Monday, February 25, 2013

Fog-et About It

We never had much fog in Indiana, so I was thrilled the other morning when I glanced up from my morning cereal and saw this:

I left my Raisin Bran to get soggy and rushed outside.

My understanding is that fog forms with rapid cooling and high humidity, but this was actually somehow the result of a cool night and rapidly warming temperatures.  Wait, is that the same thing?  :)

It was a great day.  I went outside and gathered up more flowers.

I'm so in love with Helleborus.

I made bouquets for the bedroom...

And, with the shorter flowers, a long piece of tape to give them stability, and a square, Crate and Barrel-knockoff vase I found at Goodwill, I made a little bouquet for the dining room.

I just love having bulbs on the table.  It makes every day feel more spring-like, even cold, windy ones like today.

Last year, I remember going to Eagle Creek with Todd and seeing something new every week.  First the undergrowth started greening up, then we started seeing early spring flowers like trilliums and mayapple stems, and then the Virginia Bluebells started coming up...well, we don't have a hiking place yet here, so I am making careful observations in our yard.

More bulbs!  This, I think, is a hyacinth.

The snowflake flowers are blooming endlessly.

The crocuses are coming up, too!

We have several azalea bushes, and a few of them are tentatively budding out.  Just one or two flowers can be seen so far.

I think we have several white azalea bushes, too, that look ready to go:

Suddenly, some sort of tiny sedum is growing around the low rock wall behind the house.

And,  a mystery groundcover is pushing up over the leaves.

I was very glad to find this in the front yard:

It's a wild turkey feather.  I used to see the turkeys almost daily in the fall, but have only seen them a handful of times since Christmas.  This feather tells me that they may be roosting in our trees at night, which they tend to do to avoid predators.  Just because we can't see them, doesn't mean that they aren't there!

I wasn't so happy to find this in the yard:

I'm nearly certain that this hole was made by a chipmunk, which can devastate a garden.  I'll have to keep an eye on this area.

This wide, flat rock shows me that probably a squirrel, or perhaps a chipmunk, was eating here recently.

I was pleased to see this puffball mushroom in the yard, too.  I think they're so pretty.

Supposedly most puffballs are safe to eat, depending on the color of their insides.  However, I'm much too afraid to risk it!

I've been hearing a lot of hooting lately, but was unable to catch a glimpse of the owl. 

Using online sources, I was able to narrow it down to either a Barred Owl or a Great Horned Owl.  The other evening I was out in the yard, and happened to look up.  I saw two owls in a tree above my head, mating!  I rushed to get my camera.  Alas, I just got a quick, blurry shot of one of them.

Actually, this was incredibly helpful in solving the owl identity mystery.  These owls had smooth, rounded heads, and Great Horned Owls have big tufts of feathers on either side of their head.  Mystery solved:  they're Barred Owls.

I love these little trips around my yard.  Each time, it seems like there's something new!

I've been working on a few projects indoors.  I'm knitting a pair of mittens that I've started many times, only to put away.  Using size 1 needles and worsted weight yarn makes my wrists ache, but if I can just get past the cuffs, I think it will be better.

A quick sewing project:  I found a pretty tea towel in the discount bin at IKEA for $2.

I folded it over, stitched around the edges, and stuffed it with some stuffing that I already had.  Two dollars for a cute and easy throw pillow?  Not bad!

I haven't done too much new baking, but I've been revisiting some old recipes.  I couldn't believe how long it's been since I made a pumpkin roll.

They're easy to make and this is a "healthy" version.  I blogged about it here, but I think this one is even better.  I left out the lemon juice...added 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon, cardamon, and nutmeg, and 1/4 teaspoon of cloves and ginger, instead of the pumpkin pie spice...I used 8 oz. of neufchatel cheese and NO yogurt, sour cream, or crystallized ginger, and gave the filling a good dash of cinnamon.  Otherwise, it's the same.  Hey, I even used the same towel!  I hope you give it a try.  It was SUCH a nice treat this week.


