Ornamental Plaster Sculpting, Mural Painting, Faux Finishing, and Imaginative Interior Design.

Ornamental Plaster Sculpting, Mural Painting, Faux Finishing, and Imaginative Interior Design.
CLICK ON THE RABBIT ( yes, those are cabinets) TO SEE MY PORTFOLIO, AND LEARN MORE ABOUT MY SERVICES...theartofthehome.com

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The reward for hard work...

This is what you do when your pound cake crumbles.  Cube it up and drop it in your prettiest glasses, add the ripest fruit, the freshest whipped cream, and the zingiest raspberry sauce.  Of course, we think we have the best recipe for pound cake and raspberry sauce in our spring issue!
The spring issue of 365 Being started arriving in mail boxes today, and as if the joy of creating it wasn't reward enough (I'm sure in a couple of years it will wear off, but I still love every minute of crafting this thing), the calls and emails full of praise and kind words have been intoxicating!  I am so glad our subscribers are pleased with it. I am so very grateful to all those people who called and wrote today, to all the people who read 365 Being, and especially grateful to you who have been reading this blog for the past few years. Your loyal readership here (and Cat's partnership) gave me the shot of courage needed to take the leap to publishing a physical book(azine), so thanks!

I told you no bunnies were harmed in the making of this dish.  Sure it's potatoes and cheese sauce, but not just any cheese sauce.  Hint:  there's more than one reason we call this Irish rabbit!

Here's the whole spread from soup and starters to dessert.  Nothing hard to make, and you probably have similar recipes, but every dish here is the most intensely flavorful thing we could dream up, and it's all real food.  No mixes, no artificial flavorings.  And thoroughly and repeatedly tested. 
You're welcome. :)))
 If you don't have favorite recipes of your own for Easter dinner, the spring issue is available for immediate download on our website.  365being.com

Happy Easter, Happy Spring!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Inspiration: Rose Fisher

Rose Fisher might have been my earliest creative inspiration, after my parents and siblings.  She's Aunt Rosie to me, my mother's sister.  Both of my grandmothers and all my aunties filled my childhood with handmade quilts, clothes, toys or treasures, but I spent more time with Aunt Rose than any of them, so whenever I threatened to run away, it was usually to Aunt Rosie's house I planned to go.  (Probably inspired by this threat) Mom actually did trade me to Aunt Rose for one of her kids at least once, though only for a week or so.
Rose Fisher's home reflects her beautifully.
As an adult, it's been my good fortune that she and my darling Uncle Dwayne decided to build a house just outside the town where my parents live, so when I go to visit my folks, running away to Aunt Rosie's house is actually quite easy.
Who needs HGTV when they can watch Rose Fisher tackle a makeover?  If she must buy things, she finds great deals, both retail and yard sale.  However, you might be surprised to know that neither the headboard, nor the paintings above it were purchased.  Yeah, she's that kind of talented. 
We've never gone yard saling together, but we have spent many hours swapping stories of our adventures in junk hunting and the remakes that followed.  Apparently, it runs in the family!
A cozy corner in her bedroom is enhanced by more of her artistry.

What would you do with a small herd of elephant plant/candle stands on clearance?  Rose Fisher added a couple of plywood circles and some upholstery to create this charming footstool.

Windowless bathroom?  Ha!  No sledge hammer required to open up the view.  Aunt Rose says she did use a sponge though, to stamp the bricks, then just painted in the shadows.  I've always masked off and painted mine, but  I think I'll try her much quicker method next time.
 Aunt Rose primarily paints in watercolor, but she also does a little sculpting, a lot of sewing, and some mixed media stuff.  I don't have any pictures of some of her sillier art (much of my sense of silly also comes from this side of the family), but here are some of her fish and flowers...

The iris painting hangs above this little restyled gem.   You can find similar pieces at tag sales and thrift stores, and paint them completely, or just dress them with bits of color on the detail parts.
 Did you notice the styling trick here?  (Sorry for the split shot, but the full length ones only showcased my amazing ability to move the camera while pressing the button.)  The blades of grass in the brass ewer overlap and repeat the leaves in the painting, drawing your eye down through the composition of the entire corner.  This kind of detail might be why everyone raves about how beautiful her home is.  It's not about buying pricey things, which Rose rarely chooses to do.  It's about composing the things she displays into groupings that tell a story, and she does this exceptionally well. 
This little dresser, painted the same colors as the accent table, was strie'd on the sides, and combed on top.  The effect is timeless.

