Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Creative Works In Progress

I don't converse much with other people who do artwork except for my friend Jeannie who does florals. I usually have a number of projects in various stages of progress because it makes sense to me to use the paint when I have it out.

If I'm using tube acrylics I'm mixing colors and tend to wind up with a fairly decent supply of whatever I've mixed and unless I'm going to use it on something else it gets discarded. If I'm using bottled or chalk paint from a jar, it's open which allows air to dry it out so why not use as much of it as I can before the air dries it out beyond the point of use? Even if I reseal the bottle, the air has already begun it's work.

What I do is grab whatever surfaces I think I have enough paint for and base them up.

The finished tin sign is still here because I finally realized I strung the jute backwards. The framed tin piece that was based with moss green is waiting for me to decide how I want to treat the framing. The wooden piece is waiting for it's frame treatment as well. 

I think the framed tin will be given a metallic finish, maybe copper or I might try a faux copper verdigris. I'm thinking gold leaf on the wood piece or metallic gold paint. Actually, I may just antique the whole piece as is and paint a wolf or something on it. Walking on the wild side these days.

The glass ivy bowls will receive roses and either hydrangeas or pansies. That will depend on what colors of the enamel paints I have that are workable. The glass bowl will be a reverse paint watermelon. reverse paint means I start by painting the seeds and the white rind section on the outside of the piece and then paint the outside of the bowl green with the watermelon striping on top of that. Once done looking inside the bowl will show whoever is looking the watermelon slice complete with seeds and rind. Doing something that way also allows the items to be used. 

If I don't have what I need, I can make a trip to Walmart to pick out some different colors. The paints I use on glassware are durable because they're baked in a 350 degree oven once their dry. 

I normally paint seasonal items for holidays and while I will continue to do that for Christmas items, my main focus will be on creating handpainted gifts that aren't always seasonal. Maybe things like glasses, coffee mugs and vases with silk flowers added that are originally glass jars we get with jellies, salsa, peanut butter, etc. 

This will all happen after I get the 3 pieces I want to do for myself done. 

Clay pots for the shelf between the kitchen and living room. I decided on 2 pots and 1 birdhouse. The completely based pot is Moss and Cashew. The one I'm working on is Celery and the upper band will be Ivory. The birdhouse is a 6 sided roundish shape so I'll use the Cashew/Ivory colors on the body of the piece and the 2 greens on the roof. 

I originally planned on doing 3 pots and 2 birdhouses but I got to thinking about all the cute little fairy garden motif items available at the Dollar Stores. Some of the bigger items would add whimsey if mixed in with the pots and the birdhouse. I decide to go that route. 

All this creativity will keep me off the internet where some of my web pals have gone off the deep end with their politics. Misplaced anger and truly unreasonable attitudes makes conversation about anything meaningful totally impossible. When someone I've conversed with for 11 years tells me I'm stupid for not believing in Conservative values when I've witnessed first hand those values deprive our nation's veterans, senior citizens and low income children of some of the help they desperately need, it's time to minimize contact with those who have that attitude. Painting is much more fun.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Good Things Come To Those Who Wait?

I found myself in need of a new vacuum cleaner. My old one was used by someone to vacuum up construction debris. It wouldn't have been much of a problem had they emptied the cup instead of allowing so much to be sucked up that it totally clogged the filters and then they kept trying to use it. It was a 12 year old cheap Bissell upright and it now no longer functions. It was left sitting next to a wet/dry canister vac that was designed to do the job the Bissell was forced to do, but it was missing the wands. Those non flexible pipes of plastic that allow one to stand upright when using a vacuum cleaner seem to be easy to misplace. At least for a man they seem to be.

During the time I waited for the perpetrator of the crime to take the Bissell apart and clean all of the debris out of everything, I read a Consumer Report on vacuum cleaners. The vacuum cleaner that was rated #1 was one of the Dyson Ball models that will set one back by $500 or so. I admit, after reading how efficient it is at cleaning all manners of flooring I was yearning. Then I read about the #2 rated vacuum. That one fits the pocketbook amount without robbing anyone to pay anyone else.

