing.  

Here's the thing I haven't mastered just yet.  ICE THE CAKE FAST!  If you don't do it fast enough, you really will run out of time.  The icing "hardens" fast, so keep a glass of hot water handy.  It helps to smooth out areas and gives you a little extra time, but not much.  Ice each layer fast and worry about the smoothing out later.  In between each layer, I've found I have to beat the icing just a little more. Get it done as quickly as possible though, and voila!  There's a delicious Old Fashioned Burnt Caramel cake!

Like I said, I'm definitely not up to par on the icing part, but it sure does taste good!
One last hint from what I've found through my trials and errors over the years.... It's better the next day.  I'm not sure if everything has time to meld together or if I just enjoy it more the day after the battle has been fought in the kitchen, but somehow it just tastes better the next day.  The flavor is richer, and the icing is creamier... especially if it has been wrapped in clear plastic wrap after the icing is set. 

I sure hope at least someone will find this helpful!
Happy baking!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

New Look and New Stuff!

So, I can't wait any longer to show you the things I've been working on.  I'm just going to show you today.

If you've been reading, you probably know I started my Etsy shop with the idea of doing personalized pet portraits.  What you may not know is that I'm a bit of an ADD artist.  (That might be a politically incorrect statement, but no offense is intended... it's just an accurate description, and I am over "political incorrectness" anyway.  Pretty soon we won't be able to say anything at all without it possibly being considered derogatory... I could go on and on but that's another day...) I get bored easily when it comes to creating, and too much of anything makes me not want to touch it for a long time.  In other words, there is no way I could only do soft pastel pet portraits.

Sooooo..... I decided to expand a little and do whatever the heck strikes my fancy.  It may not be what most Etsy shop owners do, but I just can't "specialize" too much or I would get burnt out.

For one, I've been working on some new acrylic paintings that kind of fit into a more "modern" home decor kind of style.

Have a look-see at a few...

I've also made a few springtime wreaths like I made in a How-To post a couple weeks ago.

I told you I've been busy!  I even gave my shop a new look that you may recognize.  :)  Hop on over and check it out!  Hope you like it!

*Be sure to take a peek often.  I've got more ideas in the works, and if you see a design you would like in other colors, just message me on Etsy or e-mail me at TailstoTell [at] Live [dot] com.*

Oh!  And be on the lookout for a coupon code for the new stuff soon... :)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Tail Wagging Tuesday: A Day at the Doggie Park

Since Kent and I were cooped up this weekend like the two pitiful people we were, our "boys" Murphy and Duke were cooped up too.  They didn't get their normal long walks or time at the park, so I thought I would make up for it today. 

We went to the park for a nice long visit.  I love taking them to the park because I love seeing how happy it makes them, and today I decided to take my camera so you could see too.

When we first get to the park, they always have to run, sniff, and "mark" everything.  (Murphy's favorite thing in the world besides "hunting" bugs is marking every tree outside.

Lots of running, and lots and lots of sniffing...

After all that, they usually get a drink from the doggie water fountain.

Finally, they like to end their visit to the park with lots of smiles, resting, and letting the wind hit their faces.

And that's what a day at the dog park consists of...

As for me, I'm still working slow and steady on new paintings to share in a week or so. :-)  Also, now that I've recovered from my weekends of sanding a painting furniture a couple weeks ago, I'm going to be re-doing my end tables soon.  I'm pretty excited, and I'll share some before and after photos when I do it.  

Hope everyone is having a fantastic week!

Monday, March 28, 2011

A Pretty Good Book and Two Pitiful People

Although I had grand plans for this past weekend last Friday, something else was in the works.
On Friday I had it all planned out in my head.  I would go on a dinner date followed by the bookstore Friday night.

Then, I would spend Saturday here.

With this guy.

Reading this.

Then, Sunday evening, we would climb this.

And see the sunset from the top.

However, those things just weren't to be.... not this past weekend, anyway.

Despite the fact that Kent and I both sat around Friday afternoon with headaches, we did go out to eat and to the book store.  When we got home, though, uuuugggghhhhh.  Headaches were worse, his ear hurt, and I couldn't stand to be around light or noise.