Close-up of the combed top.
So, does artistic talent run in the family?  Yes.  But more important is the willingness to take the time to create beauty with whatever is at hand, coupled with the willingness to make mistakes.  Rose and I have both found that when we can convince our friends to just try it for themselves, most of them are delighted to discover that they have more creativity than they ever imagined, and that the goofs that happen along the way just make the stories more interesting.  So, instead of fantasizing about running away to Aunt Rosie's house, try giving yourself permission to play decorator in your own abode!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Make some friends this weekend...

I painted photography backdrops this week, did some bookkeeping (which I consider deadly boring, but survived it), and am back to work on the illustrations for Cathy Isles' children's book, Fruit and Veggies Aplenty!  I also tortured my artgirl with painting in watercolor, which she hates, so in order to get back in her good graces, I showed her how to make pom-pom animals.  I made these when I was a kid, and I always think of them around Easter, as I made one of my first ones as a gift to my Aunt Rose, at whose house we often spent the holiday. 

Faithie took her mouse and bolted (perhaps not quite over the torture session?), so I had to make myself some other friends to photograph.
Pom-pom friends are quick, easy, and fun to make and share.
If Spring is a little slow to arrive in your neck of the woods, and the kids are cooped up this weekend, they might like to make pom-pom animals for their friends or favorite aunties. Here's my favorite way to wind the poms:

Use different sized forks to make different sized pom-poms.  75 wraps on the serving fork, 50 on a dinner fork, and 30 on a pickle fork will make pretty firm poms, but experiment, as yarn thickness varies.  To make even smaller ones, tape the tie thread to the length of a pencil or an even skinnier paint brush, then wrap 45 times.

Start to snug up your tie thread on the fork (I usually use the same color for both), then...

Slip it off and pull tightly, then knot firmly.  If you don't pull tight enough, the poms will fall apart.

Trim poms to shape.  The frog body and the pig nose are more puck shaped than round. 

Feet, ears, wings and other parts and accessories are cut from felt.  I like to make feet double thick, as this helps the critters stand up better.
 I used hot glue to put everything together, but Fabri-tac works just as well, and tacky glue works if you have a bit of patience with drying time, and there's no risk of burnt fingertips.  If you do use hot glue, keep a bowl of ice cubes on the table nearby!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Do not open the door.

I don't whine much about the weather.  I live in a four-season climate on purpose.   I don't do the winter sports thing (not that snowboarding doesn't look fun, but having never even mastered a skateboard on flat pavement, I'm thinking my chances of surviving the first run down a snowy hill on something similar are pretty slim), but I do like winter.  Sort of.  In its own time and place.  It has precisely two days left before I start whining. 

What spring is supposed to look like.
What spring looks like if one opens the front door.  Sigh.

sunshine from Cat
Here's a slick trick, if you are lucky enough to have a friend who brings you a bunch of daffodils...

While they look gorgeous in a medium sized blue vase, their slender stems make them seem a little skimpy, and yet their big heads are too bulky over a smaller vase.  What you need is a frog.  A flower frog.

You don't have one of those little submersible flower arrangers? Neither do I, but I used to work for a party decorating company, and the florists there taught me lots of cool tricks. One of my favorites is the trick of coiling up the thin woody stems of ivy or willow, to create a natural frog in the bottom of a vase.  This gives some support structure so the daffodils, or whatever flower you are using, don't all just splay out and look skimpy.  Using a few 2-3 foot long tendrils of ivy cut from a house plant, with the leaves stripped where the stems are submerged, works two-fold,  not only as a frog, but as filler greens.  Actually, that would be three-fold, as the ivy tendrils will start to sprout roots, and when the flowers are spent, these can be potted up to grow into a new houseplant, or tucked in the garden...assuming spring ever arrives. 

Check back Thursday for an update on whether an entire stateful of people pitching a fit has any bearing on the weather, the possible arrival from the printer of the Spring issue of 365 Being (I spent the weekend with the printer's proof, hopefully fixing all glitches and typos, so it won't be long), or perhaps for some fun bit of decorating inspiration.  Too early to guess what the week might bring, though according to the forecast, spring is not on the list of possibilities around here.  May your week be filled with sunshine...or daffodils, which are pretty close to the same thing.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Forecast: Frigid with little chance of kilts

It's once again that time of year, in our little berg of Irishness with the French moniker.  Yup, time for the St. Patrick's Day (sort of) celebration.  This year, it does not fall on St. Patrick's Day, and this year, unlike last year's record breaking 80 degrees, it will not be warm.  In fact, we are expecting snow all day tomorrow, so though Saturday's skies may be dry, I'm not really expecting kilts on the bagpipers.  Sigh. 

