Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Bunny Bags

If you were wondering what happened to my blog post for yesterday, it's here. I didn't really have anything to write about. Not that I really do, but yesterday the well ran dry. Instead, it occurred to me that Easter is only a few days away.

The days of Easter baskets and egg hunts are long gone. (Though we had a lazy Easter bunny who hid the entire basket) Still some traditions are hard to end. I still hard-boil and dye Easter eggs. A colored egg is nestled into bread dough and baked (an Italian tradition) for Easter breakfast, if the monk who bakes the bread doesn't over-sleep, otherwise, the bread and egg nests are for lunch..There will always be chocolate bunnies, chocolate eggs, jelly beans (especially black ones). And there are always a few trinkets for the girlies. No matter how big they get, they still enjoy an Easter basket.

The Easter baskets did faithful service for many years, but are no longer with us. The Easter Bunny will need something to hold the bits of candy and trinkets. Gift bags would work, but the Easter Bunny could only find Christmas gift bags and didn't want to run out to buy gift bags. The Easter Bunny can be quite cheap frugal.

While trolling the Interwebs for inspiration, I came across Bunny Juice Box Wraps and decided bunny bags would do the trick.

You'll need a lunch bag. (I had white on hand, but brown bags would work just as well). The lunch bag measured 10 1/2 inches so using the paper cutter, I cut 5 inches from the top of the bag. Out of the bag scraps, I cut 2 ear shapes, and 2 paws for each bag Scrap paper in the girlies favorite colors (pink for The Eldest and red for The Young One) was used for the inner ear, large paw pad, and a hole punch was used to punch 3 small paw pads. I also cut a heart shape from the colored scrap for the nose. The colored scraps were glued to the bags with glue stick. Drew a bunny face on the bag with a Sharpie marker and a dab of chalk for blushing cheeks.

A pretty ribbon bow and a cotton ball tail glued on with white PVA glue (Elmer's) completed the ensemble.

The End.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Shell Gold

Wednesday afternoon, Valerie taught us the recipe to make shell gold. This involves mixing 23 karat  loose gold (a little more expensive than patent gold and requiring special tools to cut and apply the gold) with gum arabic (a binder found in candy), and a tiny bit of water. The mixture is mixed in a ceramic bowl by finger in a time honored process (i.e. time consuming) The gold precipitates to the bottom of the bowl and the water is decanted or siphoned off. When the remaining water evaporates (after several hours or overnight) the gold can be used as paint. It's called shell gold because Medieval artists poured it into a small shell for storage.

The shell gold can be used alone or can complement the gold leaf as seen in my incomplete White Vine monogram. The "C" was gilded with the patent gold while the "J" was painted with the shell gold. Shell gold is not as shiny, but gives a beautiful contrast when paired with gold leaf.

23 karat patent gold, shell gold, Pigma pen on Diploma Parchment.


coloring page not complete, shading on leaves,
the letter "S", and white work still needs to
be done
In between painting vines and acanthus leaves, we also learned how to gild with gold leaf. Yes, real 23 karat gold leaf. This is what I wanted to learn from this workshop. I've played with gilding either using faux foils or gilding on a base of PVA  (Elmer's glue). The results were okay, but half-assed.

Traditionally, gilding is done on a base of gesso. Gesso is a mixture of slaked plaster, binder (an animal glue, usually rabbit glue), chalk, and white pigment. It's difficult to mix and because of variables due to humidity, a very fussy process.

Instead of using gesso, we used a special goop called Instacoll. Diluted with water, the goop provides a slightly raised surface to gild on. The plus to using the Instacoll is even beginners can achieve good looking results.

The corners, background of the letter "S" and a bunch of dots were gilded using Instacoll and 23 karat patent gold leaf.

I thought gilding dots would be easy peasy. Turns out to be a little extra work. Note to self: next time, paint the damn dots.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Acanthus Leaves

Acanthus have twisting, turning leaves. They are a common motif in Medieval designs. Valerie had another worksheet prepared for us. This was another exercise I wasn't able to complete last time around. I was so happy to get a second chance to complete the assignment.

Painting the leaves involves a lot of shading. The process is very meditative, and if you're not careful, you'll blend away the dark and light tones.

It's hard to see from the photograph, but the gold background, painted with the Winsor Newton ink, is tooled. A vine and leaf design was embossed into the ink when it dried.

Friday, March 27, 2015

The Friday Five Good Things

Five good things that happened this week.

