Friday, December 30, 2011

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

It's been a while again, but I want to be sure to say happy holidays to everyone who reads my blog.  I also want to participate in Michelle's latest Crusade, the goal of which was to simply get yourself in a picture.  I didn't get in front of the camera much, but I do have a picture from when I finished a project for another challenge. 

My favorite shop The Queen's Ink had a contest for decorating little houses for Christmas.  Apparently the project came from the magazine Cloth Paper Scissors.  Anyway, Mom and I did one each, and mine is a little alpine gnome home.  This is how it looks all finished, with me in there for scale ;):

The roof has pine cone shingles and the candles in the windows are toothpicks.  The curtains are paper doilies.  And the gnome was a stamp from Paper Source.  I had so much fun putting this together!

Of course, what makes things better is the iPhone game I've been hooked on.  Cut the Rope.  If you have an iPhone, Android, or iPad, get it.  It's the cutest game ever.  It's a puzzle game, where you have to get a piece of candy from where it is dangling from a rope to a little green monster named OmNom who eats candy.  They released a holiday version for free, too, and it had a little holiday card generator where you could add OmNom to your own photos... so of course... he had to visit the gnome home.

This was Mr. Pocket's and my first Christmas married.  We decorated our condo and hung stockings by the fireplace and everything.  I was trying to make him a stocking but I ran out of time, but it will be done for next year. 

In another photo for the Crusade, my mother in law got me an awesome Ravens hat:

Sorry there's not much crafty stuff to show in this post.  Since the gnome home and a tag class at The Queen's Ink, I've been kind of burned out.  I did do a few Christmas tags, but the photos of them are scattered across my phone and my real camera, so I might have to post those after our weekend away for New Year's.  See you in 2012!

Friday, November 18, 2011


You know, Pocketeers, sometimes things just don't work.  I have been struggling with some of the most basic of stamping skills, and it's driving me crazy.  But I realize that sometimes there's just something that is jinxed and you should be able to do it but it just won't come out right, so I have decided to share mine with you so maybe you won't feel so bad if/when that happens to you.

It all started with this:
I embossed the leaves using Gathered Twigs Distress Ink and clear embossing powder, then inked over it with Ripe Persimmon Distress Ink.  Now, look closer:

 The embossing powder refused to cooperate.  I tried everything.  I polled the GPP Street Team group on Facebook.  I took their advice.  I used a little brush to wipe away stray grains outside the stamp.  I wiped it with a dryer sheet before stamping to avoid static cling.  Nothing worked.  Eventually, I found one discussion forum that talked about having no end of trouble with the particular brand of embossing powder that I was using, so I decided it must be a powder problem and accepted it.  I inked the orange on first, dried it with a heat gun, let it sit overnight to be good and dry, and did my stamping over it.  The result:  little orange stray embossing dots.  Better than off-white at least.  And my background is finished.

That was last week.  This week, I'm still having trouble with the embossing powder not distributing evenly, but at least it's not clinging everywhere it's not supposed to.  But there is of course a new problem.

Ladies and gentlemen (do I get any gentleman readers?), meet my Nemesis:
I love these stamps.  They're the "Pumpkins & Flourish" set from Inkadinkado.  And when I ordered them I couldn't wait for them to come in.  Now I am about ready to throw them out the window.  I love clear stamps.  I love the designs that come in clear stamps, I love that they're so compact, I love that I can see through them to position them exactly where I want.  I do not love that my Distress Ink beads up on them more than rain beads on my Rain-Ex coated windshield.  Because then you get this crap:
See how bubbly that looks?  What The Fruitcake?!?!  Even with the awful embossing, the regular rubber leaf of last week at least took the ink evenly.  Without embossing, this is some of my copious amounts of testing:

(Ok there's a little embossing on the right side of this image)
That damn leaf will NOT come out solid.  Not in this color, not in these colors:

Incidentally, Archival Ink works just fine:

Again I turned to the intarwebz.  Taking advice from various online sources, I tried letting Archival Ink dry on its surface (FAIL - all it did was come off with the Distress Ink), I tried using an eraser to clean the manufacturer's finish off of it, I tried sanding it lightly with an emery board, I tried washing it with soap and water... All I got was a big bucket of FAIL.  The best image I got at all with the inks I wanted to use was this:

Still not solid, still not crisp.