Saturday, February 23, 2013

Paper Puttering

It's a chilly, rainy Saturday, and the perfect day to put out that extra blog entry that I'd been thinking about.  I know I spend a lot of time talking about cooking, or knitting, or gardening, or birds/nature, but I have a lot of other hobbies.  One that I especially enjoy is card making.  I've been making silly cards since elementary school, and now I can really indulge myself because I finally have...a craft room.

It's changed quite a bit since this photo.  I now have a rug, and some window coverings, and a temporary cover for the blue chair.  This angle, too, leaves out a wall of rubber stamps, knitting cabinet, and craft paper supplies.  But you get the idea.

I love it.  

I'll include better and more complete photos when it's done, but here I basically have an L-shaped work station for my card-making and eBay work.  The side table has a sewing machine and all of my fabric is stored beneath.

I am addicted to paper cutters - absolutely addicted.  I bought these iron towel racks at IKEA for around $1.75 each, I believe, and Todd mounted them on the side of a large cabinet for easy access.

The cabinet itself (from IKEA's discount room, for missing doors) holds a row of binders, half of which contain organized acrylic rubber stamps (the rubber stamps without wood mounting) and the other half containing the gardening/decorating/project idea clippings that I've been keeping since I was 15.  I have labeled boxes for sewing, embossing, blank cards and books, inks, stampers, glues, glitters, paint/painting supplies and colored pencils, buttons, ribbons, chipboard, stickers...can I say that my husband has an incredibly organized mind and planned the layout, and basically everything else?  He's amazing! 

So I have these supplies, and now, when I feel inspired, everything is organized and at my fingertips. 

I wanted to show you "the evolution of an idea" when it comes to cards.  In this example, I used Groundhog's Day as an excuse to make a silly card for Todd.  Groundhog, groundhog, I thought.  What can you do with a groundhog?  I started thinking about how a groundhog might be fairly inconsequential for most of the year, but one day only, he had everyone's attention, and all the control.  It reminded me of that old He-Man cartoon, where the main character holds aloft his sword and intones, "I HAVE THE POWER!"  Boom!  An idea formed.

First, the groundhog.  I don't have a groundhog cutter, of course, and I'd be hopeless at trying to cut out the shape with scissors.  The great thing about paper cutters is that they can frequently be used for shapes other than the intended one.  I used an ornament cutter for the head, and an owl for the body.

See?  I just cut off the feet and ears and rounded the body a bit.  I used a hole punch for the eyes and ears.  The only thing I fashioned by scissors was the teeth, and let me tell you, that took longer than everything else put together.

I used the rounded curve of a spiral cutter to make the feet/legs and just trimmed them up with scissors.

I hand-cut a He-Man costume and hair.  It was simple and didn't take too long.  By the way, I sometimes make two cards so that I can give the better one to the recipient, which is why you see two groundhogs!

A He-Man groundhog must have a sword...

...and a sign denoting the special day.

Does it work?  It doesn't have to be just has to be close enough so that the recipient "gets it".

I placed him on a card next to his two options, early spring or more winter.  The cloud, the snowflakes, and the sun were all cut with paper cutters.  I only had to manually cut out the sun rays.

I used an alphabet paper cutter to make the words...

...and another paper cutter to make this zig-zaggy outline.  The cutter made "the hole" and then I used scissors to cut around the hole, making a great shape for impact.  I glued white paper behind it and cut off the extra.

The front of the card...

The inside...

Now I could've - and should've - done something more dynamic with the background.  I ran out of time, though, and I was fairly happy with how it turned out.  Todd immediately recognized the He-Man connection and loved the card...success!

Sometimes I come up with ideas on my own, and sometimes I crib from Pinterest.  I saw a photo of a vintage Valentine card there and copied it completely for Todd's Valentine.  The card concept is a box of popcorn with the silly tagline:  "I'm gonna POP you a CORNY question...will you be my Valentine?"  I love silly, so I got to work.

First:  I wasn't about to hand-cut an infinite number of popcorn bits.  I have a cloud paper cutter, so I cut out the shapes and trimmed them a bit to look more popcorn-like.

They looked indistinct, white on white, so I decided to trace around the shapes with a black Sharpie.  Much better!  I had a pile of popcorn in no time.