1. At the last meditation of class last Friday, we were given a blessing, a charm of a dove (Holy Spirit) and a feather. The feather was an illustration of words from Hildegard von Bingen, a 13th c. nun and remarkable woman. "...Then it pleased the king to raise a small feather from the ground, and he commanded it to fly. The feather flew, not because of anything in itself but because the air bore it along. Thus am I, a feather on the breath of God."

2. As much as I enjoyed myself at St. Michael's Institute for Sacred Art, I was very glad to get home to my comfy, little bed. The beds are ok, but the pillows leave a lot to be desired, said the Little Princess. (-; Note to Self: Next time, bring your own pillow.

3. The snowbanks at the end of the driveway have melted. I can now back out of the driveway without having to have a spotter or someone directing traffic so I can back out.

4. I went on the hunt for a small, bowl about 3 to 4 inches across and just as tall. I wanted the bowl so I can make my own shell gold. Thought I would have an easy time finding and a hard time choosing one at Pier 1. They didn't have any that fit the bill. Found a dark blue dip bowl in Target. Color me blue with happiness.

5. Since we can get out of the driveway, the Young One and I ran errands up at the mall. Treated ourselves to Chai and a pecan sticky bun at Panera. We deserved it.

How was your week?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

D, Vine

The classroom was bright. Valerie had made each of us a place card for our tables. Aren't they cute? They reminded me of Howard Pyle's illustrations of Robin Hood. We had plenty of room to spread out, and each table had its own Ott light.

What a value Manuscript Illumination and Gilding is at St. Michael's Institute for Sacred Art. Room, linens, 5 days of instruction, 3 meals per day, 24 hr. coffee and tea available, and all the art supplies are provided. Yup, all the supplies. Paints, 23 karat patent gold, 23 karat loose gold, brushes, Instacoll, ink, drawing nibs, Pigma pens, rulers, pencils, erasers, embossing tools, agate burnishers, acetate, light boxes, and visors for those of us that have difficulty seeing fine, detail work. When you go home, you get to take a brush, two 6 well palettes of the paints you used, a sample of Instacoll, and a sample of shell gold. Along with all the handouts and worksheets.

Our first exercise was to illuminate a vine border and the letter "D" with a vine.

Valerie handed out printed worksheets with the letter and vines. The worksheets are coloring pages for grown-ups.  No worry, no stress. Just fun.

I did this exercise with Valerie many years ago when she came to teach part of this workshop to Masscribes, the Massachusetts and Rhode Island calligraphers guild. Though I had done the exercise before, it never hurts to review.

Valerie takes complicated designs and breaks them down into easy to follow, basic steps. Each student comes away with work they can be proud of, and notes and steps to follow to create their own illuminated vines and letters.

Goucahe (opaque watercolor), Gold Winsor Newton ink, Gansi White on Diploma Parchment.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

St. Michael's Institute of Sacred Art

St. Michael's is part of St. Emund's Retreat on Enders Island in Mystic, Connecticut. St. Edmund's is a Catholic retreat center, but you don't have to be Catholic to participate. St. Edmund's is also home to a recovery program for young men.

After a late lunch/dinner at the Steak Loft in Mystic, Himself dropped me off at St. Michael's Hall. This small building was to be the dormitory and the classroom. After checking in, I was shown to my room, St. Thomas, Room 8. At this stage of my life, I consider myself to be more spiritual than religious. I was raised in the Catholic faith so being given this room made me laugh. St. Thomas, the doubting saint. God does have a sense of humor.

At 7 PM on Sunday, we assembled  in the living room of the main house. Here we met Valerie Weilmuenster, the instructor, and Sister E who would provide the spiritual aspect of our stay. There were three other students besides myself. I was the only member of the class who had never been to St. Edmund's. We introduced ourselves and were given the schedule for the week.  We would eat together in a sun room in the main house and work together in Room A of St. Michael's Hall.

The day was nicely paced with time to eat, breathe, work, rest. Breakfast was served at 7:45 AM.. lunch at Noon, and dinner at 5:30 PM. Mass was said each morning at 9 AM, if you were so inclined. The classroom was open from 7- 10 PM for students who wanted to continue working. Usually at calligraphy conferences, the pace is just go, go, go and sometimes the feeling is overwhelming. Not here.  There was time to feed body, mind, and soul and to rest.