On a whim, I experimented with Distress Clear Embossing Ink.  The stamp finally seemed to like that and gave me a clear, solid image.  So I tried a different embossing powder.  

It's obnoxiously perfect.  So I guess all I have to do is not use Distress Ink in any sort of color on my clear stamps.  Which is extremely frustrating.  I use those inks because I love the colors!  So I can either continue to beat my head against the wall (figuratively) by trying over and over again, or I can limit how much I can use in my work.  

I don't like those options. 

Stupid stamp.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Experimental Dinner

I have to share my dinner with you.  In a virtual way.  Because I made it up, and I'm very proud of how it turned out:


I wanted to write down the recipe and share it, but I made it up as I went along, so I can tell you what I did but the measurements will be imprecise.  In case you want it, here's the how-to:

Italian-style Stuffed Acorn Squash
Serves 4
You'll need:
2 acorn squash
olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, minced
about a half pound of ground beef
about 1 1/4 teaspoon of dried sage
a handful of parsley, chopped coarsely
salt and pepper
a 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes, drained
a little over 1 cup of stuffing mix or if you're like me, the heel of a small loaf of french bread, cubed and toasted in a skillet because you have that but not stuffing mix and you want bread cubes in the filling
grated parmesan cheese
a large skillet
a baking dish
knives and stuff... ok you get the idea

So you preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and while that's preheating, lightly grease the baking dish (I sprayed it with olive oil), halve the acorn squash, scoop out the seeds, and lay the halves cut-side down in the baking dish.  When the oven is ready, put that in and set a timer for 30 minutes.

While that's in, coat the bottom of the skillet with olive oil, heat it over medium heat, and put the garlic in.  Try not to burn it like me.  When the garlic is nicely sauteed, stick in the ground beef and brown it.

Season the ground beef and garlic with the sage, parsley, salt and pepper until it tastes good.  Really, this was trial and error.  (Try to account for the fact that you will be adding more stuff and over-season it just a smidge - otherwise you'll end up adding more after the next step like I had to.)

Add your (drained!) diced tomatoes, your parmesan, and your bread cubes/stuffing mix.  Stir it all up and let it simmer for a few minutes while the squash finishes roasting.

When the timer goes off, check your squash to make sure a knife will easily pierce the skin - that's how you know it's done (according to the interwebs).  Take it out of the oven, flip the squash halves over so they're little bowls (yes they will probably roll around a little and not sit straight), and fill them with the mixture.  Spray with a little olive oil to keep it all moist and sprinkle parmesan on top.  Stick in the oven for another 5-10 minutes to get the cheese a little melty, remove, and serve.  Easy peasy lemon squeezy! (As my Latin professor used to say.)

Okay, so I'm not likely to be publishing a cookbook anytime soon, and the world is a better, less frustrated place for that.  But if this sounds good to you, give it a try and let me know what you think!


Monday, October 31, 2011

Once Upon a Midnight Dreary

Happy Halloween everybody!  Are you dressed up?  After spending an exhausting day appropriately surrounded by mold and decay, I'm not actually dressed up tonight (except in my Halloween pjs and Little Miss Spooky shirt from Target...), but Mr. Pocket and I went to a Halloween party on Saturday, and... well, do you recognize me?

Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door.
Perched upon a bust of Pallas, just above my chamber door,
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.
And the raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door...
 (Dunno how well you can see it, but behind me in that pic is a "trick or treat" garland that my mom made me :) )

You know how much I love a good Raven reference.  Ever notice that the Baltimore Ravens wear black and the only other color mentioned in the poem - purple?  

And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me---filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before... 

Their mascots used to be Edgar, Allen, and Poe.  Now there's only Poe, but it's ok because he's adorable:
If only the Ravens were playing Monday Night Football tonight.  That would be appropriate. 