To make a long story short, Kent had a double ear infection and what they thought was a perforated eardrum thanks to the diving he does for work.. Ouch.  I had one of the worst headaches ever that lasted all of Friday and all of Saturday, followed by a feeling of being totally wiped out on Sunday.  (Talk about things not going according to plan... sheesh...)  All weekend, we were two pitiful people.

On a positive note though, since I didn't feel like my head was exploding or being split in two on Sunday, I was able to lay around on the couch like a giant slug and read my new book Fireworks Over Toccoa.  

I found the book to be a SUPER quick and easy read, and like I predicted, it was kind of a combination of Titanic, The Notebook, and The Bridges of Madison County.   It was a love story through and through.  And kind of a bittersweet one.  The plot centers around an 82 year old woman recalling her love story for her granddaughter and a woman who works at a local museum because the museum has something very important to her on display, and she wants it back.  There is also a bit of a sub-plot going on with the granddaughter, but I feel it was left a little high and dry in the end.  All in all, I would say I enjoyed it.  Don't expect too much depth or mystery, as I found it was a bit predictable, but if you're looking for a quick and easy read or a love story with a twist, it may be perfect.  

Now that Kent and I finally feel better, we can finally catch up on the things we didn't get to do over the weekend... like grocery shop... or my dreaded laundry.  After that, maybe I can finally get to work on some new paintings.  I have big plans for something coming very soon, so keep your eyes open!

In the meantime, remember me and my shop for you or the pet lover in your life.... and if you aren't already an "official follower" of this blog, please click on the "Follow" button to the right of this post.  :)  I love knowing who stops by and getting to see comments from you.  

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Books and Burns

Kent and I made a special visit to one of our favorite places after our dinner date.

We went to the bookstore!

I love going to the bookstore.  For as long as I can remember bookstores and libraries have been somewhat magical to me.  The distinct smell of the paper, the glue, and the dusty shelves is amazing to me.  It's a smell that means potential.  I start thinking about all the pages represented by that paper and glue smell, and then it makes me think about all the vibrant and colorful stories hiding within the pages of each book.... Each book just waiting to be opened so those stories can leap from the pages and entertain your mind for a while.

Seeing the shelves filled with row after row of books makes me so excited!

I had just finished a really awesome book, The Help by Kathryn Stockett.  I loved it and highly recommend it.  It's about maids in the 1960s and all that was going on with segregation and into the time of integration.  A very interesting read, it left me wanting a little more from the ending.  (But that's just because I tend to love everything tied up in a nice little bow when I leave a book.)

Anyway, since I had just finished The Help, it was time to pick out a new book.  I wasn't sure which direction I wanted to go, though.  Should I go for the "real literature"  that one of my favorite teachers used to call "literary broccoli" or enjoy the fluff stuff that she used to call "brain candy"?

You see, I was an English major in college because I loved stories.  The grammar and all that was fine and dandy, but it definitely wasn't the reason I wanted to major in English.  I wanted to read stories, talk about them, and discuss meanings and truths.  That was what interested me.  Although I did a great deal of that in my classes, being an English major also means writing many many papers about the books I read-- papers on themes and anything special a writer does in a book to convey that theme.  I was fine with all those papers until about my senior year of college.  It just gets old after a while.  To me, it felt like I was beating a dead horse taking all these classic and wonderful pieces of literature, these great stories, and writing over and over about the way they author chose to put them on the paper.  Why couldn't we just read it, discuss it, and appreciate it?  Why did we have to nit-pick it to death???  I made it through my senior year by looking forward every day to working on artwork for my art classes-- which is probably why I changed my mind at the very last minute and decided to do my Master's in Art Education instead of English.  After graduation, I realized that I had a bad taste in my mouth from picking "real literature" to death.