Usually, you do not go to conferences for their cuisine. Typical cafeteria style fare is usually served. Not at St. Edmund's. Food was fresh and well prepared. There was a cold breakfast buffet of breads, cereal, yogurt and fresh fruit and a hot breakfast (bacon and eggs, omelet, French toast., etc). There was a buffet lunch assorted hot dishes, soup (the chowder was the best), sandwiches and fixings for a salad, Dinner was served to us in the dining room. Even though it was Lent, we were treated to dessert.

After breakfast on most days, I went to a tiny beach to perform some Chi Gong exercises. I loved the solitude of the beach. On the first morning, a little bird sang to me from his (or her) perch in the bushes behind me. It was a short lived sign of Spring. The weather was cold and blustery. So cold, ice formed on the water! The little bird never came back. Smart enough to stay warm and cozy in his nest.

Class began at 9:45 AM and on the first day, Father came to bless our hands empowering us to do good work. Sister lead us each morning and at the end of class in meditation and contemplation. Our theme for the week was beauty, finding beauty around us. In big and small. I liked the ritual that started and ended each day.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Very Inspiring Blogger Award

Blogger buddy, Sandra Cox, nominated me for this illustrious award. Many thanks, Sandra. I could never have reached this milestone without your help. Here are the rules:

Rules for this Award

1. Thank the person who nominated you, and link to their blog.
2. Display the award logo.
3. Nominate at least 15 other blogs (more or less) and provide a link where they may be found.
4. Then, go to their blog, leave a comment to let them know they have been nominated, and where to find the information they need to accept (rules).
5. Mention three things that inspired you the most during the past few weeks.

The three things that have inspired me the most during the past few weeks:

1. Having fun making splatter paintings after watching a YouTube video

2. Valerie Weilmuenster's Manuscript Illumination and Gilding class at St. Michael's Institute of Sacred Art.

3. The little beach on Enders Island where I went in the mornings to perform some Chi Gong exercises

Well, I don't know enough bloggers that would like to participate in this meme. I'll leave it up to you. If you want to play, snag the image and follow along.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

There's No Place

like home. Had a great week at St. Michael's Institute for Sacred Art. Learned a lot, made new friends, enjoyed delicious food, but I'm so glad to be home.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Sumo Orange

Last week, I mentioned we found Sumo oranges at the store. They look like little sumo wrestlers and even have a top knot. You half expect the orange to stamp its feet to ward off evil spirits.

The skin is very wrinkled, but very easy to peel. Inside, the fruit looks like an ordinary (large) orange. The taste is a bit sweeter than a regular orange, and it's seedless.

Have you ever had a Sumo orange?

Friday, March 20, 2015

The Friday Five Good Things

Five good things that happened this week.

1. Celebrated Pi Day.  We each had a Pi Day of the Century shirt in our favorite colors. Purple for Himself, Pink for The Eldest, Red for The Young One, and Blue for moi. I baked a cherry pie and chicken pot pies courtesy of Marie Calendar's.

2. Arrived on Ender's Island for a week long illumination and gilding workshop

3. Great class

4. Great class

5. Great class

How was your week?

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Dhuit

and a Happy Birthday to my dad, miss you, and a Happy Birthday to Master Beef

P.S.: It's St. Paddy's Day not St. Patty's Day. Paddy a nickname for Padraig (Patrick) as well as for an Irishman. Patty is a female nickname for Patricia. Information brought to you courtesy of the Pedants Society

Monday, March 16, 2015

Illuminated Initials

First illuminated initials and vines I did following the notes from the first illumination class I took with Valerie Weilmuentster in 1996. I made bookmarks.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Art Retreat

I'll be on an art retreat this week at St. Edmund's on Enders Island in Mystic, Connecticut. I'll be attending Valerie Weilmuenster's Illumination and Gilding Class at St. Michael's Institute for Sacred Art.

I took a workshop with Valerie back in 1996 when she came to Boston to teach a workshop for Masscribes.  Valerie broke painting illuminated initials into simple steps and took the fear out of trying complicated designs. I'm excited to be able to study with her again to hone my skills.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Pi Day of the Century

Today is Π (Pi) Day. The day Geeks celebrate the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter.  The mathematical constant is represented as 3.14 So Π Day is celebrated on March 14, 3/14. But this year Π Day is extra special. This year, the first 10 digits of the constant can be celebrated 3.141592653 That's the date and the time! 3/14/15 9:26:53 Twice in one day! A.M. and P.M. This won't come around again until next century!