A lot of the locals have family in from distant parts, and Fogarty's bring out a busload of friends from the city, and host a big lunch before the March of the Clans. It's too big a gathering for the house, so T.C. and Carol fancy up the garage.  I got to help with that this week...

Just because it's in the garage doesn't mean it can't be prettied up!
Think maybe they're running out of rooms for me to paint?

The proof for the Spring Issue of 365 Being arrived today.  I'm really pleased with it, aside from some bizarre type glitches (odd things happened in the transition from Corel to PDF), and some glaring typos (I swear gremlins come along behind us and sprinkle them in!), but nothing that can't be fixed and ready for the printer on Monday morning.  It should hit the mail before the end of the week.  The summer issue is of course, already underway.

Monday, March 11, 2013

@#$%^#*@(! Sewing machine

Faith spotted something like these online, and wanted to figure out how to make them.  Easy, quick little bean-bag project.  She didn't bargain for the bonus lesson...
I really do try not to swear (in anger), but dysfunctional sewing machines can get me there even faster than misbehaving masking tape and overcharging accountants.  Today, it wasn't even my machine I was arguing with, and in light of this, and the fact that its young owner (someone else's child) was present, I kept it in check.  It helped that I had an idea what to do for the problem. 
Trusting child, just before discovering the sewing machine wasn't feeling very cooperative today.

This little trick I could have used for the first 45 years of my life, as I'm sure it was tension (thread tension) that caused all the difficulty with my mom's old Singer, and then her Monkey Wards machine, not that I remember watching Mama sew on those.  I actually learned to sew from watching my dad sew a backpack from a kit.  I learned a lot of really good sewing words from him, too.  None of which I will type here.  What I didn't learn from Papa Bear was what to do when the tension adjustment doesn't fix the tension problem, and swear words don't do the trick, either.  The solution to this I learned from my friend Carol Pilot, much more recently.
How your bobbin thread should NOT look.  Adjusting the tensioner should fix this, but on quilter's cotton, the mid-range sweet spot should be the right tension.

This is what your bobbin thread should look like.

Carol sews to perfection, and happens to work at a sewing machine store, Creative Sewing. (creativesewingcentersmn.com   If you are local and needing a machine, Carol's at the Minnetonka branch.)  A couple of years ago, when my machine would not behave no matter how I adjusted, wheedled, or swore, I called Carol, and she told me the secret trick.  I've yet to see this in a sewing machine manual, and it's so simple:  Sometimes, the little screw on the bobbin case needs adjusted.  That's all.  No swear words required, just the little screwdriver that came with your machine for no reason mentioned anywhere in your manual.

This is the little culprit that occasionally needs adjusting.  A little screw driver will be much more effective than calling it names or threatening to throw it in a snowbank.  Just go 1/4 turn each time, and do another stitch test.  Pay attention to which direction you go, of course!  In a few tries, in under five minutes, all your tension problems will be cured.
Happy kid, happy teacher, and nobody learned any new sewing words today.  Except for "bobbin case".   Great start to a great week. 

Friday, March 8, 2013

Celebrating with a little Ceili Dancing

You can check out Rumgumption at rumgumption.com.  These are serious award-winning musicians.  Serious awards, I mean, and seriously good musicians, but also quite capable with perfectly placed comedic remarks.  I'll be sure to catch them next time they play around the Twin Cities.
The spring issue of 365 Being finally went to the printer today. I don't have to start on the summer issue until tomorrow (which officially starts an hour from now), so I enjoyed my few minutes off to go hang out at the library, and learn a few dance steps. I don't know about all libraries, but here in Scott County, we get some cool stuff! The Prior Lake Branch, about 35 minutes from here, is in a building that houses dance space, and they have had a monthly program featuring different kinds of dance. Tonight was the last of the season, and it was sooo much fun.