I rebelled (in my own mind, anyway).  I read nothing but "brain candy" for about a year or so-- lots of Nora Roberts and quite a few "trashy" romance novels.  I was so tired of stories without a happy ending, stories about Russia, stories written in diction that I had to think so hard about to understand... or so I thought.  Really, I was just tired of writing about the little things that don't matter. ( To this day, I am convinced that those "great writers" had no idea about all the "conventions" they were using.  Sure, they may have thought of some things, but the rest had to be just a happy mistake.) 

Finally, I got back into some "real literature."  I read The Time Traveler's Wife and Water for Elephants when they first came out, and I really loved them, along with quite a few others.  My love for stories had finally returned.

These days I finally feel the magic of books again... kind of like my "burn" has healed.  I read "real literature," but I also value some "brain candy" every once in a while, too.  It reminds me that the books can be fun and not all serious all the time.

Last night I decided to get one helping of "literary broccoli" and one helping of "brain candy."  (You have to balance it out, right?)

I brought home a book called Fireworks Over Toccoa by an author named Jeffrey Stepakoff.
It looks like an interesting story.  I was drawn to it because it's set in the real town of Toccoa, Georgia, and I was born and raised in Georgia and went to school very close to Toccoa.  The book is set around WWII, which happens to be one of my favorite time periods to read about, and is a love story with a twist.  A woman marries a "proper" man before he goes off to war, and when he and the other soldiers return, a chance encounter with a handsome immigrant leaves her torn between what her heart and mind are telling her to do. 

Just from reading the back of the book, the basic plot appears similar to The Bridges of Madison County.  I liked that book though, so I'm giving this one a try.  I'll let you know how it turns out when I finish.

Has anyone read Fireworks Over Toccoa or The Help?  Has anyone else had a similar experience to mine when it comes to getting a little burnt out on something?  Leave me some comments.  I'd love to hear!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Just a Little Sneak Peek...

I've been working this week on several paintings and projects that I can't show juuuust yet.  In a few weeks, they will all make their debut at the same time.

I'm trying some things that are a little different for me, and I'm actually really enjoying it.  Hopefully good things will come from my experimenting, and I'll find my shop's niche soon.  Since I can't show you guys everything just yet, I decided I would give you a little bitty, teenie weenie sneak peek.

Here's a little collage with bits and pieces of some of the paintings and projects I've been working on.

On another note, Kent got back home today.  Yay!  This trip wasn't long at all, so it wasn't a super big deal, but Duke sure was excited.  Poor guy had missed his best guy buddy for a few days.  Hopefully we'll go on a nice long "family" walk this afternoon, and then it's date night for Kent and I... Yipee!  

Happy Friday to everyone!  Hope you have a fantastic weekend!

Psssst.... If you haven't already, become an official follower!  Click the "follow" box to the right, and that's it.  You'll know everything new that's happening, and you'll be ready when a giveaway happens.  :-)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Small Wonders

I got to babysit this morning.  It was so much fun hanging out with my friend's four-year-old little girl, Maggie. 

Since I haven't been in the classroom in a while, I had sort of forgotten how cool it is to be around little kids.  The things they come up with, their imaginations, and the wonder they have for the little things are all so special.  Little children are so special.  (Side note here... I love little kids, but at this point in my life I love that I can appreciate them and give them back to their parents at the end of the day.  In the future and all in good time, I'm trusting that God-- not my sweet mother-in-law, my sweet friends, or anyone else-- will change my heart on that.)

We blew bubbles for a long time this morning.  I'd forgotten how much fun that was, too-- the simple joy of sitting there, dipping the wand, and gently blowing to watch the bubbles form and have their moment of glory before vanishing. 

Maggie was pretty fascinated by it all... in one of those "it's magical" kind of ways.  It's so neat to see little kids look at things with fresh eyes and wonder at it all.  I was glad to have that moment this morning to sit and watch and remember what it was like to so appreciate the little things like bubbles.  Maggie reminded me that I need to slow down, notice, and remember those little things more often.