And while you're geeking out, today is also Albert Eintsein's 136th birthday. Alles Gute zum Geburstag, Herr Professor!

So celebrate today and eat something round.

Friday, March 13, 2015

The Friday Five Good Things

Five good things that happened this week.

1. Started going through Ma's hope chest. Found lots of lovely linen napkins, table scarves, and ladies' hankies with crochet edges. Spent a pleasant afternoon laundering and ironing. I love to iron. I find it meditative.

2. Himself and I went on a dinner date to Leo's Ristorante in Worcester. Great company and good food.

3. The nice thing about eating out is having an awesome lunch the following day.

4. While shopping at Wegman's we found some Sumo oranges. Of course, Himself had to have them because of the name. The only thing that would have made the oranges more special if they were called Sumo Ninja oranges.

5. The solar bird light in the planter at the foot of the front steps is finally peeking through the snow pile. Spring is on its way.

How was your week?

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

It's Just Wrong

My mother-in-law used to make some pretty wonderful goodies. Her signature creation was home-made Whoopie Pies. (Two round, chocolate (usually), cake like cookies with a cream filling (preferably whipped cream) I got nostalgic for them when I saw Red Velvet Whoopie Pies at the Shop and Stop Bakery.

Hey, Stop and Shop Bakery,  your Red Velvet Whoopie Pie cake was pretty good. However, to fill the Whoopie Pies with overly sweet frosting is not only wrong, but utterly disgusting.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Time Change

Man, this time change really got to me. Was ok yesterday, but today I'm draggin'. Is it naptime, yet?

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Don't Forget

If you live in the U.S.A, don't forget this is the weekend we jump to Daylight Savings Time. So before you go to bed, set your clocks an hour ahead. Unless you live in Arizona or Hawaii which don't observe DST. Or, if you have a smart clock that is synched to an atomic clock, then you don't have to worry.

Friday, March 6, 2015

The Friday Five Good Things

Five good things that happened this week.

1. One of the Young One's college friends opened up a game store. Saturday was the grand opening of Rolling Paragon Games We went up to take a look see and to wish her well in her business venture. Lots of goodies (though more Doctor Who stuff is needed, imnsho) a gaming table where some fellas were playing a card game of Star Wars. There was also a nice space downstairs decorated to look like a dungeon, if you want to hang out and play games with your friends.

2. Finally a weekend with no snow, I was able to get out and get my hair cut. My hair was so long, I should have gone to Edward Scissorhands for the styling.

3. I had a craving for peppers and eggs. This is a lunch staple in an Italian home. Was one of my dad's favorites and about the only thing the old dude could cook. Sort of. Sometimes, he wouldn't let the pan of olive oil heat up. He'd dump in all the ingredients and everything would stick. I thought the pan was sufficiently heated, but I must have channeled Dad. Peppers and eggs stuck to the pan. Still tasted pretty good.

4. Watched a Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies DVD with Himself. Good laughs. Some of my favorites: I love the moon-ah and the tune-ah... Hello, my baby. Hello, my honey...Oh Bwunhiwda, you're so wovewy. Yes, I know it. I can't help it...

5. God bless AAA and Bousquet Towing for quickly getting the Eldest out of the icy slush and on her way to work.

How was your week?

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Throwback Thursday

When I was young, we didn't have cellphones. We couldn't get in touch with people every single second of every day. If you were out and about and needed to tell someone you were running late, or had an emergency you called from a phone booth.

The phone was a pay phone. You dropped a dime in and dialed your number. Back then telephone numbers were a combination of a 3 alpha-numeric exchange and a 4 digit number. My parents' telephone number was Olympic3-5346. (OL3-5346) My auntie lived near Logan Airport in East Boston. Her telephone number was Logan9-1918. (LO9-1918)

No push buttons. A dime would get you a 3 minute local call. If you were calling outside the local area, the operator would break into your call before it connected to tell you how much change you needed to drop in to complete the call.
Sometimes, you got change back if you only had a quarter for a dime call. Some people in a rush would forget to collect the change. You always checked the change bin in a pay phone to see if there was spare change.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Weather Forecast

Today through Thursday. Sun, clouds, snow, sleet, freezing rain, rain, and that brings us back to snow. Oh, Oh, Oh.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Affirmation of the Day

Acrylic painting. 4" x 4". Wash, spatter, dot. "Just for today, I will not worry"