Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Revisiting the Sketchbook

The past week my only creative opportunity was in the evening, when the days responsibilities were checked off my long to-do list. Last year I made a promise to myself that I would fit creativity in every day. February has really challenged that promise!  This week I revisited my sketchbook and art journals. In addition, I finally began practice on drawing my Doll Dreams dolly faces. I also made a "Butterfly Garden in a Box" to put into my Etsy store which has been sorely lacking in new product. So, without further ramblings, here are the bits of creativity I managed to squeeze in this week:

Re-purposed box, hand painted. Inside are five packets of various organic seeds to attract butterflies to the garden, along with a set of butterfly note cards. See pictures of the contents here.

A page from my British Isles themed art journal. This page is about Lord Byron.

This two-page spread also involves Lord Byron, or rather his butler and maid who fell in love, left the service of Byron and opened the very first hotel in London. Browns Hotel served up some delicious tea!

Doodled while watching my favorite show: Merlin. 

My Doll Dreams Dolly face practice sketches. I apologize for the poor quality as I was having scanner issues:

This one was my overall favorite. 

And finally, a whole face! Isn't she just so darn cute?

It was great fun to play in my sketchbooks and art journals once again! Soon, I'll be filling up travel journals!

What creative adventures lay ahead for you all?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

A Teaspoon; A Winner!

This week came and went so fast that I hardly had time to stop and breathe. I found myself swamped with the minutiae of life: chores, appointments, house repairs, errands. It seemed the only time to sneak in a creative moment or two was late at night when my brain had already shut down for the day. Since I'm resting up my tendinitis for an upcoming three month stint of picture taking, I turned to traditional art by spending time sketching and working in my art journals which I will share this week in an upcoming post.

I did enjoy snapping a few pics during a Creative Saturday spent at the Renaissance Festival with my friend Martina (pics to come later in the week). Last weekend was spent with Lita, where we leisurely roamed the aisles of the Hillsboro Antique Mall. I found some great vintage images to add to my collection including the above image "A Teaspoon" which seemed like an appropriate image to use for announcing the winner of the February Blog Giveaway! I used Tara Frey's number generator to draw the winner:
Congratulations to ANNA! And, it looks like The Winter Garden at the Landmark Hotel is where Gina and I will be taking our tea! Thanks to all who took the time to vote and be sure to watch for March's Blog Giveaway which will be posted within the first week of March! Anna, please email me your snail mail addy so that I can ship out your prize!

Here are my remaining vintage finds this week at the Antique Mall:
I was drawn to this image of a father and his seven children. I wondered where their mother was. Did she die giving birth to her youngest child, as so often was the case back then? Looking at the children, I can imagine perfectly what their mother must have looked like. Unfortunately, there was absolutely no information on this image. The family shall remain a mystery but now have a new home. :)

Faye Winters

Originally, I was drawn to this image because she looked like she had a magical aura surrounding her. When I got it home and began to investigate it further, I found the name "Faye Winters" written on the back of the image and it was mailed to a "Nellie Winters". I could not make out the date of the mailing but I suspected that it was an older sister sending a postcard image of herself to a younger sister. Using my Ancestry.com membership, I began to do some research. My hunch was right! I found a US Federal Census from 1900 listing both Faye Winters who was 9 at the time (born in 1891) and her baby sister Nellie, who was just three months old when the Census was taken on June 18th, 1900. They were the younger daughters of William and Harriet Winters who were farmers living in Ohio. Faye and Nellie had two older brothers, Ray & Day and an older sister named Lou. I have since found a descendant of William Winters and have contacted them to let them know I would happily send them a copy of this image of Faye. It's so much fun when you can figure out who these lost people are! It's almost like being a detective of sorts!

It's rare to find French Photographic Postcards here in the USA. Usually, I have to hunt for them in markets in Europe. But, I lucked out this time and found this cute French Child holding a bouquet of flowers. The image has been lightly tinted which gave me the idea to show how I hand-tint vintage images! I will do a tutorial later this week showing just how easy it really is!

I saw a lot of potential for this image to be used in Digital Photo Manipulation projects. Something about it just screamed "take me home!" :)

Perhaps the most unusual image I have ever found. I think lots of people would bypass this as too depressing, too sad, too scary, too horrible to contemplate. But, I like the weird and unusual. And, once again, I saw a lot of potential to use this image in some Gothic photo manipulations! The one thing about collecting vintage images to use in your art...copyright free!!

