31 January 2010

bunk cake

I'm a big fan of bundt cakes. I know they aren't the most fashionable or "modern" but I think they have a huge amount going for them in the charm area.

For one thing, I don't have to go to a lot of effort to get a cool shaped cake. Plus there are a lot of fancy pans out there now that will put tons of detail into it for me. Even so, my personal favorite is just your standard old bundt pan.

We celebrated my brother and mom's birthday today and it gave me a good excuse to bake. I haven't done much (outside of scones and banana bread) since the cookie marathon so I decided to do a bundt cake.

Every time I make one of these, I think of this scene from My Big Fat Greek Wedding (which is where the title of the post came from):

I found this recipe on my favorite recipe site, All Recipes, and figured with almost 1900 reviews and a 5 star rating, it would do the trick:

I also like that bundt cakes don't use a lot of icing. I don't really care for cakes that have three inches of icing on them. So I used this glaze recipe to add to the chocolate (because clearly there wasn't enough chocolate taste with the cake alone):

The ratings were spot on, this is an awesome cake. There isn't much of it left. My brother squirreled away several pieces to take home (which I consider a compliment).

So I'd say the old bunk cake did good.

Where I Stand Sunday

The long lazy brick wall snaking beneath the ornate wrought iron fence divides the current calendar and history neatly, like a sharp slice of the scissors. It is protective, rearing up in defense as one approaches the old house. Its birthday is buried back in the early 1900s, a time I've dreamt of, constantly enamored with warm wood trims, stained glass windows and minute details that speak to a unique artistry long gone.

Where I Stand is an ongoing photo essay examining the different places I spend my life standing. Too often we take for granted the everyday places we spend our lives walking on. The ground we tread on has its own stories to tell. (The project is now in Year Three. Year Three will feature artwork inspired by that week's Where I Stand photo as well as the photo that inspired it. Year One and Year Two can be found here.)


Original photo:

31 happy things in january

The 365 Happy Things Project just wrapped up its first month. Above is a mosaic of all the things that were posted in January.

If you missed my post announcing what the project is about, here is the explanation for it again:

One of my favorite books is 10,000 Things to Be Happy About (now updated to 14,000 things, she apparently found more!). Its simple, to the point, and it reminds us that we are surrounded by things that will make us happy.

I've always been intrigued by people who vow to take on a once-a-day project for an entire year. I never really thought I'd have enough of anything to keep up that kind of pace. Then I realized I've got plenty - all the little every day things that make me smile!

So in 2010 I'm going to post something every day that makes me smile. The posts will be simple, nothing more then a picture with a caption. But I want this year to be a time of slowing down and taking a closer look at the little things that I spend so much time zooming by without a second thought.

I hope you'll join me on this journey!

If you'd like to follow the project, please visit its blog.


28 January 2010

murphy defeated

Apparently my grumbling at Murphy for his rudeness the last time I was in the studio paid off today.

I decided to join a local art house and their member's show is coming up in short order so I rumpled through the studio today looking for new work to show. I had one piece in mind but it needed a few things (one of which is the dreaded hanging sleeve). Its a far larger piece then I usually make and it sort of made me twitchy trying to figure out a hanging device for it.

After about an hour of putzing with it, I gave up and drug out the ever growing pile of fabric I have that has been printed, stamped, painted, screened and generally tortured to within an inch of its life with some form or another of surface design.

I love all the surface design I've been doing lately. But I've struggled a bit with how to use it. I find that I want to leave it graphic and stitch very little on it, which pretty much goes against the grain of what I usually produce.

I yanked out several pieces of batik fabric that I made during Rayna's class back in late November. I've not touched them since I stamped them with wax and I got to wondering if the stuff would come out after having been in there for so long.

It did. But its obvious that on many pieces I didn't have the wax hot enough because the stamped images didn't go all the way through the fabric or it was very uneven. Luckily I really appreciate imperfect printing so it works for me.