I looked at Walmart and they didn't have the exact model I wanted. Neither did Target. I've been around the block a time or more and have learned that a ranking on 1 model manufactured by a company does not apply to all models manufactured by a company, so I came home and went online. Not only did Walmart have it online, it also was on sale and instead of free shipping to store, I qualified for free 2 day shipping to home. On Wednesday the information was it would be delivered today. Do I really believe that? Ummm...no.

When I ordered it, I received a confirmation of my order that stated they were processing the order and I would receive an email when it shipped. The confirmation did say the delivery date was 2-24-17. I haven't received the shipment email yet. As far as I understand the shipping date is 2 days after you receive that email, not 2 days after you place the order. Since I haven't received the email, I'll probably not get the cleaner until sometime next week,

I only have carpet in 2 rooms which are not heavily trafficked. They can wait and I can continue to use broom and dust mop on the other floors. The reason I bought this particular vacuum was because it was rated highly on bare floors and when the hose attachments were used. I have 2 cats with fur that sheds. Using a lint brush to remove the fur from furniture doesn't work so well. The Bissell didn't work too well either. If this one does, once I get it, I won't have to work as hard to keep the cat hairs off my visitors. That strikes me as being a good thing. I just wish I really could have it today.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Yes! I'm Really, Really Home.

I am not one to remember dreams. I can be rudely woken by a nightmare and not be able to tell you what transpired that caused me to scream out in fear. Once awake I'm hard pressed to remember any part of any dream no matter how pleasant or how terrifying. I've always resented that, but have decided after this particular dream that my inability to remember dreams occurred because I've never had such a wildly memorable one before.

At first I thought that this dream wasn't just one dream. I had pretty well convinced myself of that until I remembered that in all parts that I remember there was a connection to something that came before it. It's so wild and unreal an experience I'm not sure I can share it in any way that won't cause my readers to experience mass confusion.

It starts out with my husband and myself living in a home we've inherited from someone we don't know. He wants to sell our home and move into this inherited house and I want to sell the inherited house and live in our home. The house is beautiful and logically would bring more money in the market than our home would. He finally agrees with me and we begin the process of inviting a realtor to estimate the value and help us decide if staging would help us sell quickly. When the realtor shows up the fantasy begins.

When I looked out the window to see who has parked the car the house is in one neighborhood. When we open the door to let him in, we have moved, house and all to a different neighborhood. While we are doing the walk through so he can see what there is to sell, I'm slightly ahead of him and I can see the wall to wall carpet in each room expanding into a hump, ripping open and spewing furniture out of the opening which arranges itself in each room. They don't see the carpet hump split they just see the furniture in it's proper place. Strangely I don't find this phenomenon at all disconcerting. Seems normal to me until as he leaves, one of those humps split and spews a pack of dogs.

The dogs all want to be let out and when I open the door, we're again in a new neighborhood which is actually an old one of mine. I lived in a mobile home park decades ago that closed. This house is now situated on the spot where my old home sat. In the dream, the owner of the old park had decided to invest money into making it a double wide community which was now how the house looked on the outside. Everything inside was exactly the same. Although it looked now like a double wide on the outside there were stairs that took you to the second story rooms that existed in the house when it first appeared in my dream.

One of the dogs that came from the hole in the carpet hump was injured and in need of veterinary care. I decided to take him to the emergency vet in the next town, 10 miles away. At the house, there was a vehicle in the driveway but for some reason I didn't load it up and drive off. I loaded the dog into my yard wagon and proceeded to start walking to the vet. At this point my husband is no longer around and I don't know what happened to him nor does it bother me.

The journey to this vet takes me past a former friends home and when she sees me walking with the wagon she volunteers to drive me and this dog to the vet. This is where the trouble starts. She tells me we have to make a stop on the way that won't take a minute except the stop is back to the last neighborhood where I left the house only the house was gone.

We are at a party in a different house in the place where the house I flew to that neighborhood had sat when I was in it last. Somehow my former friend and I become separated and she simply leaves without me. While I'm trying to locate her in this party so we can take the dog to the vet, someone steals the yard wagon and the dog and I get locked out in the rain. I find a shopping cart, put the dog in that, start pushing the cart which morphs into a golf cart which flies us to the vet and as the door of the vet clinic opens I wake up.

