Saturday, April 30, 2016

Diva Challenge #265 Stripes, SQ1 Snails, 14 Shades and Kitchen Gadgets Galore

Gentle Readers,

This post is hitting the air late, but I didn't want to skip altogether again.  I had fun this week, and want to record it all!

First up -

KITCHEN GADGETS - I am the gadget queen!

Over the past year or so, I have been updating my storehouse of kitchen wares.  Amazon LOVES me!  I started by necessity - my trusty Cuisinart food processor circa 1987 jammed.  The chopping blade is stuck in place and will not come off.  I have tried soaking, robo-grip plyers, steam, running it with water in it, etc.  As (bad)luck would have it, I had just purchased a series of new slicing and grating blades to the tune of over $100.  The motor is as strong as ever, but now it is pretty useless, as I don't feel comfortable with cleaning it without being to disassemble it.  So - I bought a new machine that fits the blades I just bought.  It is good, but I must say I agree with all the web commenters who advised if the old one still works, hang on to it!  Oh well, the new one works for me.

Next, I received a new Vitamix blender from my loving (and food loving) hubby!  What a wonderful piece of equipment.  Did I mention that both the New Cuisinart and the Vitamix are a lovely cherry red color!  My favorite kitchen accent in my black and white space.  Nice!

Up next, I bought an accessory kit for my other trusty friend, my 1987 Kitchen Aid stand mixer.  This kit has food mill, grinder and sausage making tools.  My husband was VERY anxious for me to fire those babies up!

Finally, I bought a stove-top pressure cooker.  I haven't had one of those since my grandma's exploded and spewed spaghetti sauce all over the ceiling.  My heart still pounds whenever I think of that day!  It literally blew a hole in the top of the pot and the metal lodged in the ceiling like shrapnel!  Yikes!

So...this week I finally pulled all the ingredients together, unfroze the casings and bought two pork shoulder roasts. 

Not wanting to waste any of that goodness, I trimmed and cut the meat, saving the excess fat to make fresh rendered lard and cracklings.  The lard is in a jar in the fridge now and the cracklings are salted and just waiting to be baked into cornbread.  So decadent and yummy!  I left a bit of meat on the bones I cut out of the meat and roasted them in the oven until nice and brown.  Then I put them along with a little olive oil, garlic and San Marzano tomatoes and other chopped canned tomatoes into the new pressure cooker.  In 40 minutes, (plus cool down time) I had the spaghetti sauce we always called "red gravy" that used to take half the day to make!  I had already pulled out my hand cranked pasta machine (another fun gadget)  a few days earlier and made fresh linguini, so we were set for a feast.  It was...

Now, on to the most important thing.  I ground all the meat twice, and reserved about two pounds for Swedish Potatis Skorv - potato sausage.  I have never eaten that before, but the Mister has been clamoring for it for some time.  I boiled and ground potatoes, ground a couple big onions (if you think SLICING onions makes you cry, try GRINDING them right in front of your face!)  I mixed that all up with spices I would never think of for meat - allspice, nutmeg, mace, sugar, and let that rest a while in the fridge.  I stuffed it into the casings - a project not for the weak-hearted.  A number of online commenters said they had problems with the food pusher that came with the grinder when it came time to stuff the casings.  Being a gadget queen, I dove into the cabinet and pulled out the black pusher that came with my new Vitamix.  PERFECT FIT!  It worked much better than the vilified white plastic Kitchen Aid pusher, and saved the day! Once the Swedish sausage was formed into links, I put a few into a container of salted water to hold them, per the online tips I found.  The rest went into freezer bags immediately.  The next day, I boiled the refrigerated links in some chicken broth, then sautéed them briefly in butter - again following online instructions - and WHAT A TREAT!  I was an honorary Swede for a day!