I used my paper slicer to cut red stripes for my all-white rectangle of paper, used another paper cutter to make the background label, and stickers to make the word POPCORN.

Then I just glued the popcorn on, layer by layer...

I glued the completed box of popcorn onto a piece of pink construction paper and used glitter stickers for the impact words.  My own personal touch was adding "will you be my valentine?" on ribbon banners that I rubber stamped, cut out, and glued to the bottom of the popcorn box.

Here she is!

I am very pleased with how it came out!

Alas, my desk area usually looks like this or much worse after a card-making session:

Anyway, there you have it.  Whether you come up with a concept yourself or find inspiration elsewhere, I hope that you have fun being creative this week and do a little "paper puttering" of your own!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

a beautiful day

Earlier this week, we had a great rain.  Afterward, it was so nice and fresh outside that I decided to take a walk around the yard.  February has traditionally been my least favorite month.  The fall/winter holiday excitement is over, the cold has lost its novelty and you're ready for spring, but it's at least a month away.  It's a bit different here in South Carolina, though.  It's cold, but there's still so much to look at.

I walked by my mystery vine and noticed that it had finally started to bloom...  

...and proved to be a trumpet vine.  Pretty yellow flowers that are much loved by hummingbirds and bees.

I still marvel at all the Helleborus around.  I never got it to grow successfully in Indianapolis, and I always thought it was so beautiful.  Here, it's everywhere.

Big clumps, all up and down the length of the front of the house...

Up by the mailbox, and all over the back yard.

We must have 20+ clumps of them, and I was gratified to read that they spread easily.

The camillas were blooming...

...and this bush, too.

The clumps of snowflake flowers were putting up long stalks...

...and they make lovely, long-lasting bouquets.

We've had a lot of rain, so we had all sorts of interesting lichen on the ground...

...and on fallen branches around the yard.

I uncovered a squirrel stash with my foot.

Some bushes are heavily laden with berries.  As much as I'd like to pick the bunches and bring them in the house, I want to make sure that the birds get their fair share, so I usually leave them alone.

This grass, which I believe is called monkey grass, has been close-cropped by hungry deer.

They come at night and remain unseen, but I see a lot of wildlife in general here.  On the day of my walk, I saw a female cardinal...

...a hungry squirrel nibbling on seed...

...and a mockingbird, posing.

Geese were swimming in the pond...

...and it was totally peaceful.  I couldn't believe it when later that week, we had some snow!  It wasn't quite freezing, so the snowflakes melted quickly.

Still, it was coming down quickly for about 45 minutes.  The sky cleared, though, and we had a beautiful sunset.

This past week, I baked a massive (for us) cake for Valentine's Day.  I will refer you to Sweetapolita's LINK for the original recipe and step-by-step instructions, but I'll give you a quick rundown.

The cake was a 3 layer red velvet cake with raspberries, chocolate buttercream, marshmallow cream cheese, and another fluffy frosting that I didn't add.  I meant to, but once I spilled an entire panful of hot cream and gelatin down the front of the stove and all over the hardwood floor and spent almost 30 minutes cleaning it up, I'd lost the desire for 4 fillings.  The three I had were enough, especially the marshmallow cream cheese - YUM!  Probably my favorite frosting ever, and I'm not even a marshmallow fan.  You have to have a special occasion for this cake, or a dedicated gym routine, because it involves several cups of sugar and SEVEN sticks of butter.

First I baked and cooled the 3 cakes...

...and spread on the marshmallow cream cheese.

Then the chocolate buttercream...

...then the raspberries.

Then stack...

Repeat...and stack.

Ice the whole cake, and ignore the probable lopsided-ness.

It was dark before we cut into it, so the lighting was pretty bad.  Still, hopefully you can see the layers.  You'll notice they aren't red...I can never bring myself to add all of that red dye to red velvet cake, even for effect.

 It was so good.

 Todd and I each had small slices, and then I wrapped it up for him to take into the office.  It was demolished in one afternoon!

Hope you'll give it a try if you've got a special occasion coming up.  Enjoy!