No matter what happened in this dream, no matter how far fetched it was, the only constant emotion I experienced was a desire to go home. I woke up at home with a big smile on my face. First because I was home and secondly because apparently my subconscious conjured up a home that disappeared and reappeared as if by magic. Isn't imagination wonderful?  If there is a third reason for the smile on my face it is because no matter how bad my dream experiences got, I simply went about taking care of things in whatever way I could. I simply accepted what happened and kept on moving forward, because sooner or later forward would take me home. And it did, and here I am. Happy to be home.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Problem With Winter Is..

That it's both beautiful and terrible at the same time.

This is the time of the year for me where the beauty of flowers and gorgeous blue skies are found only in pictures or kept as decorative accents inside our homes. For months at a time, Mother Nature rests in a deep frozen slumber designed to refresh herself to meet the demands of Spring and rising sap.

For humans, the winter is a long dark time of cold and depths of snow cover that must be dealt with before we can leave our homes to face a treacherous commute on icy roads to travel to our destinations. For some of us it's a time of anxiety, sadness and depression. For those true lovers of nature in any condition there is skiing, ice skating and snowmobiling.

In between are those like myself. People who no longer need to engage in the rat race and can take the time to contemplate what happens outside our windows. For those of us who are not driven to escape ourselves and our thoughts, no matter how dark, the view outside our windows is not bleak. I suspect that ability stems from our sense of superiority over those who do not have the choices we do.

I can choose to pay attention to the weather forecast and plan accordingly. I don't need to rush out at the last minute to stock up on necessities in case the storm comes. I can plan my outings to take place on the days when the temperatures will be a little warmer and the roads traveled well enough to be bare. If I have an appointment scheduled on a day when the weather will make travel less enjoyable, I can pick up a phone and postpone the appointment.

I can choose to spend a stormy day cleaning house in my pajamas, or wearing sweats and sitting in the easy chair to read. I can sit at my kitchen table and admire the diamond like glitter of a light snowfall on a somewhat sunny winter day. Sadly I don't have the camera equipment or the knowledge to capture that phenomenon digitally. However, I do have knowledge enough to capture the beauty of Winter during a heavy, wet snowfall.

By the time it stopped yesterday my backyard had 10 more inches of snow on the ground. 

I may not be someone who throws themselves into the great outdoors and embraces Winter activities with gusto. I'm content to stay inside where it's warm and toast Mother Nature's efforts with a hot cup of coffee, chocolate or tea. Unfortunately for me, it's also a time when I lose the battle with weight gain. 

I was hoping to have a need for a new wardrobe in April. I've admitted to myself that I'm not quite going to make it and have decided to get by with what I have until Fall. I'm also going to work on losing more than 2 pounds a month once I have the 5 pounds I've regained off. That shouldn't be too hard once I quit contemplating Winter out my windows and get back to moving to the beat of my favorite music. Now I need to go find my "Boogie Shoes". 

Monday, February 13, 2017

Basic Common Sense, Where Are You Hiding?

There are members of my husband's family that qualify for the category known as "Special Kind Of Stupid". It's embarrassing. If they'd spend 6 seconds thinking something through, they'd see the problem with what they repost and what they say about it.

For instance. This morning oldest DIL posted a question about states being allowed to teach English only in schools. To this post she added the words "English only". So. Tell me. How many English speaking families have sent their children to school and had them come home speaking a language other than English? What part of English speaking children can't learn from a teacher who only teaches in Swahili or some other foreign language escapes them? Obviously if the kid is leaning anything at all it's being taught in English, so why is this English Only an issue?

Illegal immigrants from Latin America are sending their children to American Schools and guess what? They are going home speaking English. Are they learning this from teachers not teaching in English? It's a miracle, right?

We have a First Lady born in Slovenia who comes to the US with the ability to speak 5 languages fluently. Can someone explain to me why our kids can't have the same level and quality of education as that? Oh no, we have to dumb down what is being taught so our kids don't have a chance at competing in a global economy. Good paying jobs are just so plentiful here that our kids don't need that kind of education?