I painted two pieces and wrapped them around 12" square canvases. I'm really in love with the format and the graphic quality of this and I think I'm going to make several more:

Red X (top view)

Red X (side view)

Brown X (top view)

Brown X (side view)

Snazzy titles, eh? Sometimes the obvious is the easiest way to go...

I added them to my newly revamped website already (I can't tell you how in love I am with my new software, its like blogger on steroids and has taken hours and hours and hours of work out of maintaining a site for me).

I'm looking at that pile of printed fabric differently now. There's no batting on those pieces above, and the stitching is minimal, just along the outside of the X's. It give the focus to the fabric, which is really where it should be since so much time was spent on that aspect.

So we'll see where this goes. Its just nice to have the studio cooperate for a day.

25 January 2010

deadline avoidance = epic fail

I have two deadlines looming and the procrastination side of my brain looked at the calendar today and said, "You've got five whole days yet! Go do something fun!"

So I took its advice and decided that I could blow today off from dealing with them and go into the studio to indulge some of the new ideas I've had kicking around my brain. I rationalized it by saying that I needed to work on them while the inspiration was there.

Yeah. Well. Didn't go so well.

I've had the urge to continue my Talk to Me Series so I did this:

And I looked at it for a bit.

And decided I hated it.

For one thing, its...clean...and polite. Its not nearly as grungy or gritty as the other pieces in the series. Plus the addition of the red squares took it in a totally Asian direction, which was not my intention at all. I grabbed some more paint and figured all I had to do was scuff it up a little bit.

Which promptly led to me ruining it in every possible way. I peeled off the two squares of fabric (the beauty of fusing with Mistyfuse, it holds things in place but I've found I can always yank it back up in my more desperate moments) and pitched the rest of it.

I don't really have a problem with failed work. Its sort of par for the course. Besides, I figure this is Murphy at work again - he apparently feels I should pay attention to the deadlines I have and finish them up. Okay, okay, point taken.

Of course, it doesn't help my concentration that this came in the mail today:

I'm glad that I am weak and caved when Yarnhog posted that she joined this Knit-along. I opted to not use beads, I'm not really into them in my knitting. I admire they way they look, I just think I'd end up picking at them until I unraveled the entire project so we'll just skip that whole part. I joined late (obviously) so I think I might start it today. They are already on the second clue so I'm behind.

(Note the nosy westie wedging himself between the footstool and the basket I'm using for my crocheted afghan. He is pretty much back to normal. In fact, he's gone back to some of his more bratty ways so I've nicknamed him Frankenwestie. Hey, its fair game to taunt him now that he's feeling better.)

In other yarn news, I finally got myself situated to get rolling on the hexagon afghan:

Took me long enough, eh? When I do these I tend to work on them in the evenings in between other things. So I like to have everything situated in some semblance of order so that I can just grab it whe I have a few free seconds and make some. (I also have this weird quirk about knitting/crocheting from skeins that look like this. It annoys me. I seem to knit/crochet slower when they are like that so I always wind them off into balls.)

I also went through a bit of an angst about the yarn that I'm using for it. Turns out I didn't have nearly enough leftover yarn from Babette, I was going to have to pick up a significant amount. So I decided to give it some thought before I bought anything. I went with Galway, which is not machine washable. But I figure that as long as the westie doesn't lay on it when he needs a bath (which is the polite way of saying he can be a real stink pot sometimes), it won't need to be laundered that often so I'm going for it.

And keeping with my promise to try different things this year, I signed up for this workshop with Alma Stoller. Go ahead, give a giggle. Its so totally not me in any way. I don't do portraits and especially not self portraits but I like that its abstract and I like the overall feel of the paint color she's featuring. That part is definitely up my alley. I'll blog about that adventure, hopefully it goes better then my day today.

I need to figure out what to do with the remainder of the day, its a restless one and I just can't seem to focus in any way. Maybe I should just leave projects alone today since I seem to have the touch of destruction, no need to multiply the fabric in the trash can.