The Italian sausage was very basic and done the way we did it at home years ago.  Mix the meat with salt and pepper, red pepper flakes, fennel seed and some water.  I had about eight pounds of meat for that, so it all went into a big bowl in the fridge to marinate over night.  We have only eaten a tiny sample of that so far, but it was delicious.  I am more confident about that, as I know what to expect.  It all went into freezer bags awaiting future mealtimes.  I have a party coming up and some will be cut into little chunks for appetizers.  Can't beat that!

So now that I have bored most of you to tears - unless you share my obsession - it's time to move on to the more artistic pursuits...


I was anticipating receipt of my 14 Shades of Gray kit when this challenge came out, so I decided to warm up the graphite in alternate stripes.  Here is my tile with  Paris, 3D-Room and OVY alternated with Printemps, Hibred, Zenith and I don't remember the name of the leafy on down the center.  No prizes here, but it was relaxing and fun.

Snails is a tangle that I just discovered a couple weeks ago when I was reviewing my Zenthology files from CZT training.  I have been playing around with it a bit and think it is pretty cool.  However, when I tried to feature it in a tile, I just couldn't get anything interesting to happen.  Then I pulled out the sketchbook and just started making spirals in a very relaxed and loose way.  I used my whole arm and went fairly quickly.  That's it!  I know snails are supposed to be slow, but this one was bookin'!
Here is one of the tiles I did a few days before with Snail in it as a "just because" tile.  I also really love the fill for Quandary (which I stole from the Zentangle Primer book...don't tell anyone...)
Here is my first crack at this technique.  I went "by the book" and followed Sonya Yencer's excellent instructions for Jetties.  I am anxious to try it out on other tangles.
So, Dear Readers, that is all I have this week.  Next week I hope to add a bit more color, but this week it seemed "meet and right so to do" to keep it black and white (and gray).
Thank you for stopping by, and know that I cherish all your thoughts and comments!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Antiquities, Diva Challenge #263 Globular Grid, SQ1 Cruze

Gentle Readers,

Antiquities have been in my musings this week for a variety of unrelated reasons.  These thoughts seemed to gel into an ongoing pattern yesterday when I saw two things.  One, was a posting on the Facebook page Shading Zentangle.  It was from Terry Landeck-Cardinal, and showed a beautiful tile that looked like an ancient stone with Zentangle runes carved into it.  I hope you can see it from this link, as it is stunning.
I was so taken with that piece, and of course, now must pull out the watercolors and try this technique...I digress...already...

The second was an article I read online about recent speculation that Scriptures may have been written centuries earlier than previously thought.  Not that the stories are older, but that the writing down of what had been preserved by oral tradition happened sooner than scholars thought.  They based these new theories on what are basically grocery lists!  Apparently, they found lists issued by supply masters in early armies outlining what they requested for the troops' needs.  Two jars of olive oil, flour, and most importantly :-), how many jugs of wine they required.  (more about wine later in this post - surprise!)   The researchers were impressed by the fact that these normal military guys - not elite scholars - were fully literate, indicating that written education must have been widespread at the time, somewhere around 600BC.

I have been exploring some larger ZIA work on 11x14 sheets of parchment.  This one has a few swashes of gouache in colors straight out of the tube, which I thought had an old-world look to it.  When I finished, I just kept thinking it reminded me of some Colonial era manuscript.

I enjoyed playing around and learning a bit about the properties of the paper, color and ink together.  I still have much to learn about all these materials that are new to me.  The paper is so very nice to draw on with ink.  Everything looks so delicate.  The wrinkles frustrated me, but I actually think it adds to that look of antiquity.  So be it.

I also have been fascinated lately with old maps.  The mapmakers included delightful images of animals (LOVE the whale!) and ships in their work, along with delicate coloring that hinted at the landscape.  Here is a detail from one old map of North America.  I learned a new word here, which is "Septentrionalis".  It denotes a northern area that is largely unexplored.  Conversely, "Meridionalis" similarly refers to a southern region.  Just a couple more things to add to what my daughters refer to as my vast treasure trove of useless information!

