Saturday, December 20, 2008

Winter Windowboxes

This summer Alex and I put window boxes on the front of the house and planted them with sweet smelling flowers. I miss having fresh flowers on the house, but this is the next best thing! Over Thanksgiving when I was visiting Alex's family, his mom let me steal a bunch of greenery from the bushes around their house.

We cut out branches of boxwood and evergreen as well as some hearty ivy that was growing up a tree. For some extra color and texture we cut a few of the dried snowballs off of the hydrangea bushes as well. I felt it still needed a bit more color so I added some red berries. They're the only part of it that isn't real.

To assemble I just poked everything down into the soil in a fan shape then wove white Christmas lights through the window boxes. You don't need to worry about watering the greenery, it should last through most of the winter just the way it is.

I had some supplies left over from filling the window boxes so I decided to take one of my flower pots and fill it the same way for the front porch. It makes me happy to drive home and see the lights and the green. Our house is a big white box, so it's nice to see some extra color.

Does anyone else have window boxes? I'd love to see your winter ideas!

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Quick Centerpiece with Spare Pine Needles

We had a few spare pine needles left over from clearing out the scraggly parts of our Christmas tree this year and I was looking for some way to put them to use.

I decided to try putting together a simple centerpiece of some sort. To do this I grabbed 3 vases I had on hand, filled them at different levels with water, stuffed in the pine needles and topped it off with some cranberries. It was really quick and easy, but I thought it turned out nice. It would look pretty in any shape vase, with really any greenery, alone or in groups.

If you're looking for a quick centerpiece idea, this might work out nicely. Send me photos if you end up trying it!

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Candy Making!

Last weekend, as is our yearly tradition, my Mom, Sis, and I braved the cold and gathered together in Grandma's kitchen. By the time I arrived, all bundled up, my arms filled with trays of peanut butter balls and turtles assembled the night before, chocolate was already melting in the double boilers. The smell of grandma's house and the sound of my family made it finally feel like Christmas time. I love candy making day. I thought I'd share a "taste" (no pun intended) of our candy making process with some photos I took of the day. If you click on any of the photos, you can view the entire set of candy photos on my flickr account.

To break down the 6 hrs of candy fun into a manageable post, here are the 3 candy making techniques we use to make our chocolates.

1. Coating (Pretzels, Peanut Butter Balls, Coconut Balls, Maple Walnut Balls, Peanut Brittle, Ritz Peanut Butter Sandwiches, Brazil Nuts, Turtles)
2. Dipping into cups (Mixed nuts, Macademia nuts, Haystacks, Yogurt Coated Raisins, Crushed Heath)

3. Pouring as a sheet and breaking (White Peppermint, Colored Peppermint, Crushed Oreo)
Melting the Chocolate
Of course all three start with the melting of the chocolate in a double boiler. Melting the chocolate in a double boiler as opposed to a pan keeps it from scalding and sticking to the pan. Keeping the pot of melted chocolate over the warm water while you work also helps to keep it from cooling too quickly as you coat your treats. We toss in 1 tb of parawax per every pound of chocolate that we melt. This helps firm up the chocolate and makes it look pretty and shiny when it cools.
Some of the treats that we coat don't require assembly before we coat them, examples being pretzels, ritz sandwiches, and brazil nuts. Things like peanut butter balls, though, should be rolled up and laid out in rows onto wax paper before you begin to melt your chocolate. If you don't have them rolled and ready, your chocolate will be cooled and hardened before you get them coated. We generally take care of this the night before and that gives them a chance to set up a bit and cool before we dunk em in the chocolate.

We cover the entire table with wax paper because all the coated chocolates need to dry before they can be put into the pretty little candy cups.

Once the wax paper is laid out and the chocolate melted, we bring the entire double boiler over to the table and set it on a hot pad to begin coating. Generally we toss a handful of pretzels in at a time, stir them gently, then fish them out with the fork.

A swirly tipped utensil is helpful for fishing out ritz sandwiches and the loop is what we use for the balls. You can use whatever works for you, of course, anything that gets the job done. Once you get all of your treats coated, let them cool completely on the wax paper so the chocolate can harden before you attempt to place them into the cups.