Yarn? Reading? Finish website? Taunt the westie? So many options...

24 January 2010

Where I Stand Sunday

It's a strange pock marked game of peek-a-boo. The grass pokes up green from beneath the slushy snow, surprisingly green for all the abuse it has taken over the past few months. As the rain splats across the stubborn snow, the idea of spring sneaks into the back of my mind, daydreaming of days of mild temperatures and delicate flowers.

Where I Stand is an ongoing photo essay examining the different places I spend my life standing. Too often we take for granted the everyday places we spend our lives walking on. The ground we tread on has its own stories to tell. (The project is now in Year Three. Year Three will feature artwork inspired by that week's Where I Stand photo as well as the photo that inspired it. Year One and Year Two can be found here.)

INSPIRED BY ARTWORK TECHNIQUE: mini hand stitched felt collage

Original photo:

22 January 2010


I had grand plans for this week in terms of things that I was going to get done. Items and projects laid out in the studio, a neatly organized to-do list that didn't seem all that unrealistic (for once) and a general sense of let's-get-to-itiveness (obviously not a word).

Unfortunately, I didn't take a good hard look at one of the things at the beginning of the week. Didn't consider that it might not go over as well as we had hoped.

Little man had a cyst on his leg that needed to be removed. Didn't seem like a big deal, the vet assured us that it wouldn't be anything major. He had surgery on the same leg several years ago to repair a torn tendon (that was major, was horrible and something we never want to repeat) and we sort of figured anything compared to that would be cake.

Yeah. Not so much.

Little man is most displeased with us and is just today, three days later, beginning to relax a little. The day he had his surgery was heartbreaking, crying and moaning and completely inconsolable. We were surprised when we picked him up how big the incision is, it was obviously much worse then we could see on the surface. Realizing that makes me happy we took care of it now rather then waiting.

Once the stitches are out he'll be a much happier camper. But that's eleven days away (give me strength) so we have a long way to go. Last night he decided he wanted the sofa (which is where he usually naps/sleeps) and I took that as a good sign so he's sitting beside me right now as I work on my website, all snuggled in and snoring lightly.

*sigh* Needless to say I've gotten nothing done. Well, except more progress on my website so maybe that's not such a bad thing.

All I have to say is thank the universe for my laptop and seasons 3 and 4 of Weeds...

19 January 2010

Tote Tuesday - A Fundraiser for the American Cancer Society

The amazing Virginia Spiegel is at it again! She is leading yet another wonderful fundraiser for Fiberart for a Cause and the American Cancer Society.

This blurb from Virginia explains how it will all work:

ToteTuesday, a Fiberart For A Cause fundraiser for the American Cancer Society, will open Tuesday, February 2 and continue through March. It’s a fundraiser AND a showcase for everything that is fun and creative about the fiber arts.

ToteTuesday will feature themed totes filled with unique, beautiful, and inspiring items from the worlds of fiber arts, knitting, art quilting, mixed media and surface design.

There will be an auction from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. CST Tuesdays with a required opening bid with additional bids requested in $10 increments. There will also be a Go for the Gold! price if you can’t wait to own the tote AND want to be a champion supporter of the ACS. Any donation you make above the retail price is (upon advice from your accountant, of course) tax deductible. All donations will be made by credit card to the ACS through the FFAC donation page. You will receive an immediate receipt. All shipping is FREE to buyers.

*** The fundraiser will be conducted through Virginia's blog and will begin on Tuesday, February 2, 2010 ***

I'm in continuous awe of Fiberart for a Cause. Its raised over $190,000 since it began in 2006 and every time a new opportunity to contribute becomes available, I always jump at it.

My mind instantly went to knitting when Virginia announced the fundraiser. I began knitting three years ago. I've found immense enjoyment in this fiber art and am putting together three totes for the fundraiser. Two dedicated to sock knitting and one featuring knitted toys.