Exactly what language do people think these people from India, Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, Vietnam and other countries where our tech corporations recruit employees, are speaking when they come here? To the best of my knowledge, Microsoft and Hewlett Packard don't bring them here and pay them a salary to learn to speak English. They learn that in the schools they attend in their home countries.

Out of 40 countries the US ranks 17th in educational performance. We're also 24th of 60 countries when it comes to literacy. With what remains of my basic common sense I'd call that embarrassing rather than exceptional.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Giving Myself A C But The Experiment Tasted Good

I never did get to a store to buy a candy thermometer. On Thursday I twisted my knee and wasn't able to walk any distance without hanging on to things so I didn't leave the house. I did find my knee brace Friday morning and it helped but was still too painful to walk on for any distance. I decided that since I am capable of baking bread without one I should be able to heat milk to the correct temperature for Paczkis without one. I am not convinced I was wrong, but I'm also not convinced I was right.

The recipe called for Rapid Rise which has a hotter proof, or activate temperature than regular yeast does. Regular yeast is 110 while rapid rise is 120 to 130. Once I got everything mixed in I found I had to use a lot more flour to stop the dough from being sticky. The recipe called for 1.5 cups and a quarter cup for the kneading process. Also, kneading was only supposed to be 50 turns. I found I had to keep adding flour and that resulted in more than 50 turns.  The additional kneading created a final product that had more of a bread consistency than a raised donut consistency.

I am wondering if the size of the egg yolks used might have contributed to the sticky dough? There was no specification as to size but I used jumbo eggs which have quite a bit larger yolks. I'm wondering if that might have contributed more liquid to the recipe than should have been there?

My filling technique needs some practice. Some of the donuts were so stuffed the filling leaked out and others had barely enough in them to taste. I need a longer, slightly narrower tip than the one I have. Also, I got a dozen of them from the recipe but feel I need to cut them slightly larger than I did.

Once I get a candy thermometer I'm going to use the recipe to make cinnamon rolls with. I'm going to use the electric mixer for the first stage of the wet/dry ingredient incorporation which I didn't use when I made the Paczkis. I'm going to use 1 egg yolk instead of 2 to see if that keeps the knead turns to the stated 50.

I probably shouldn't be baking and eating the results but it does me no good to give up everything I love to eat healthy. Setting aside one day a week to eat the things I love isn't a bad thing if I expend the energy to make it. When I got done yesterday I found I had flour and powdered sugar to clean up as well as extra dishes to do and the kitchen floor to mop. It was fun and I was happy so maybe the experiment should earn a C+? For the next baking experiment I'll have to remember to get pictures. Maybe even at different stages in the process if I don't have sticky dough all over my hands. We'll see.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Paczki Experiment

One of the best memories from my childhood was weekends at Granny's and the jelly donuts. We always went grocery shopping on Saturday mornings and if I'd been a particularly good little brat and helped Granny with the dusting and vacuuming my reward would be jelly donuts. Nothing like contributing to the obesity of a minor child, is there?

Anyways these weekends at Granny's pretty much stopped when my parents divorced and Grandpa got sick. No more early Saturday morning shopping trips to stores with the bakeries that made them. By the time I was making my own babysitting money and could get down to the Mohegan Market to purchase one, it would be after noon on Saturday and they would be all sold out.

The Dan Dee Donuts came to town with their 50 different varieties of donuts. Except they didn't make the jelly ones with the same dark red almost purple jelly.  They had strawberry, raspberry in bright red that really didn't have the consistency of jelly. It was more like a really thick glaze type substance. With the other flavors like lemon or pineapple they frosted the top of the donut and there went the powdered sugar mess. Not at all what I was used to, even though I can't tell you what the jelly inside was, the ones Granny bought were better.

After Dan Dee donuts, there was Dunkin donuts and they still didn't make the jelly donut the way I remembered. Also used the bright red slime inside. Then an independent young man from Greece started a regional coffee/donut shop that he called Dippin Donuts. He uses the right jam inside which he tells me is Black Raspberry. The problem is that if you can't be there before 8 am they're sold out, and they're expensive. Also, deep fried. Yeah, not the healthiest choice.