This brings me to the Diva Challenge this week, which employs a globe grid. 
I did my first attempt at this challenge on one of the hotel coasters I brought back from my last trip.  It is slightly smaller than a Zendala tile, but it was at hand and I was too lazy to leave my comfortable chair and retrieve the official materials.  Here you can see the size comparison.
I found this an opportunity to try out some of the "Reticula and Fragment" concepts I have been reading about in the new Zentangle Primer book.  Once again, I learned as much about the materials as anything.  Coasters do just what they are designed to do - drink up liquids!  They are nice to draw on, but have an extra pen handy!
Here is a large image of that first tile.  I used black and brown micron and graphite for shading.  I love the concept that if you fill in the fragments in different directions, you get a new metapattern.  It also was weird to squeeze some of the fragments into the distorted reticula formed by the globe.  This was fun!

The second tile brings me back to that antiquity theme.  I have been wanting to do some more wine themed ZIA pieces, and I have a little book of quotes about wine.  When I saw this quote: "Wine has drowned more men than the sea", I just kept thinking about those antique maps with the little images of ships.  Imagine one with a wine colored sea and little sailors drowning in it!
Instead, I did my grid with blue and green micron pens on a Renaissance Zendala tile.  Some of the fragments shown in the Zentangle Primer book reminded me of ships, so I went with that idea and created a fragment of my own. It is actually based on one featured in the center of the tile shown above.  I just kept them all going the same direction here.  I tried to add more Nautical type fragments - crashing waves and ship's wood paneling. What I like about this one is the sort of carved wood effect that the shading and highlighting gives these fragments. 
SQUARE ONE FOCUS - CRUZE  It was a short Cruze, but they had a fantastic pastry chef!
Once again, I end up with something that reminds me of food.  I started this tile thinking of ways to enhance the pattern with shading and rounding, embellish it with border treatments, provide some visual contrast.  Instead, I just ended up sooooo tempted to draw in a fork! 
So, Gentle Readers, thank you for stopping by today.  I hope you enjoyed my ramblings and perhaps will begin to see inspiration for your work in equally random sources!  Know that I cherish all your thoughts and comments.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

In The Pink, with Diva Challenge #262 Fassett, Square One Focus Morse, Shading "Slits", and Other Stuff...

Gentle Readers,

So the porcelain bunnies and speckled artificial eggs are tucked away again for another year, and now we move forward to those days where keeping cool is the priority.  In my younger days, I never bothered much with seasonal decorating.  Once I had my surroundings satisfactorily arranged, I left them alone.  I was never one of those people who rearranged the furniture on a weekly basis.  Although, I give kudos to those who do, as they don't have much dust under their furniture!

Now, I seem to be much more attuned to cycles and seasons.  Just as Picasso had his blue period, I now seem to be in a pink mode.  After four-plus years in this house, we finally got our act together and chose paint colors for our rooms.  Most of the colors are predictable - a muted bluish-green for the master suite (LOVE IT), deep gray for the den and a dark mushroom color for the guest room that makes it so restful.  But in the main living area, I shocked everyone.  We painted the ceiling and a little adjacent hallway pink!  Officially, it's Mesa Rose, but it definitely is a conversation starter.  I wanted to keep the neutral colors in the room but add that glow that blush does to your face.  We both love it, surprisingly.

With the onset of spring, I tucked away the fur-ish sofa throw and the winterberry color pillows and substituted lighter, fresher looking accents. The quilt is a long time thing that I somehow always find a spot for.  The pillows, except the far left one, which I made, are my favorite "ON SALE" type.  I feel renewed!

Now on a roll, I decided to pink up my own look.  If you can't have fun, what good is life?  I don't have an employer to placate, so I do as I please these days.  Anything to distract your eye from the wrinkles, right?  LOL!