So, are you giving out candy?  Are you giving out good candy?  We haven't gotten any trick or treaters, not that we expected many.  We only had a few KitKats left anyway.  I have no idea what happened to them...... Must've been eaten by ghosts....... or something.................... *innocent grin*

This is my I-didn't-eat-the-KitKats face :)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

I Believe

I believe I've been away too long again.  But this time I have to get in before the deadline for Michelle's October Crusade.  The Crusade is all about what you believe in and who you are as an artist.  So I've thought about it off and on all month, and a few things stick with me.  I didn't get around to creating anything to show it all, but I can tell what I believe in and what makes me make stuff.

I believe in aesthetics.  I don't know anything about the whole philosophy of aesthetics, but what I mean is that I believe art should be attractive.  Sure, express yourself, make a statement, whatever.  Just make sure it looks good.  I'm willing to make exceptions for realistic depictions of things that aren't pretty to begin with (spectacular zombie makeup, for example), but really, there's enough ugliness in the world.  I believe in using our powers for improvement.

I believe in the power of art.  Art in its many forms can be cathartic, uplifting, depressing, any number of emotional influences.  I like it best when it puts a smile on my face, but any effect a piece of art has means it has an impact.  As previously stated, I believe we can and should use this power to improve the world, even if it just means giving someone something pleasing for a few minutes on a bad day.  Every little bit helps.

I believe in the power of little things.  That thing I just said about giving someone something pleasing... it doesn't make life suck less overall, but it certainly adds to the awesome column.  To put it better, in the words of The Doctor, "The good things don't always soften the bad things, but vice-versa, the bad things don't necessarily spoil the good things and make them unimportant."  This is something that I find difficult to keep in mind myself, but when I'm feeling grouchy about things, I try to remind myself of what I do have going for me.   When depression is getting the better of me, it's not the big abstract things that make me feel better - it's the little tangible things like a cup of tea, snuggling with my husband, re-reading a favorite book, or working on my art that make me smile.  Accumulating enough of those little things gets me through until I balance out again.  I guess if anybody is going to believe in the power of little things, it should be a tiny, pocket-sized person like myself.

A couple of parting notes.  In the same Doctor Who episode from which I pulled the previous quote, an art historian says the following about Vincent Van Gough, and it brought tears to my eyes because it said a lot about what I love about art: 

"He transformed the pain of his tormented life into ecstatic beauty. Pain is easy to portray, but to use your passion and pain to portray the ecstasy and joy and magnificence of our world, no one had ever done it before. Perhaps no one ever will again."

And lastly, this Cowboy mouth song really speaks to me and says a lot about my beliefs as well.  Take a listen, and see if you feel the same way.

P.S. If you've never listened to Cowboy Mouth, catch one of their shows when they're in town.  They just might change your life.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

While there's Tea, there's Hope

I am a tea drinker.  Ever since I was a kid, I've loved tea.  Even worked in a tea shop during summers home from college (I still order tea from our wholesaler, now that they do retail too).  Now I don't drink as much as I used to when I worked at the shop, but I enjoy my morning cuppa at work, and sometimes take the time to settle down with a cup at home on the weekend.  And every now and then, I'm inspired to create tea-themed art.  Like a couple of weeks ago, when my mom told me about a new tea she'd gotten at Fresh Market.  It's a coconut-lime flavored black tea.  Wow.  Even before I'd tasted it, it took me away to imaginary plantations in the British West Indies or something.  And by the time I cut out of work and dashed off to my parents' house to play with paint to satisfy my sudden inspiration, I knew what I wanted to put together:

I took an 8"x8" canvas and brushed on a rich brown colored acrylic paint.  Then I dry-brushed on white and lime green in layers, laying down a custom-cut tea stalk mask in between a few of the layers to end up with that silhouette there to the right.

I tore some tissue paper and laid it down, lime green first (what Mom had was actually a bit pale, so I painted it first with some of the paint I had used on the canvas), then a layer of white, and lastly, a piece of kraft glassine that I'd crumpled to get some good texture on.  Then I glued down my little tea stalk.