I was giving the wife of the independent Greek a hard time (she's a friend, she expects it) over the lack of jelly donuts at 8:15 am Sunday morning when a nice little Polish lady behind me said I should learn to make Paczkis. I just laughed and said if I did that, I wouldn't have the fun of picking on the wife of the independent Greek. It took until Tuesday for the idea to take hold in my head.

On Tuesday I asked the Google for Paczki recipes and found that I don't have to deep fry them, I can bake them in the oven. I had most of the ingredients on hand, just needed to buy yeast and I did need the icing bag and long tip to fill them with. I don't think I have the right tip. It looks rather big, but it is longer than the others I saw available. If I plan on making them again I'll go to Michaels or Hobby Lobby and see if there is a different tip of this length, assuming this one doesn't work as well, of course.

Friday I am going to have to pick up a candy thermometer to check the temp of the milk used so the yeast won't be killed or retarded by too hot or cool milk. I've never had a use for one since I learned to cook before recipes relied on them. The only candy I make is fudge and soft ball stage is the way I learned to check the progress. Unfortunately for me, the Paczki recipe wouldn't work if I tried a soft ball test for the milk.

The kitchen here is a dream to work in. If it wasn't I probably wouldn't even try this. In my old kitchen I would have had to take everything off the countertop and also use the table for part of the process. Here I have enough room to mix and knead, enough room to cool them down and have all of them together when it's time to sugar and fill them. Plus, even if it's a lot of sugar to be consuming, they aren't deep fried and that makes them healthier than bakery made jelly donuts. The best part is I get to have them my way.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

New Neighbors And A Happy Day

I was in my craft room looking at reference books trying to decide what I wanted to paint. Precious Kitty was sitting in the window and all of a sudden he went ballistic. I looked out to see what he was looking at and there was a black and white cat out there. I closed the door when I left the room in case Precious decided to run when I opened the outside door and went out to see what was up. While observing the little thing through the window I had a glimpse of a collar that appeared to have something written on it and was hoping it would help me locate it's human.

It took me forever to find my small blanket and get my boots and coat on but when I quietly opened the door kitty was still sitting there crying. I really wasn't sure what to do at that point since most cats will run when approached by a stranger but this one was too cold, too hungry to do anything except cry.

I didn't look to see what gender she was but the collar was pink so I'm making an assumption the poor thing was a she. I brought her into the house, took her into Hubby's office and got out the carrier to house her in once I examined her collar. I found a phone number and no other info on the collar. She went into the carrier with the blanket and I called the number and told the voicemail who I was and why I was calling.

I was afraid she was an abandoned kitty whose human hadn't thought to remove her collar and I was in the process of fretting about what I was going to do if that was the case, when the phone rang. It seems that kitty and her companion had recently moved into a home down the road from me. He had her in the bathroom while the movers were bringing in the furniture and his grandchild opened the bathroom door and kitty ran. Poor thing has been out there for a week and it's been cold and snowing every day. No wonder she was so exhausted.

They're a nice couple in their late 50s. Their daughter bought their bigger home from them and they bought this smaller home since there's just the 2 of them and they're getting near retirement age. They were heartbroken by the loss of their cat. That took the shine off the new home experience but now that kitty has come home they're looking forward to many happy years together here.

She was sleeping when he found my voicemail so she didn't know her kitty had been found. I've had 2 calls from her since her husband went home. She just keeps telling me how wonderful I am and asking how they can reward me. My reward was in finding the kitty had a home and was wanted. I'm just grateful I was in my craft room instead of on the computer or I would never have seen Precious get agitated and wouldn't have known that poor cat was out there.

Seems to me that Precious was the wonderful one here. I'm thinking I should quit looking for inspiration in a book and just paint him. We'll see how that works out this week.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Going Shopping In Pajamas

Today while puttering around the house I kept thinking of so many things I could write about. Now that I have the time, I can't think of what I wanted to say. There is this though.