Dipping into cups
It's a good idea to lay out your candy cups into rows before you begin to melt your chocolate. This way you're sure to fill the cups before the chocolate cools. Mostly for dipping, we do a variety of chopped nuts in different types of chocolates. Once your chocolate is completely melted on the stove, toss in the nuts and stir it up. The nuts to chocolate ratio is completely personal preference. Just add what you like!

Once you're satisfied with the mix bring your double boiler over to the wax paper, set it on a hot pad, then use a spoon to fill the cups. Once the cups cool completely and harden, it's easy to peel the cup away and munch on the hardened hunk of chocolate and nuts.

Pouring a sheet and breaking
Make sure you have a nice large space of wax paper laid out. Then, just like you did with the cups, melt your chocolate on the stove completely and toss in the crushed peppermint or oreos. Once everything is mixed up nicely, carry just the pot holding the melted chocolate over to the wax paper. You can turn off the burner and leave the pot filled with water on the stove. Pour the mixed up chocolate slowly out onto the wax paper. Let it cool completely and harden, then peel it up off of the wax paper and break it apart into bite size chunks that fit into your candy cups.

Once we finish coating, dipping, and pouring our chocolates we usually take a lunch break and chat a bit while everything cools. Mom brings home made soup and bread and grandpa joins us for a bite.

Once all the chocolate has hardened we place them into cups, trimming off excess chocolate so that everything fits nicely. Grandma begins to assemble the boxes while we do this job.

After that we just move in a circle around the table grabbing one or two of each chocolate, filling up the bottom layer of the box. Once we fill it as packed as it can get, we lay a paper down and do it again. By the time we're done each box is filled with two delicious layers of chocolates. Oh, they look so pretty all stacked together in their colorful candy cups.

As pretty as this is, and as much as I love candy day, I have to admit, by the time it comes to boxing the candy I'm completely ready to be done. We make a large volume and variety of chocolates so the entire process takes us a while. It's totally worth it, though, to keep our family tradition going and to see happy faces when we give away the candy.

And that's my family's Christmas candy tradition.

***Side Note: Thanks to Rachel at One Pretty Thing for featuring me on her Christmas Roundup.***

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Sunday, December 14, 2008

Photo Week: 'Tis the season

Steph, had the lovely idea to invite us to join her on a photo 'weekend' to boost her holiday spirit. Saturday was 'Sparkle and Spirit' and Sunday was 'Traditional Red and Green'. This was an easy photo weekend for me to participate in because I was taking SO many photos as it was! This weekend was PACKED with holiday fun. Saturday I joined my grandma, mom, and sister to make our Christmas chocolates then Sunday we went up to Dull's Tree Farm to get our tree! I'll be sure to throw up a big post soon about the candymaking and possibly a quick post about a couple holiday decorations I put together.

Without further ado, here are my contributions to the holly jolly photo weekend! Thanks for hosting a great photo week, Steph!

Saturday: Sparkle and Spirit

Sunday: Traditional Red and Green

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Tuesday, December 9, 2008

I can't help myself

This isn't a forum I generally use to discuss or share music, but in this case I can't help myself.

I am completely hooked on this ridiculously happy and wonderful album. It's been sort of a staple at our house lately, always on in the background when we want a little something to pick us up and get us moving. I seriously CAN NOT stop smiling and bopping around while I listen. And when I say bopping, I mean literally bopping. It's just something you have to do.

The album: The Way I See It, and well, it's just fantastic. It's Raphael Saadiq bein all motowny and awesome.

It's like a summer breeze, full of energy and happiness, cutting right through the dark that comes WAY too early during this winter time. It's perfect for getting the inspiration flowing. (That's right, this post just became a little more appropriate for this blog, we're talkin inspiration now)

If the clips on Amazon aren't enough to hook you, and you need more of a test drive before you commit to the music purchase, you can check out the entire album streaming on That's how we discovered the album in fact, it's featured on the homepage. Sometimes on weekdays you may have trouble getting it to play. I think it has something to do with the cost of rights to streaming music, but nights and weekends generally seem to be trouble free.