The sock totes feature a hand stitched felt tote donated by Mixed Bag Designs, a sock knitting book donated by Fibra Artysta, a skien of hand dyed sock yarn donated by Blue Moon Fiber Arts and a mini knitted sock knitted by me. You can see them below:

The knitted toy tote has a couple more items to be finished and then it too will be ready to help raise funds for the American Cancer Society.

The variety of totes being put together is amazing! You can see a list of them here.

I hope you'll join me in supporting FFAC's efforts with this exciting fundraiser!

18 January 2010

reigning some things in

Had an honest soul searching talk with Cathy when she was here this weekend about some of the things that have been stopping me from making new artwork. (Although she compared my slight stubbornness to a rock and if you banged my head against a rock, the poor rock would loose. This is not entirely inaccurate.)

One of the issues is that I have a lot of work that I'm not thrilled about. Some will find new homes with friends but others will soon be seeing the sharp end of a pair of scissors so that I can take out the portions I like and create a piece that is strong.

My hesitation about my current portfolio has never been so evident to me as I'm working on the new version of my website. I've done nearly everything except the gallery for my artwork. So I need to make some changes.

One of the other decisions I've made is that I'm going to combine the blogs for Mixed Bag Designs and Fibra Artysta. I thought it would be a good idea for it to have its own home but whenever I do post something in MBD's etsy shop, I post it here too so its obviously not the brightest idea I've ever had.

And I want Mixed Bag Designs to be updated at my own pace. While it would be wonderful if it sold as well online as it did in person, I don't want it to take over everything, I have too many other projects that I want to work on.

Speaking of which, I need to get my behind into the studio. I'm working on some totes for Virginia Spiegel's new FFAC fundraiser, Tote Tuesday. I'd like to square those away today so that they are ready to raise funds for the American Cancer Society. More on that soon.

I'm fretting something terrible today. Dooley love is going in for minor surgery tomorrow and while its no big deal (cyst on his little leg), I detest the idea of him being knocked out. So I'll be all fidgety today and tomorrow. Poor baby love...

Okay, enough online time. Need to get to work.

17 January 2010

Where I Stand Sunday

It began as a way to dispel grief, a place to go where nothing but peaceful repetition and serenity is allowed to dwell. The knitting community reaches all around the globe, bound in a common language and affection for an ancient fiber art. It has earned a permanent place on the roster, a reliable friend with an outstretched hand whenever one is needed.

Where I Stand is an ongoing photo essay examining the different places I spend my life standing. Too often we take for granted the everyday places we spend our lives walking on. The ground we tread on has its own stories to tell. (The project is now in Year Three. Year Three will feature artwork inspired by that week's Where I Stand photo as well as the photo that inspired it. Year One and Year Two can be found here.)

INSPIRED BY ARTWORK TECHNIQUE: hand knitted mini sock and paper collage

Original photo:

11 January 2010

mish mash

I'm hunkering down over the next few days to get my website done. I've been picking away at it for a while now but I really need to finish it so I'm putting on some movies and doing it. (I'm switching over to a new program so not only does the entire site need to be redone, but I need to learn the program as well. Makes for some fun times.)

So it makes sense that I'm blogging, right? Moving on...

I've been tinkering with a few different things lately so I've got random for you today.

1) Mary and I went to Mexicantown this past Saturday. Which means I got a chance to indulge my skeleton obsession. We visited a shop where they were plentiful:

I picked up a couple more to add to my collection, a writer and an orange fellow:

2) We also decided to go out in search of houseplants. Because nothing says gardening like snow and temperatures in the teens right? Truth is that I needed to tame the indoor jungle that I keep in my studio. I've neglected it as of late and there were a couple of casualties but overall not too bad. I added a couple of new friends to the mix:

You'll notice the watering bulb on the far left upper corner. Pothos are fairly indestructible but I figure I've got it, why not use it? I've never seen such a light color for this plant before. Its sitting next to its more common cousin (mine looks nothing like that one but I'd love it to someday) so they should get along just fine.