The little bracket is a Tim Holtz thing, but the "Tea" sign in it is actually stamped from the very bottom of a Michelle Ward stamp that says "Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea."  I've had that stamp since before I even knew who Michelle was.  It was just what I needed for this, and I'm glad I know her now because I used a lot of her techniques here.  Sorry to rip you off, Michelle... I hope I've Made It My Own well enough :)  

To finish the edges of the canvas, I used Tim Holtz tissue tape.  It doesn't stick very well, so I had to glue the end down, but it works.  

In case you're wondering, the tea does taste as good as it sounds.  It's in teabags, though, so it could be better.  (Yes, I'm a loose tea snob, but I'm not entirely above using teabags.)

I've been enjoying more than just cups of tea, recently, too.  I've gotten back into reading the tea shop mystery novels written by Laura Childs.  They're wonderful cozy mysteries set in Charleston, with a sleuth who owns a charming tea shop.  Yesterday, when Mr. Pocket told me I needed to take a day to actually chill,  I decided I was going to enjoy the beautiful weather on our balcony and read my book.  But being me, I didn't just sit and do that.  I got myself a color-coordinated cup of tea.  See, I happen to have red flowers on our balcony.  And our chair cushions are red.  So I chose carefully from my ever-growing collection of tea cups and pots...

Actually, I need a few more to fill in the gaps...

Brewed myself some jasmine green tea (it was old and a little stale, but it was ok), and brought out my tea and my book:

P.S. The flower pot on the table is an oversized teacup.

I thought the strawberry teacup went well with the balcony.  Ok, it's a sickness.  I must color-coordinate.  But you know what?  I had a perfectly pleasant afternoon with my coordinating teacup and my cozy mystery.  I should do that more often.

Next post:  Michelle's new crusade, on naming colors or colorways.  Stay tuned!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Turn, Turn, Turn...

It's been much too long since I played along with Michelle Ward's street team.  I often meant to participate, but things kept getting in the way, and the month would pass and I would have not posted to meet the challenge.  This month, though, I can't miss it.  Michelle has asked her crusaders whether we notice a change in our palette or style with the changing seasons.  Well, my dear, the answer is YES.  That phrase from Ecclesiastes that the Byrds made so famous might as well have been written about me.  I am such a seasonal person that even my taste in music and food change.  I'm almost a different person in the spring than I am in the winter.  Jeans remain a wardrobe staple, but instead of dark sweaters and boots, I'm wearing them with bright colors, especially green and white, and with mary janes until it's warm enough for sandals.  I start listening to lighter, happier music.  I eat more veggies and drink green tea instead of black (though I do still like a good cuppa black tea to get me going in the morning).  The advent of cherry blossoms makes me gravitate towards Japanese art and motifs - this is when I re-watch Rurouni Kenshin and dig out my scraps of kimono silk that I've bought at quilt shows, thinking maybe this year I'll decide what to do with them.  And my art definitely looks different.  In my paper and mixed media art, red moves aside for green, compositions get more open and less cluttered, I use less hardware, I move from crosses and gears and hardware to flowers and birds and the occasional butterfly.  Last year I showed this tag, which I think is one of my favorites of every tag I've ever made:

Very simple, two background colors and two stamps.  But it just says spring to me.  When yarn crafting in spring, I spin lighter colors into thinner yarns, I gravitate towards lace patterns in both knit and crochet, and I generally only work with light or bright colors.  I wound off one of those skeins of yarn I got at the Homespun Yarn Party this year.  Guess which one?

The color's a little washed out in this picture, but it's Downy Oshun, Hon!  Baltimorean beachy glory.  I've started a crochet project with it, but I don't like how it's coming out so I might frog it and start over.  It just needs to be a light, lacy triangle scarf or shawlette.  The only trouble is that it's wool.  That's my other spring thing.  I'd love to be working with cotton or silk.  Unfortunately, all my favorite yarns in my favorite weights and colors turn out to be wool or some other warm fiber.  Oh well.  Air conditioning generally requires a warmer layer, so it'll do.

I wish I had more to show you.  This spring has been a little busy:
(Okay, I know, I'm a showoff. But isn't he cute?)