Now, this isn't just dance to watch, this is two hours of instruction, with live music. It draws a big crowd, many of them are of retirement age, and most of them get out on the floor. Some are accomplished dancers, some not at all, but it really doesn't matter. It's meant to be fun, and as our instructor, Danielle Enblom, pointed out, as long as you are where you're supposed to be on the floor, nobody cares what your feet are doing.
I wondered about the straight arm step dancing made popular by Riverdance, and now a craze around the world.  I was sure I remembered seeing something a whole lot looser when I was a kid.  Sure enough, there are regions where old style dancing is done, and as you can see by this photo, everything moves.
Good thing, because although my soul was kicking high and stepping fast, my feet, and very soon my lungs, were trailing somewhat behind.  I hung in there, largely thanks to my partner.  Yes, dearhearts, I was out once again for a rousing night of hanging out with...
My instructor, Danielle, and my partner, Annika.  Thanks ladies, I had the best night!
...someone else's kid.

We were learning partner steps, and anyone who didn't come with a date, had to pair up with the other singles. Lucky for me, a champion Irish step dancer was the only other single on my side of the room. Her grands didn't want to dance, and her mom is the guitar player in the band, so she really kindly agreed to partner with me. I did not step on her toes once, and I don't think I ran her into anyone else. Beyond that, if I looked remotely competent, I'm sure it was her doing.

Annika (shown here with her mom, Dee Brust, is everything I wanted to be at her age:  Dancer, violin player, flute player, and pretty and kind and fun.  If you are lucky, you just may catch her performing at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival next summer.  Dee performs there, as well.
Tonight, not only did we learn some dance steps and listen to some fine live music, we got some snippets of Irish dance history from Danielle.  She's on a two year scholarship, currently in Cork, researching for her master's thesis, so she had lots of historical and social knowledge to go with the dancing.  I always said I would have loved history in school, if they had taught it from the perspective of the dance and food of the various cultures throughout time, instead of the endless list of wars.  I surely loved the lesson tonight!  

When a teacher loves her subject, it shows.
 This is what you get from dance classes at the library.  Dance steps, music, words, and a whole roomful of like-minded people you've probably never met, but you already know you have at least three things in common with.   In my case, my inner three-year-old, who's been screaming to be let out to play these past few weeks of intense editing and designing, was just glad to have an older kid to play with!  Woo-hoo!

Now, back to grown-up responsibility; splashing happy on walls, making up new recipes to test on my friends, dreaming up new things to make out of salvaged bits and bobs...you know, serious business!  Don't forget about open studio at Maureen Carlson's this Friday night (see my last blog post if you don't know about that).  Have a great weekend, and I hope you dance!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Friday night highlights

The doll I wish I had made
How was your weekend? If you're tired of the same old thing, and you live anywhere near  Minneapolis, you might want to come hang out at Maureen Carlson's open studio, in Jordan, on Friday evenings. There's often a mini-class for under $20, or you can just bring your own project to work on. There's also a themed potluck, like burrito bar, or baked potato bar, so if you plan to come and want to share dinner, check in with Maureen or Renee to see what the dish of the week is. Contact info is on the website: Maureencarlson.com. 

Maureen doesn't just tell you how to make a hand, she shows you how to notice the details in a hand.  Renee, Faith, Kit and Barb are intent on finger lengths, here.
This last Friday, I took my artgirl, Faithie with me, since I knew she would like the mini-project, which was a little leprechaun figure.  Of course, I just let her take the wee one home, without getting a photo, so I can't show you how sweet it turned out.  She had a good time, and kept me out way past my bedtime.
One of Beth Wegener's passions is pattern.  I love her layers of it!
Beth Wegener came and brought a doll she started in one of Maureen's Dolls on the Wall classes.  Sculpting the clothing took a lot longer than could be done that weekend, so she finished it at home, and brought it back to show Maureen and the rest of us.  Needless to say, we were awestruck!

Polymer clay doll by Beth Wegener

I took this class a different year, and also ran out of time to do the clothes, but opted to just add a few snips of fabric. Since my doll is surprisingly similar in style and pose, it's easy to see how charming she could be with about a hundred more hours invested. Since it's perfectly possible to add on to baked polymer clay sculptures, someday, when I'm in the mood for a super-detailed project, I just might do it. For now, I'll just enjoy Beth's fabulous millifiori patterns and sweet dressmaker details.

Lots of new classes coming up at Maureen's, and even one this fall with her and two other teachers on a cruise ship!  Maureencarlson.com.

Oh, and 365 update, as promised:  ummmm...check back Thursday?  I'd love to tell you that delivery to the printer was delayed by today's snow storm, but in truth I was relieved at not being able to safely get it on up the highway, since it isn't quiiiite ready to go, anyway.  Soon.  I think.