This is not my photo.  It came from HERE .
So often I find myself wishing for more more more, or maybe a slightly different outcome for a situation (For instance, why in the world am I so far from my family? Why isn't the teaching thing working like I had planned? Or even why did I stub my toe just now?)    Like any of us imperfect mere mortals, I guess I'm never really satisfied.  When I really stop to think about it though, I realize that God does give me little reminders all the time that I really am blessed.  Today, I'm reminding myself to appreciate the small wonders... like bubbles or a pretty sunset or a nice breeze on a hot day or even a smile from a stranger. 
 This one actually is my photo. :-)
(Sorry if I seem a little sappy today... I'm just feeling blessed remembering these things and it's overflowing.)

   Hope everyone is having a fantastic and blessed week!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Eyes Overflowing...

I knew by 6am this morning that it was going to be one of those days.

Duke decided that I should be awake and playing with him at 6 this morning (no, he didn't even have to go out). I tried to go back to sleep for just a little bit because I was up late the night before painting, but I woke up less than an hour later with not only a crick in my neck, but an actual neck cramp!  I've never had that happen before... what in the world??

At this point, I'm still thinking there's a possibility things could get better.

Then my clumsy self catches my little toe turning the corner walking into the bathroom.  Shoot.  Really?

I walk downstairs to scrounge for breakfast since it's the first thing I think about when my eyes open.  I want a bagel.... Crap, no bagels.

After settling for a Pop-Tart, I go back upstairs to put on a brand new t-shirt.  Sometimes looking the part makes a day better, right?

Doesn't work for me today... As soon as I try to have a glass of juice, it goes all over me.  Wonderful.

It doesn't help that Kent isn't around. It doesn't take long to start feeling alone on this stupid rock known as Oahu, and  I quickly start missing having someone to talk and cut up with at breakfast.

Just as I'm ready to scream and/or crawl back into bed until I get to start over tomorrow, I see four brown eyes looking at me.

It occurred to me that they don't care if I have juice on the front of my shirt.  They don't care if I have on make-up or if my hair is fixed.  They wouldn't care if I had green skin and six eyes.  The only thing in the world they care about is love (aside from eating... Murph especially is a little piggy).  Those four eyes are overflowing with love.  When these guys are with me, I'm not alone.

Sure, they can't talk back to me, but they are there for me when I just want to sit and hug them or be entertained or just have another living creature in the house with me.  They love me with a love and loyalty that is unmatched by anyone or anything else besides God.  We all should take a lesson from dogs and try to love those around us with the same unconditional love.  The world sure would be a much better place.

After my little revelation, I got back on track and worked on two different paintings and two "Cute as a Button" springtime wreaths.  You'll see both very soon.  Be on the lookout for them in my shop.  :-)

P.S.  I know I've been putting these posts on Facebook, but if you've been reading and enjoying them, why not think about becoming an official "follower"?  To do that, just click the "Follow" button to the right of this post.  I'm planning a giveaway soon, so make sure you are a follower to be eligable!  And while you're at it, if you're not already, become a fan of my studio on Facebook.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Icky Obsession

It was a crazy Monday.  Spin, lunch with a friend, planning a trip to a neighbor island with that friend for Kent and I along with she and her significant other, shopping, and painting kept me super busy all day.  I didn't have time to take any cool photos of any new projects... not that I really have anything I can show just yet.

Instead of a how-to or an update on ongoing projects, I thought I would write about something that usually makes people laugh... once they get over the initial shock of it.

This next part is just background so you understand the situation, so don't get too freaked out.

If you've never been to Hawaii, or even if you have, you might not know that it is home to 18 different varieties of cockroaches.

EEEEEEEKKKKKKK!!!!!!!!  I know... complete and total grossness.  Paradise is infested with some of the nastiest, creepiest, grossest, most disgusting, revolting (you get the picture) little critters on the planet.  They are a part of life around here that is pretty much unavoidable.

I don't mean they are all in your house climbing on the walls.  Exterminators do good business here and keep that pretty much under control in most places.  They are everywhere outside though.  I doubt you could take a long walk outside at night without seeing one cross in front of you on the sidewalk.

They're just there.  Period.  When you live here, you just deal with it.  You're going to see roaches and geckos.  (I guess it's true you really can't have it all.  Beautiful beaches, gorgeous mountains, and incredible weather come with creepy crawly little critters.)