I thought this was cute. But it was the message on the back that made me decide to purchase it:
"This is getting desperate".  What did that mean? Were they lovers separated by miles? The card was mailed from Indiana to Kansas in 1907. What circumstances were keeping them apart from each other? We will never know, but we can delight in the cute image of a couple in love. :)

I wish you all a lovely week ahead and again, Congrats to Anna on winning the Teacup of Inspiration!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

February Blog Giveaway!

I've been finishing up the final plans on my springtime trip to England and Wales where I will be trekking the Cumbrian Way with my friends Gina and Ray (We'll miss you Loran!). As is my usual custom when in London, I choose to splurge on High Tea. Of course, no one does teatime better than the British! I've enjoyed High Tea at The Savoy, The Ritz, Brown's Hotel and most recently, The Dorchester. This time however, I'm going to let you, my dear readers, choose where my friend Gina and I will be having our London tea! When I return from the trip, I will be blogging and posting pictures of where you chose!

In keeping with the theme of tea, this month's giveaway is a vintage teacup made by Royal Standard in England. It comes with a very special teabag...one for brewing up some inspiration!  To have a chance to win this month's giveaway, all you need to do is vote by leaving a comment and let me know where you think Gina and I should take our tea while in London! I'll use a random number generator to choose a winner on February 20th! Open to US residents only!

I've narrowed it down to two choices; You can click on the link to view each place:
The Winter Garden tea room at The Landmark Hotel
Afternoon Tea at Claridges

I can't wait to see which location we end up going to! In the meantime, please enjoy these tea-themed pics!
Taking Tea

My lovely mother and I having tea at The Savoy. The Savoy set the standard. They had the perfect combination of delicious tea, yummy food, amazing atmosphere and incredible service! I measure every other tea room by The Savoy and no other has matched it yet!

Tea with Butterflies
This was a photo manipulation piece I did that was inspired by my set of butterfly teacups!

Ringtons Tea Truck
Delivering tea since 1907!

Bedouin Tea
Probably the most interesting place I've had afternoon tea...up in the Negev Mountains on the border between Egypt and Israel. We rode camels to get here and stayed until after the sun set, sipping mint tea and eating warm pita bread made on what looked like an ancient metal shield!

Afternoon tea at The Abbey Tea Room, Glastonbury.
Beside the standard of scones with jam and clotted cream, they served us homemade soup and bread!

Sunlit Tea Tray

A Pot O' Tea at the Bramah Tea & Coffee Museum, London.

An English Tradition! Tea and scones at the Simply Gorgeous Tea room in Cheddar.

Jackie and I enjoy a Christmas-Themed Festive High Tea at The Dorchester.

Afternoon tea at Babbington's in Rome, Italy.

Afternoon Tea with Lita
Pic taken by me and processed by Lita

Copper Kettles

High Tea at Brown's Hotel in London with Gina and Loran. I love the beginning of High Tea...a glass of delicious Champagne to get you warmed up for the decadent experience!

My mom and I having tea at The Ritz. I've worn this shirt to a lot of high teas! I think it might be time for something new!

Dishin' Up Some Retro! My favorite tea set! Isn't it just too darn cute??

Tea with Oscar
My favorite teacup, my favorite bracelet and my favorite book about my favorite writer, who was the inspiration for my blog name!

Good luck to everyone who enters the giveaway and a very Happy Valentine's Day to you all!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

She Waits...

She waits. She waits for him to return home. He left for war, promising to stay safe and come back to her. So she waits. Time is a pillar of stone. The sun rises and the moon sets without her knowledge. She waits. Others have begged her to move on. She resists their calls, ignores their voices. She keeps her back to the light and she waits.

This image was born from being a fan of Jewell and Jamie and their fantastically surreal landscapes. The magical, whimsical, other-worldly has always attracted me. I first found Jamie through Somerset's Digital Studio magazine. Admiring her images on flickr led me to Jewell's photo stream, which in turn led me to her website full of amazing texture packages. I looked through their mouthwatering galleries and my love for photo manipulation was given new life.

My friend Nichole and I both worked on images trying to achieve the look. Despite different processing programs, we shared tips, techniques and cheered each other on. A true collaboration of friendship.
Nichole has a great quote that follows her emails:
"All that we send into the lives of others comes back into our own" ~Edwin Markham
I believe this to be so true and I love it when artists open up and share, whether it's technique or beautiful textures but especially, their support.  