So the jungle is happy now and there will be much growing, no matter what time of year it is.

3) I finished a couple of pairs of fingerless mitts:

I'm pretty happy with how they came out. Although I think I'm going to go back in and add a crocheted edge to the ones in the top picture. I did that to the orange and white ones in the bottom picture and it took out the roll that straight stockinette stitch produces. I don't mind that curl but I think I'd like the gloves to lay flatter so my hands stay warmer so I guess they aren't completely finished.

4) I joined a knit-along - for a lace shawl. Don't ask, I'm weak and caved easily. I'll blog more about that when I get the yarn and begin knitting it.

5) The Christmas tree is still up. I plan to take it down this week but who knows. It has red and white decorations on it, maybe it could pass for a Valentine's tree...

6) Dooley is in full on hibernation mode. The weather is cold and he's decided he wants nothing to do with it. I think his plan is to sleep until spring arrives. It may not be a bad idea.

Okay, I need to go work on my website. Honest. No facebook, no writing, no etsy.

Just website. Yup...

10 January 2010

need a zombie?

You're in luck, there's one available in the Mixed Bag Designs Etsy store. Check him out.

Zombies not your thing? Then how about a reminder that spring will be here in a couple of months? These bird nest necklaces do the trick!

Where I Stand Sunday

The colors in Detroit's Mexicantown burn brightly against the paleness of winter. I'm drawn to them again and again, admiring the vibrancy of it all. A fascination with Dia de lost Muertos stays at the forefront, reminding me to celebrate this life every day.

Where I Stand is an ongoing photo essay examining the different places I spend my life standing. Too often we take for granted the everyday places we spend our lives walking on. The ground we tread on has its own stories to tell. (The project is now in Year Three. Year Three will feature artwork inspired by that week's Where I Stand photo as well as the photo that inspired it. Year One and Year Two can be found here.)

INSPIRED BY ARTWORK TECHNIQUE: collage and assemblage

Original photo:

View of full mural I'm standing in front of:

06 January 2010

working on sanctuary

Now that the studio is cleaned, I can finally get some work done. About a month ago I joined a group of art quilters called 12 Connected. Over the course of the next two years, we are going to do twelve art quilt challenges and post our results online.

The first one was announced at the beginning of December and the theme is Sanctuary. I decided to do a piece honoring writing since that's where I find peace of mind and it is, for me, a true sanctuary.

Below is a sneak peek of a part of the quilt. I just did a post over on the group's blog explaining my piece as well as posting a different detail shot. Hope you'll follow along with us, we're just getting started and its a very talented group of artists so its sure to be fantastic!

05 January 2010

out with the old?

Okay, so really, this isn't news but...I cleaned the studio today. I did a totally nerdy thing and sat down and figured out approximately how much time I spent last year cleaning my studio rather then working in it and it came out to around forty hours. (Don't ask me how I came up with that, its a totally patented scientific method that involves hours of calculation and complicated mathematics. (Okay, okay...I guessed. So sue me.))

The only thing more daunting then all the time I spent cleaning it was how much time I avoided it like the plague because it needed to be cleaned. Wasted time, I tell you, wasted time. I could have been using all that time to make things.

The biggest reason it often disintegrates into the work room from hell is that I never clean up after I am done with one project. I am so enthusiastic that I finished it that I flee from the room to take pictures and blog about it and don't pay any attention to the train wreck that I've left behind.

I'm making an effort to change that. I was resolute in the face of being sucked into stopping cleaning so I could work on something I forgot about (that's always a doosey, gets me every time.) But when I got to the pile of UFOs...well. I sat down in my chair and stared at them with a leery eye.