Okay.  Now that you know the background, I can tell you about my personal exterminator... in addition to the ones hired by the housing office.

He works for free, lives with me, weighs 20 pounds, and has red and white hair.

Yep.  You guessed it.  It's Murphy.

I had no idea when I got him that I was going to have this wonderful added bonus, but he has an absolute OBSESSION with little tiny things that move.  His prey drive is out of control, and luckily he takes it out on roaches and the occasional gecko that might try to venture into my lanai or come out of the yard and too close to the house.  (Just so you know, the lanai is not really a main part of my house... It's kind of like a screened in porch separated by a nice, thick sliding glass door.  It has a concrete floor with a screen door separating it from the yard, so unfortunately nighttime creepy crawlies try to come visit me.)  

Every night Murphy feels that it's his job to go on patrol.  He stands at that sliding glass door and watches and waits.  When he sees a movement, it's on.  He scratches at the door to let me know he needs to go out and "hunt."

This is a nightly occurrence.

(Yes, I'm from Georgia.  I have a strong accent... Like the long toe thing, I'm learning to embrace it.)
I believe Murphy also thinks he is a cat, as he treats his "kills" the same way a cat would.  He likes to put them just outside the sliding glass door in a "pile" so I can see them the next morning.  Lately, this pile has been on Duke's bed just outside the door on the lanai.  

The other night he was driving me crazy wanting to go outside to "hunt," so I just shut him on the lanai and propped the screen door open so he had access to the yard for about two hours.  I believe he worked his exterminator magic on the entire yard and lanai because this is what I saw the next morning when I went to clean up. (I took the picture with my phone... Sorry it's not the best quality, but you can certainly get the idea.)

See how proud he is?  

Once you get over the initial shock of the grossness of those little critters and you realize it's just life and you can't change it, it's pretty darn funny.  

I'm pretty thankful to have my own little exterminator-- especially when Kent is away.  All I have to do is yell for Murphy if something happens to make it inside.  He's there in a jiffy, catches whatever it is, and takes it outside.  It's the perfect setup.  :)  

Does anyone else in the world have their own little exterminator, or am I just that lucky?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Relaxing and Pink Paisley

After days and days of working on this project or that project-- furniture, pet portraits, painting things for my house, etc., it had gotten to the point that when I closed my eyes last night I saw nothing but things I needed to work or new projects to tackle.  Usually I welcome such inspiration, but I was tired, and I needed to sleep.  I decided that if I ever got to sleep, I would give myself a break, so I today I took the day off of any kind of "project." 

Instead of throwing myself into something new today, I was going to relax, enjoy, and catch up on the little things that I've not done in quite a little while.  I started my day by taking my "boys" on a long walk and doing a little shopping.  (Got some good deals... so that's always good.)  Then I came home to catch up on the "Army Wives" episodes I've missed... which happens to be the entire season so far.  (Luckily that's only two episodes.)  I decided that while watching, I would also paint my toes.

In Hawaii, I wear flip-flops ("slippers" as they are called around here) all the time.  My toe nails are always exposed, so I like to have fun and festive colors or designs on them all the time.  It just makes me smile.

Since my latest obsession is paisley prints, I thought why not put paisley on my toes?  

Pink paisley.  Bright pink, orange, and yellow paisley.  Fun!  (And I need some fun right about now.  It's the same time as always when Kent is gone on a trip that I finally slow down enough to realize I'm alone in the house and that I haven't had a good conversation in a few days... always happens about a week in.  I get a little blah for a couple days, then keep right on truckin' and stay busy until he's back... but this is a side tangent...)

I pulled out my handy dandy box of nail polish... full of lots and lots of colors that I've picked up because I love to do nail art.

This was my color palette for the day.
Super fun, right?

I painted a base of the light pink, then did the paisley shapes in orange.  I added little extras to the orange with dark pink and yellow, plus some little polka dots for extra appeal.  