All I can say is if you're a motown fan, you'll love the album. I do, it's my MUCH needed bit of sunshine on these cold and cloudy days. Just had to share.

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Monday, December 8, 2008

Adding To The Shop

After a bit of research on archival quality printing, I've decided to add a couple more items to my shop today. I chose to go with a few of the more interesting Ttv photos and an unframed print of the Wishful Thinking illustration.

I wanted to make sure that any prints that were purchased from me would resist fading and look nice and sharp. I'm looking mostly for prints that are guaranteed for 70+ years. From the bit that I've read, it's important to print on acid free paper to prevent yellowing, and use pigmented/archival ink to resist fading. I found a few online options that look promising. It took me a bit of time to sniff out these printers, so I thought I'd share them here to save anyone conducting a similar search some time. Here are my findings:

I have yet to use any of these printers so I can't vouch for them. If you have used any of these printers, I'd love to hear your thoughts.

I would really love to find a local printer to work with, I just am not sure where to start, especially if I'm not printing in bulk. If you're in the Indianapolis area, and you have any suggestions I'd love to hear them.

I'll be sure to post any findings and reviews once I've discovered a printer I like! Yay for learning about print! It's a wide wide world and it's SO not dead.

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Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Results Are In!

My first attempt at printing with the gocco DEFINITELY didn't turn out as perfectly as I'd imagined it would, but isn't that the way with most first attempts? I set out to produce a set of prints to send out as Christmas cards and the experiment was full of lessons learned and questions I need to ask. Even though the prints didn't turn out as beautifully as I'd hoped they would, it was still fun to make. Here's a quick look at my process and my result.

First, I sketched up the initial design, scanned it in, then cleaned it up and played with colors in the computer. After a bit of playing, I finally ended up with this.I wish we had one of those little guys to take care of our shoveling for us! Least he has friends to make the work more fun.

Next I split the colors into 3 separate black and white compositions to use to burn the screens for the 3 different colors I wanted to print. I needed to take the compositions and have them printed on the laserjet printers at Kinkos because I needed carbon in the ink. Laserjet prints contain carbon, but my home inkjet printer does not. The first printout is what I used to burn the screen for the light blue color, the second for the light green, and the third to burn the screen for the dark green. I wasn't sure if there was too much detail in my illustration or not, so I was very curious to see if the detail of the shingles and the texture on the wall of the house would show up. I was pretty impressed by the results.

Insert blue filter then screen. The blue filter keeps the print from fusing to the screen when you burn it.Screw bulbs into housing then fit into top of the unit.Press down firmly on the front of the unit which will cause bulbs to flash and burn the screen. (I added a little flare to this photo for fun, cheesy I know, but hey this photo just didn't do the flash bulbing step justice)Here's a closeup of the middle screen. Check out the detail of the thin windowpanes and the ironwork. Pretty cool that the mesh is fine enough to pick all that up.

Once the screens were all burned it was time to print. I didn't have the color blue that I wanted, so I decided to mix my own. First lesson, I should have started with white, then added the blue. It was impossible to get it light enough once I had all that blue on my screen. Even after I printed all of my papers I still had TONS of ink left on the screen. All the ink was good for a nice even print though.Once you ink the screen, you lower the plastic sheet attached to the screen and fit the screen back into the unit facing the same way as when you burned it originally. Next step, place your paper on the rubber base, lower the lid and press. Then just lift the lid, the paper will stick to the screen, then you just peel it down gently and admire your print!
So, the colors couldn't really be further from what I'd originally envisioned. I decided to just roll with it though and deal with the brightness. Honestly, I dont mind the saturation, that crazy fluorescent green is kinda fun. I think if the blue was just a bit lighter and the dark green just a bit darker I would have been more ok with the overall look of the print.

I also learned that registering 3 colors with this model gocco is super difficult. Lots of mess-ups for sure.