I just don't know what to do about them. I mean, if I haven't finished something, I'm not going to. I tend to start and finish whatever I really intend to complete. So the pile I have most likely will never see an exhibit or a blog post or even me waving it wildly at Dooley to see what he thinks.

So I thought I'd ask the blog: what do you do with the stuff you've no intention of finishing?

I can be pretty brutal with my work. I have no qualms about pitching it or taking a pair of scissors to it but I'm wondering if there is a kinder alternative that I haven't thought of. (Too late, though for the three knitting projects I frogged without a second thought. Heartless, that's me.)

Then there's the issue of the completed work pile...time to sell it? Give it away? Who knows...

In neater, less cluttered news, I just posted an interview with Kate of Oma's Patch over on the Mixed Bag Designs blog. Go check it out if you haven't met Kate yet, she's a lot of fun. I neglected poor Mixed Bag Designs over the holidays but now that I can see my the surface of my work table, I've got several wishing owls in the works. I love those little buggers.

And I cleaned up as I went. So far so good...

03 January 2010

Where I Stand Sunday

The new year pulls with it a long string of new ideas, new activities, new means of creating. but the old burden of chaos keeps me away, avoiding the place where all of it should begin. A fierce determination nags at me, clicking everything into neat sections, forcing items into orderly boxes. A small file system marks the beginning, bearing the words I strive for most for this space: organize, orderly, system, labeled, in its place, accessible, inspiring, contained, productive, easy, organize...

Where I Stand is an ongoing photo essay examining the different places I spend my life standing. Too often we take for granted the everyday places we spend our lives walking on. The ground we tread on has its own stories to tell. (The project is now in Year Three. Year Three will feature artwork inspired by that week's Where I Stand photo as well as the photo that inspired it. Year One and Year Two can be found here.)

INSPIRED BY ARTWORK TECHNIQUE: altered office supplies

Original photo:

02 January 2010

devil cookies done right

After the smack down death match that I had with the springerle cookies I made, we got to wondering what a proper devil cookie should be like.

Mom searched the internet and found The Springerle Baker. They are the shining example of how perfect these things can be. Their site does little to take away the bitterness I feel towards this cookie. Clearly it is selectively cruel to bakers, its nice to that guy. Me? Not so much. (Devil cookies.)

We ordered a small batch and they came in the mail the other day:

I may have mumbled things like "show off" and "damn devil cookies" several times while unpacking them. Truth is, they are absolutely gorgeous and they taste just as good. Mom insists that the ones I made are pretty close but I think she's just trying to get rid of the twitch that appears on my face every time the subject of them comes up.

Now that we have a source for good devil cookies (I refuse to call them by their proper name), I can feel comfortable about my decree of never making them again.




01 January 2010

the 365 happy things project

I've decided that 2010 is going to be a year of pausing.

I don't make resolutions because, well to be honest, I don't think I'll ever keep them. (Of course, not making them so I'll never find out if I can keep them seems like an odd thing but that's what I figure and since I seem to have known me for a long time, I'd say its a safe bet.)

I won't say that I won't stuff 2010 with tons of new projects or get my hands in too many new things to count. Its my nature to not stop moving. So when the discussion came up on an email list I belong to about those who make art every single day, it got my wheels turning.

I've always been intrigued by this concept. I mean really, making something everyday. I work on something everyday but there's no way that I could finish something everyday. Still, the idea of a project that keeps my wheels turning on a daily basis has always appealed to me. And now that I'm making an "inspired by" artwork each week for my Where I Stand essay, it made the pull of the daily idea even stronger so I gave it some thought.

I've decided to start the 365 Happy Things Project. Everyday I'll post a picture of something that made me smile or made me happy. Its all about the idea of pausing and being part of my environment rather then just moving through it. Follow the link above to go to the blog for it. I thought about posting it here but I wondered if I'd drive some of you crazy in the process so I set up a place for it to play all on its own.

I hope everyone had a lovely New Year's Eve and here is to a happy 2010!