This is what I came up with.
(Sorry I wasn't born with the world's cutest feet like my sweet Mimi, my mom's mom)
(And yes, I have abnormally long toes.  I actually used to be quite embarrassed by them.  I wouldn't wear open toed shoes for a while sometime around 8th grade.  Then, just as I was coming to terms with and embracing my long toes, my college professor, in class as he was walking by, said to the whole class, "WOW!  You have some really long toes!".  Needless to say, after I recovered from the flash of heat I felt from that embarrassment, I was set back a few notches in the "embracing the long toes" department.  I accept them now though, and I figure if I point them out first, it can't ever be that bad.... so now you know my whole toe story.)
Here's a closer nail photo so you can see the design better.
I think they are pretty fun and "springtime-ish."
Does anyone else like to do nail art? 

Now, off to enjoy the rest of my relaxing day!  Hope everyone's weekend is going as great as mine!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Word of the Day

I spent most of the day today finishing up my triptych piece for above my bed.  (Yep, triptych is a word.  It means three panels that form one image.... How's that for a word of the day?)  It's different from some of the things I normally do, but I really did enjoy it.  I'm thinking creating similar paintings more often. 

I used the design on my bedspread as inspiration, and this is what I came up with.

(For some reason, the shiny blue on my bedspread does NOT like to be photographed.  It keeps coming out as a silvery blue.  It's actually the same shade as the painting, just shiny.  )

Now that you've read that little disclaimer, here's a few shots of the finished product.

I'm really super happy with the way it turned out.  I feel like I finally have a "put together" bedroom!
Seriously... This was it before. (I'm actually embarrassed to show it.)

Coming from that, I say this is a drastic improvement.
What do you think?

If you like what you see, and you may be interested in collaborating for a custom project to match your decor, e-mail me at Lindsay.Edwards (at) Live (dot) com  or contact me through my Etsy shop.  I'd LOVE to do a special project just for you!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Great Big Chicken

I'll start by saying that on the arts and crafts front, I'm in between projects at the moment.  I have a pastel piece in slow progress in my studio.  I just finished what I consider a flop of a "welcome sign" for my foyer area that I'm not even going to show you until I come up with something better, and I'm just about to start on the three canvas piece to go above my bed, so no cool pictures of stuff like that today.  I'll be sure to show it when I get it finished, though.

I thought today I would tell you a little tidbit about one of my "boys."

I live with a great big chicken... a big 80 pound chicken with four legs.

It's Duke.  Now ordinarily Duke is not afraid of much.  He will growl at other big dogs in the neighborhood (he's pretty sweet with the little ones though), he isn't scared of any people that I know of, and he's fine when I take him new places.  His biggest fear is actually a little thing.  A little thing in my house that he uses every day.

Yep.  His arch nemesis is his water bowl.
(I know... He looks terrified.  I feel a little guilty about making him sit beside his bowl for this picture.)

I bought that awesome Le Bistro water bowl/tank thing when my mom complained about filling Duke's half brother's water dish 20 times a day.  I knew a big dog was going to drink lots of water, so I thought why not just get a great big 3 gallon water tank.  

I bought it before Duke got out here, and Murphy used it and wasn't scared at all.  Duke, however, is terrified by the gulp, gurgle, gulp, gulp noise it makes when the bowl refills.  He creeps ever so gently over to it as close as he thinks is safe.  Then he streeeeetches his nose out, and drinks.  Sometimes it takes a few seconds before the gulp, gurgle, gulp, gulping starts, so he looks up every once in a while to wince and see if it has started yet.  If it hasn't started yet, he'll drink some more.  If he hears it, he slinks away to return a little later when there's no more gulp, gurgle, gulp, gulping going on.  

Don't worry.  He's getting plenty of water.  I have to refill the tank every other day, so I know he's drinking plenty.  Plus, I think he's coming to terms with the gulp, gurgle, gulp, gulping and slowly making progress.  Hopefully one of these days he'll even be good friends with his water bowl... maybe... 

For now, though, it's just one of his quirks that keeps me entertained and makes me love him even more.

Oh, and he's a little afraid of the camera too.  Yesterday after photographing my wreath, I decided to try to take some pictures of the guys since they were all up under my feet.  

He just won't let me take a pic with his ears up.