Here is the before and after of the image:
Before image: a house in Charleston, South Carolina

After image: A house in some alternate universe

I'm re-inspired thanks to Jamie's article, Jewell's textures & brushes and Nichole's support. In addition, I have to thank sugary-stock for the background.

I look forward to creating more of these surreal landscapes, perhaps with images I'll be bringing back with me from England and Wales. It's an amazing thing when the spark of creativity strikes. You just never know when it will lead to something grand!☺

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Promise Yourself

Promise yourself and let your dreams take flight

Cleaning and clearing out last week meant finding stuff that had long been forgotten. Once such piece of ephemera was a tattered card that I used to carry around in my wallet. It's The Optimist Creed from the Optimist International Club and it goes like this:

Promise Yourself
To be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind. 
To talk health, happiness and prosperity to every person you meet.
To make all your friends feel that there is something in them.
To look at the sunny side of everything and make your optimism come true.
To think only the best, to work only for the best and expect only the best.
To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about your own.
To forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future.
To wear a cheerful countenance at all times and give every living creature you meet a smile.
To give so much time to the improvement of yourself that you have no time to criticize others.
To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear,
 and too happy to permit the presence of trouble. 

I was born an optimist. It's in my blood but I'm happy this little reminder found itself back into my hands and is now residing in my wallet where I can refer to it on those rare days where I feel like wearing a frown. :)

Monday, February 7, 2011

A Healthier Superbowl Sunday

Superbowl Sunday usually means unhealthy eating: pizza, beer, sweets, snacks. Salty, sugary and full of fat.
This year, I had a plan in place to have a healthier Superbowl Sunday that was full of good-for-you flavor.
Of course I took pictures of each dish anticipating that I would share the recipes with my readers!**
Each dish was quick and easy, super delicious and full of healthy nutrients!

Poached Eggs with Roasted Tomatoes

Poached Eggs with Roasted Tomatoes
Serves 2

1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
Fresh ground salt (use Pink Himalayan or Kosher for more nutrients)
Fresh ground pepper
1 Tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
2 large eggs
1 whole-wheat muffin, split and toasted

Heat over to 425°. Arrange tomatoes in a baking dish. Drizzle with oil, season with salt and pepper. Toss with thyme. Roast until tomatoes begin to burst, about 20 minutes. Scrape tomatoes and any juices into a bowl and let cool slightly. While tomatoes are cooling, poach eggs. Serve eggs over toasted English muffin halves. Season with salt and pepper, top with roasted tomatoes. Garnish with thyme sprigs.

Chipotle Avocado Sandwich

Chipotle Avocado Sandwich
Serves 4

1 15oz can red kidney beans, drained
1 chipotle in adobo, finely chopped, plus 1 Tbsp. sauce
8 slices of whole-grain bread, toasted
1 avocado, sliced
4 radishes, sliced
4 leaves escarole or other broad-leaf green
1 cup sprouted beans
Fresh ground salt and pepper

Mash beans, chipotle and sauce until combined. Spread on toasted bread. Top with avocado, radishes, escarole and sprouts. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with pita chips and hummus or fresh fruit.

Portobello Cheeseburgers

Portobello Cheeseburgers
Serves 4

2 tsp. olive oil
4 large portobello caps
Fresh ground salt and pepper
1 Tbsp. bottled minced garlic
1/4 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
3 Tbsp. Smart Balance or other reduced-fat mayonnaise
4 Whole wheat hamburger buns
2 cups arugula
1/2 cup sliced bottled roasted red bell peppers

Heat oil in nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle mushrooms with salt and pepper. Add mushrooms to pan and sauté 4 minutes or until tender, turning once. Meanwhile, combine cheese and mayonnaise, stirring well. Spread about 1 Tbsp cheese mixture over bottom half of each bun and then top with 1/2 cup arugula and 2 tablespoons of red pepper. Place 1 mushroom on each serving and top with top half of buns. 
Serve with a side of fresh fruit.

 Healthy Oatmeal Cookies

Healthy Oatmeal Cookies
Makes about 30 cookies

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups of rolled oats
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1/4 cup brown sugar

Mix the above ingredients in a large bowl and set aside.