The final point of frustration I had was knowing how much ink to flood the screen with. It seems to vary from color to color. I dont know if maybe the inks I have are different ages or if it has something to do with the pigment, but the dark green gave me ALL SORTS of agitation. Whenever I'd peel it off the screen I'd end up with certain areas with a heavier ink buildup than others. I was running low on the dark green ink, so I wasn't quite as generous with it as I was with the other two colors, and I wonder if that might be the culprit? If anyone has had similar experience with this kind of trouble, please share! Once I ran out I threw some black ink on the screen and it didn't give me that trouble... or maybe it did, but wasn't as noticeable because black is more opaque.

Does anyone have any tips on cleaning the screens? It seems impossible!

Overall, the experience was fun, and I cant WAIT to get more supplies for another project. I'm still unsure if I want to send these prints out as Christmas cards, or if I should just get the original illustration printed at kinkos or something to send out. I feel like the quality of this first run isn't necessarily what I want it to be to share with others, but then again is part of the charm in it's flaws? You can CERTAINLY tell they're hand-made. I'll have to live with them a bit longer to make my final decision.

So that's my first gocco experience in a nutshell! Hopefully there will be more to come.PS: I'd also recommend having furry helpers near by to give second opinions on the prints. Mylo was super helpful, especially when he laid on my feet to keep them extra warm.

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Printing with the Gocco!!!

Oh Gocco! I knew we'd be a good fit together. Why did I discover you so late?!!!

I've been having so much fun playing with my new toy! After finally finishing a 3 color print design for our Christmas cards this year I've begun the printing process. I don't want to give too much away til it's finished. I just wanted to share a quick progress shot that Alex took.

This thing the Gocco and I have, it's love. So simple, such quality. I'm desperate to continue our love affair! Why has Riso stopped making supplies?! If anyone out there knows of alternative gocco supplies PLEASE let me know. If not, maybe you knows of a similar printing setup that ISN'T going extinct. That would be great too.

I guess the only thing to do, for now, is just to enjoy the time I have left with my beloved Gocco.

I cant wait to see how this first print project turns out with all 3 inks! I'll post when they're finished.

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Thursday, December 4, 2008

My Etsy shop, La Grisette, is up and running!

I'm trying a little experiment. I've purchased many a hand crafted item off Etsy over the past couple of years, and I always thought to myself, "Someday, I should post a couple items for sale and see if there's any interest". Well, today was that someday. I've opened an Etsy shop online and listed my first item for sale. Sure it needs finesse (the look, the wording, the information), sure I need to add more items to sell (photography prints, illustrations, gocco prints, tshirts), but for now, it's a start. So without further ado, I present 'La Grisette' my little shop on the web. Just one framed illustration for sale now. More items to come.

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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

New Basement Tees

The design and motion company I work for, The Basement, is in need of some company tees, so I put together this 3 color design. We wanted something other than just our logo slapped on a shirt, so I tried to integrate a bit of movement in the design to associate with all the motion work that we do. The plan is to print them on Alternative Apparel shirts (the perfect crew for men and organic scoop neck for women). We're hoping to get these printed and sent out to clients as holiday gifts, as well as for ourselves of course. I can't wait to see them finished, hopefully we can get them printed soon. Happy Wednesday!

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Tuesday, December 2, 2008

More Warmth!

Tonight my little sister Shelly came over and we worked on our no-knit scarves. I saw the idea on via One Pretty Thing, got some yarn at Jo-Anne Etc., and made a small adjustment. I couldn't find any yarn as big and fluffy as they used, so I added two extra strands to thicken it up (6 bundles of 3 instead of 4 bundles). I also learned that I needed to double the length of the yarn because the extra knots made the scarf too short.

Here's my result! It was easy to do while watching tv, pretty quick and mindless. I think I'll make two!

Someone recently commented on the project at and shared that the yarn used in her scarf is Twinkle Soft Chunky pure merino wool yarn.

You can purchase the yarn online from her store or if they don't have the color you're looking for you can also find a wider color selection online at the Yarn Market Looks like it will run you right around $19 for 83 yds.

If you're not picky about the color, Yarnzilla has a couple colors left in stock for a discounted price of around $14.

Be sure to let me know if you find of other affordable online options! I can see using a lot more of this yarn in the future!

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