At least not both ears at the same time...

Since Duke wasn't much in the mood for a photo shoot, I set the camera up for a few snapshots with Murphy...
I really am so thankful for "my boys."  I would be so lonely at times like these when Kent is gone for a few weeks.  They give me lots of love and laughs, and they are one more thing to keep me busy.

pssst.... You can help keep me busy too.  Hop on over to my Etsy shop and place a custom order for a personalized pet portrait for yourself or someone you know.  Or check out the painting in this post to see if I could create a similar custom design for you.  :-)  If you're interested, e-mail me at Lindsay.Edwards (at) Live (dot) com.  

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Springtime Flower Power

After several days of doing nothing but painting... and sanding... and painting, I needed a little break.

I decided it would be the perfect time to brighten up my boring front door.  I bought a new "Welcome" mat the other day after Kent ruined my other one with Herculiner... Yep, the mat was just one more casualty of the mess he makes by fixing up "the cruiser."  It was okay though, I wanted a new one anyway.

Since the mat looked nice, I thought I would spiff up the door with a new springtime wreath and attempt another flower in a pot by the door. 

When I said attempt another flower, I really mean attempt.  When I was growing up, I had two grandmothers who were fantastic gardeners-- my dad's mom that I call Grandma and my mom's mom that I call Mimi.  Well, Grandma and Mimi always made growing flowers and all sorts of good things look so easy. 

I remember seeing my Mimi cut little twigs off of her Gardenias and put them in a jar of water to "root" them.  Before I knew it, there would be enough roots in that jar that the new Gardenias could be planted.  I don't know how she did it.  If I had tried it, the stupid sticks would have rotted and molded in the water. 

My Grandma is still a big gardener, and her yard is probably one of the most beautiful in my hometown.  I helped her plant flowers when I was little, and I remember seeing them just take off.  Before I knew it there were what seemed like hundreds of blooms everywhere.  Colorful, beautiful flowers and plants. 

When Kent and I moved into our current place last year, I thought I would try my hand at some flowers to make my backyard pretty.  Nothing too crazy.  I wasn't going to dig up the whole yard.  I just wanted some flowers in pots. 

Ummmm.... Yeah, that didn't work out so well.

I think I killed them.

I was not fortunate to get the "Green Thumb Grandma" gene or the "Miracle Grow Mimi" gene.  Even though I thought I watered them enough, gave them some plant food, and followed the directions for giving them the right amount of sunshine, they still withered up and died. 

I gave up.  But now I want to give it another try.  I found a cute lime green pot at Home Depot and got a New Guinea Impatien to put in it for beside my front door.  The directions say that it would be happy in a lot of shade, so hopefully it's in the right space and won't die on me.  (Maybe I should name it a tough name...)

It looks so pretty right now and has so many blooms.  Let's cross our fingers that some of those good flower growing genes come through for me.

Now that I had my new Welcome mat and a pretty flower, it was time to start on a nice springtime wreath. 

I bought a cheap straw wreath instead of a styrofoam one because I just liked the thought of the natural material... It seemed more "springy."

I covered the straw by wrapping the wreath with yarn.

Then I gathered the materials to make a pretty little bow, worked with it until I got it the way I wanted, and hot glued it to the wreath.

Since this was my "Springtime" wreath, I thought it needed some flowers, but I didn't want to use any of the tacky silk flowers you can find around here.  I wanted to stick with the simplistic look of my little wreath and make little ribbon flowers with button centers.

I found using a needle and thread was the most efficient way to do this.  I simply made five little loops as "petals" and put a few stitches in the ribbon to hold it in place.

I made several of these little "flowers" in different sizes and arranged them around the bow.

I think I'm pretty happy with it. :-)

When I was ready to hang it, I had to be creative one more time since I discovered the front of my door is not wood... but the top is.  I made a little loop out of floral wire to hang it from and looped the big paisley ribbon through it.  Then, I nailed the two ends of the ribbon to the wood on the top of my door, and viola!  My "cute as a button" springtime wreath was hung.  

Now my door will greet guests with a little springtime cheer.  
 What do you think?