1/4 honey
1/4 cup grapeseed or olive oil
1/4 applesauce
1 egg beaten with 1 Tbsp. water
1/4 tsp. vanilla

Mix the above ingredients in a medium bowl and then pour into the larger bowl of dry ingredients. Mix well.
At this point you can add in 1/2 cup of any of the following (I added in 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips and 1/2 cup walnuts):
Dark chocolate chips
Flax seed

Mix well and cool for 20 minutes in the refrigerator. Preheat the oven to 335°. Using a tablespoon, drop spoonfuls onto a baking sheet lined with parchment or waxed paper. Bake for 15 minutes or until done. Let cool. Refrigerate or freeze leftovers. 

Happy and healthy eating!

**Recipes courtesy of Whole Living or Cooking Light magazines and modified to fit my personal tastes.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Sowing the Seeds of Greatness


Since February started, I've not been able to be as creative as I would like. It seemed I was on a roll in January and then February came and brought with it doctors appointments, disorganization and real-life responsibilities that could no longer be ignored. This included getting rid of our home office and turning it back into another guest room. Everything from the office went into my art room while waiting on furniture and accessories for the new bedroom. The energy in my art room suddenly became cluttered. I couldn't even walk around in there. I spent the last few days putting together furniture and bookcases, re-organizing the art room so that things were more easily attainable when a creative idea strikes. I am finally almost done with it! I can't wait to get back in there and have all my sketchbooks, paints and canvases readily at hand. 

I did manage to find some time to create the above digital image, done using two textures overlaid on top of each other and butterflies added from Dover Clip Art Butterflies. The Dover Clip Art books are great for adding additional elements either traditionally or digitally. Most of the books now come with a CD attached to the back so you always have the images ready to print for mixed media or to import into your digital images. The books range from $12.99-$19.99 and include everything from Trees & Leaves to Art Nouveau Motifs, and even Fairy Paintings! For digital uses, they are very easy to incorporate because you can automatically cut them out with one click using the Magic Wand Tool. I highly recommend them...the images are copyright free and you'll find a tons of use for them in your art. Next time you are in a bookstore, take a look at the selections, purchase one that calls to you and use an image from the book in your next work of art!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

In the Midnight Hour

In the Midnight Hour

In the midnight hour, he stands in the shadowed corners of the city, waiting, listening. His sense so acute he can hear the sound a mile away. Thump thump, thump thump. Those that troll the darkness  for danger will find him welcoming them with a sharp smile. In the midnight hour, he drains life and soul. In the midnight hour, he waits for you.

Oh vampires. So scary, so fascinating. When I was a little girl, my mother and I would watch the soap opera Dark Shadows every day. Barnabas Collins scared me, yet I was strangely drawn to him and his story about loving a mortal girl named Victoria. Sometimes, I catch myself believing them to be real and will scare my self silly. I've been to Paris twice and both times, visited Père Lachaise, the incredibly sprawling Gothic cemetery. The first trip, I made the mistake of bringing Interview With a Vampire with me to read. Part of the story, with Armand, takes place in Père Lachaise and Montmarte, the very neighborhood I stay whilst in Paris. I had freaked myself out so bad that I couldn't sleep and decided I couldn't read anymore until I was out of Paris.

On the second visit to Paris with my mother, I once again visited the cemetery and stayed in a beautiful B&B that had the most amazing view of the Paris rooftops. During our visit to Père Lachaise, it was a misty, foggy, dreary day. A funeral was taking place. It was cold, gray and we both felt a combined sense of wonder and eeriness.

Later that night, in our room, as we turned off the light and laid down to rest our tired, worn out bodies, a tapping noise began. Tap, tap, tap. "What was that?" I said, my heart racing. "I don't know" replied my mother. It happened again: Tap, tap, tap. "It's coming from the window", pulling the covers higher up over me as if that would offer some sort of armor-like protection. My mom got up and turned on the light. We both sat up and listened, looking towards the curtained window. Tap, tap, tap. "It's definitely coming from the window" I said, as my mom got up and walked towards it. I shouted at her with horror "Don't open it!!!!"
She looked at me with shock and said "Why not?" My explanation was that we had been in Père Lachaise earlier in the day and the Vampires knew I believed in them and that my mind was weak. They wanted us to open the curtains and then they would glamor us and come in and suck our blood. What did my mom do? She looked at me for a second and then burst out in laughter! But, I was dead serious (no pun intended), I would not allow her to open the curtain. Needless to say, I just laid awake all night, listening to the tap, tap, tap continue until sunrise. What it actually was, we'll never know but I don't regret opening that curtain one bit. :)