Last week I ordered some surfaces to paint on from Michaels. I decided I needed something new and different and found them at Michaels online. I thought about driving over to the store in New Hartford and then realized the surfaces I chose were not available in the stores. So, I did my first of what may be many online art supply orders. I cross checked the prices between Michaels and Hobby Lobby and discovered Michaels was cheaper and since I would have spent the amount needed to get free shipping had I driven to the store, I placed the order. Got half of it yesterday the rest today.

Since these pieces are to be painted for sale, I should have written down the price per piece so I know what to charge once I'm ready to sell whatever I paint. Then I realized I have the billing info in my email inbox. I also now have close to 25 surfaces so I'm all set for awhile. The only thing I can see myself needing now will be paints in a couple of months.

When I'm ready, I won't be driving to either Michaels or Hobby Lobby and I actually won't be ordering paints from them either. After finding out I do artwork and will order online, a Facebook friend sent me the link to Dick Blick. They have all the paints I use as do the other 2 places however, they have a wider variety of colors and they are the same price. Plus their minimum order size to earn free shipping is less. That part really doesn't matter so much because I can't go into an arts and craft store without dropping $50.

In my case any savings realized from online shopping would be saving the price of gas and avoiding the time it takes to get to New Hartford, shop around and then drive home. I like shopping for art supplies with my friend Jeannie but she's moving to N. Carolina in a few months so I'd have to make the trip alone, which I can do but why?. This way I can order online and the items will be delivered to my door. I can stay home and be a shopping in my PJs kind of hermit.

Something I said to another friend who then proceeded to tell me that it's very important at my age to engage in social activity with others. So I'll tear myself away from my paints and invite someone to dinner now and again, like my Husband for instance. I don't need to get all dressed up and drive 40 miles round trip to buy things I can buy from the comfort of my home. Since I don't live by myself in social isolation, I doubt my health will be affected by my desire not to drive around on snow and ice if I can avoid it.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

When You Think You Can't Breathe, Just Breathe

I'm not one who remembers dreams. Once my eyes are open and feet are on the floor whatever transpired while I was asleep is gone. I might have a single moment remembrance of a person, a color, a thing that might have played a part in the dream but without context, it has no meaning.

Last night a dream provided a noise that woke me up. It was a metallic rumbling type of sound that has no context but it began the process of an anxiety attack. It might not have if I could have convinced myself that I could breathe. Unfortunately the interior of my nasal passages were raw and swollen, incapable of scooping up the volume of oxygen needed by my lungs. Whatever mucous discharge had occurred prior to the noise, had dripped into my throat and apparently grew velcro which allowed it to ball up and stick in one place. In addition to the discomfort of nose and throat, my upper lip felt swollen. I couldn't convince myself that I wasn't drowning, and then I fully woke up.

I got up to walk around and get a grip on myself before the heart pounding started. Had to stop in the bathroom and as I was exiting, the familiar whoosh, whoosh began in my ear. Something drew me to the kitchen and a glass of water which stopped the noise in my ears. Which usually means the rest of it is about to close in on me. So, I sat at the kitchen table with my nose that still wouldn't allow me to breathe and suddenly realized my problem might be dehydration. I drank water and finally went back to bed and slept for a couple more hours. Still, couldn't breathe through my nose, but the lump of whatever in my throat had disappeared.

I haven't been drinking as much water as I need to because we have hard water full of minerals and enough lime to collect in the bottom of the glass. I have been sipping on it all day because I'd prefer not to have another middle of the night problem like last night. I have my other issues under control well enough that the regular panic attacks have stopped. I haven't had one in a year and since they are no longer a regular event, I don't handle them as well as I used to. So I forced myself into sipping what amounts to mineral water all day long.

The swelling in my nose and upper lip has subsided. It still feels raw breathing through it but I can breathe. Everything still feels dry but not painfully so. Dry winter air, forced air heat and no hydration to speak of will take a bit to correct. I will need to buy bottled water when I go shopping this week or some kind of filter system. We will need a whole house system eventually since the amount of lime in the water will use up the filters pretty quickly in a Brita or Pur system. I'm also going to need some Lime Away for the coffee maker. It's starting to drip too slow.

Tonight I'm going to open the window a bit to let in the fresh air even though it's cold fresh air. I need to take the stress off of my sinuses created by dealing with dry, heated indoor air. And not enough drinking of water.