You know, it amazes me to think back on my earlier life when I had all these preconceived notions about what was "right" and "proper".  I have these purist tendencies that have always kept me a bit uptight and anxious.  Principles, we need principles!  I have this obsession with things in full "sets".  My children just shake their heads and laugh.  I always needed things to be "authentic" or nothing.  But, as many people do, I seem to have acquired at least a little bit of wisdom in my old age. I am trying to breathe, relax and go with the flow.  Enter Zentangle, I guess!
I tested this lovely tangle out a number of ways in my sketchbook, making them super straight or curved, fatter (more lines inside) or skinnier or more open (less lines).  When I did a batch with a big open triangle in the middle, I saw the light, as it were!  Here I have layers of openwork Fassett.  I hope I achieved a bit of 3D effect.
Eni Oken's Facebook group Shading Zentangle,  has begun posting themed challenges.  This week I was surprised and honored to have had one of my tiles used as inspiration for the challenge.  Eni said she saw my tile (which was posted on this blog and on Zentangle Mosaic), and got to thinking about the concept of "slits" in the page created with a line and some shading. 

I attempted another version using only black and white, and tried to get more "lift" to some of the slits.  I traced Bijou tiles on a standard tile to make a little photo album effect, and then inserted some Zingers with Ruutz.  This was fun, but I think I like my earlier, done for no good reason, one better.
Chris Titus has put the focus on Margaret Bremner's tangle "Morse".  I did this tile, and then immediately started thinking about Good N Plenty candy.  Why does everything make me think of FO-O-O-O-O-D?
I have been going through Maria and Rick's new book, Zentangle Primer, and have again been inspired to bring myself back to those original Zentangle patterns and see what I can do with them.  It's amazing what those two, and Molly, do as they combine those tangles into the most beautiful, mysterious and astonishing creations.  I am awestruck every time I see their work. 
I had a couple of round coasters from a hotel visit that were tucked in my purse, so I pulled them out to be the round alternative to a standard tile.  Smaller than a Zendala, which begs to have more complex designs, these are the small-commitment size of a regular tile.  I pulled out my training materials from my CZT seminar, and started to really study some of the tangles there.  I realized there are some that I may have never seen in "live production".  Maria had demonstrated a new way to fill Hollibaugh, which I used as an anchor pattern, and then I added Frondous, Patena and Ambler, all new to me.  I think I'll use them again! Frondous, in  particular, has that strong drama effect while falling into the category of organic tangles, many of which are too ethereal for my taste.  Here I made Patena very straightforward and "regular", but next time I will break free of the mold a bit.  It definitely is yearning to be free...  This was fun!
So, Dear Readers, thank you for stopping by.  Once again, I apologize to those of you whose work I love to see but on whose blog pages I am inexplicably unable to leave comments.  I just don't get it!  If anyone knows why a Google ID or name and URL won't work, please let me know how to fix it.  Actually, I have even had problems issuing replies to commenters on my own board, so please don't feel unappreciated.  I truly love to hear from you - you make my heart sing!

Friday, April 1, 2016

Diva Challenge #261 - Stacked Bijou, SQ1 Knightsbridge, Sunken Treasure

Gentle Readers,

It seems I have so much Zentangle inspiration flying at me from all directions! There are blogs, Facebook pages, Pinterest boards and the beautiful Mosaic app that alerts me when new tiles are posted and new comments made.  If these were commercials, I'd be annoyed, but this is something I actually like to see!  What a concept!

If you have the Mosaic app, check out the last two T3 entries featuring graphite applied as an under layer to tangling.  Maria, Rick and Molly use it as a way to introduce an additional "color" to your tiles and give a softness to temper the sometimes stark black and white of traditional Zentangle.  I haven't experimented with that yet, but I think my next few sketchbook pages may just be graphite heavy. 

I love seeing how the creative minds out there interpret Zentangle patterns, stretching, combining, colorizing and applying to a diversity of surfaces - pottery, shoes, book pages, fabric, automobiles (Honest!), walls, furniture - you name it!  Sometimes I just view, mouth open in awe, and sometimes I save the photos of these works for future reference.  Sometimes I message my daughter in Chicago - hey, check THIS one out!  It's nice to be able to share an interest with loved ones.  Most often, I hop onto the platform, whatever it may be, and hit "Like" or the Love button or leave a comment.  I hate when someone's website doesn't let me comment - some of the ones I admire most are blocked to me for some strange reason.  If anyone knows why a blog wouldn't allow a comment even though you choose your profile and are signed in to it, please let me know how to fix it.  (Of course, maybe somebody doesn't LIKE my profuse praise...Nah! Can't be!)

Lately it seems I have spent more time soaking in what others have done than what I am doing myself.  I try to at least do one basic Square One: Purely Zentangle challenge on Facebook.  That keeps me grounded and makes me work with the foundations of this method.  It's restrictions provide a clear direction and really makes me think of how I can portray the featured tangle. 

This week the feature was Knightsbridge.  The most basic of tangles, it lends itself to DRAMA in your work.  So many people posted fantastic undulating, pulsating and exciting works in Facebook.  Wow!

For my entry (I only did one), I had been going through the materials distributed at the CZT seminar in Providence, and came across a tangle I have never used.  I don't thing I have ever even seen it used, but it is pretty cool.  It is Squill, and is pretty simple to draw.  It has a central motif and then has bands of Betweed-like lines filling in the rest of the square.  I have been inspired by some of the unusual shading techniques I've seen lately, and decided that the rows of squares could become rope-like things.  Here is what I did - a big woven and wrapped dumpling thingy!

This week the Diva challenge had a guest host, Jane Reiter.  She created a series of stacked tiles from a variety of cardstock and mat board with a Bijou tile as the centerpiece.  This is just the opposite of what Eni Oken has featured in her new project, "Creating 3D Art Tiles", in which she makes a shadow box effect.  I ordered her instructions, but never started the project.  When Jane offered up this challenge, my first thought was, "Oh, I'm ashamed of myself for not doing that 3D project yet", and my second thought was "This craftsy stuff really isn't me..."

However, isn't that what a challenge is about?  You step out of your comfort zone and try something that is new to you and that you may never have even thought about.  So, off I went in search of some papers to tangle.  I hauled out the paper cutter and made squares up to six inches from a variety of paper and cardboard, and centered a Bijou tile on top.

I stuck them together with temporary tape and drew a string over the whole stack.  Then I just tangled as if it were one big tile.  When I finished, I used some blobs of sticky wall putty to hold them together and separate the layers.  Then I let my own personal Bijou family member hold the result.

Here is another shot that maybe shows the layers a bit better.  I'm so glad I did this!

I got a call a couple weeks ago from a member of our over-55 community art club asking if I would like to have a piece displayed in the window.  They want to feature works by those of us who are resident class instructors.  My big bug is hanging in the local library for a couple months, so I figured I should get busy and do something that might generate some interest for Zentangle.

The online trend lately has been to use watercolor wash and tangle over it.  Then there are those oh-so-addictive gems!!  I didn't even have any watercolors, but I did have some gouache I bought to use with calligraphy (another thing I had all the intention in the world of really pursuing, but to which I have paid far too little attention to ever develop some expertise.  Next week...)  I pulled out a few sheets of watercolor paper and added some colors.  Some didn't look all that great, one looked more like a map in my seventh grade social studies book, and one just seemed to make me happy.  I chose that one.

Here is what I did.  I tangled on top of the gouache, which is a very new texture for me, and was a learning experience.  I added some gems with colored pencil and I shaded with graphite, which worked much better than I anticipated.  I thought I might need gray markers, but the pencil was really easy to use and I like the look. 

The first photo shows right after the initial line work.  The second one is completed and under glass.  I should have done a photograph of the final one separately, but I forgot, and now it is in the display window. 

Oh well.  I called it "Sunken Treasure". I feel like I see bits of jewelry, glass, exotic sea creatures, sand and pebbles, all swaying in the currents on the ocean floor. What fun!

So, Gentle Readers, that's it for this week.  Hope you all had a beautiful Easter or Passover celebration, if those are your traditions, and hope spring is in the air and in your  minds.  Renewal and rebirth are welcomed in every life.
Thank you for stopping by and know that I cherish all your thoughts and comments.