Plus, having moved, my ability to do paper and mixed media art has declined.  See, Mom and I share supplies, or at least we always did when I lived at home.  Now that Mr. Pocket and I are on our own, I haven't built up enough supplies in my new home to really feel like I can do much yet.  As I acquire more, I'll be able to put things together, but now pickings are still slim.  On top of that, I haven't felt the knit or crochet mojo as much, so that's not happening.  I definitely feel the need to create, though, so hopefully I'll build up more supplies or be able to spend some time at my parents' house enough to do some work.  I did house-sit for my parents one night last week, and this is what I came home with:
It's a bit of a transition piece, spring into summer.  Maybe later this week, I'll post about summer, because that's a bolder, brighter style for me than spring...

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

THIS... what makes Mr. Pocket the best.

It was waiting for me on our bulletin board facing the door when I got home today.  +50 Good Mood.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Main Squeeze

As you've seen recently, I cannot do anything in the kitchen without making a huge mess.  Like tonight, when I pretty much spattered olive oil all over the stove frying sausage for dinner.  Well, Saturday morning, I had just cleaned the kitchen when Mr. Pocket and I proceeded to make a colossal mess.  You see, we had some lemons  and some limes, all of which we needed to use before they go bad.  And we have new citrus juicers.  So... when life gives you juicers, you make lemonade, right?


That picture was taken after we'd each poured ourselves a glass.  It was a pretty tasty first batch of lemonade.  Next time, I'm gonna try and make lavender lemonade.

Now, Sunday, the post-party letdown was finally starting to creep up on me.  So Mr. Pocket packed me off to Mom's to do some crafting so I'd feel better.  I did feel better by the time I came home for his German relatives' birthday party.  His uncle and his other uncle's girlfriend have birthdays very close together, and since they're still here from the wedding, we were all celebrating both of them at his parents' house.  So I made a card for each of them:

His uncle's was very mechanical, because he used to make tools.  I had a lot of fun making it grungy and almost oily looking.

His uncle's girlfriend is very bright and cheerful and fun, so I knew I had to do something vibrant.  When I asked what her favorite color is, she answered yellow.  Oh no!  The one color of ink I don't have!  So I went with related colors, and did manage to find a paper with a little bit of yellow in it.

It was nice to be playing with papers and inks again.  Now I just need to get back to yarn, too.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

I Do

Mr. Pocket and I are happy to announce that as of Saturday, 7 May 2011, we are officially married.  Looking forward to many many years this way :)

So, it's been pretty busy around here in the Pocket, what with getting married and all.  And that's without having done much DIY.  You would think, being the crafty soul that I am, I would've DIYed a ton of stuff for my wedding.  But no, cooler heads prevailed and I avoided that stress.  All I did myself was, as you saw in the last post, the guest book.  I did it with lots of help from my friends in the conservation lab at work, at lunchtime and after hours.  Couldn't have done it without them.  And now I have finished pics to show you, and time in which to post them...

I got the text block from A.Fain Books on Etsy.  Such a godsend, as I do not have a board cutter or a large paper cutter.  Though I did end up cutting new boards at work, on the recommendation of my friends in the lab.  The decorative papers for the covers and end papers, as well as the book cloth for the spine, came from Paper Source.

I love this green lokta paper.

The end bands were an ordeal.  I guess I should say that figuring out the end bands was an ordeal.  I couldn't remember how to do them from last year when I bound my first book (and until now, my only book).  So between asking my friend Vicki for her notes and scouring the internet, it took me a while to find the way I had done single-color end bands before.  Once I had it figured out, though, it was a breeze.  Used silk thread from Mom, sewn over the same tape that the text block is sewn onto.

Overall, I learned one very important lesson from making the guestbook for our wedding.  I love it and I need to do more bookbinding.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Be My Guest

Brief post this week.  Been hella busy with the last minute wedding stuff.  One of those things is legitimately crafty:  I'm binding our guestbook.  Slowly.  This is all I have done so far:

It's sewn and rounded.  I still have to sew endbands, back it, and actually attach the boards.  Oh, and cover it. So it's pretty.  I can do that in 18 days, right?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Best. Dinner. Ever.

Confession time:  I've been collecting recipes that I haven't been using.  I have every intention of cooking for real, but with all the stuff I end up doing after work, usually it's up to Mr. Pocket to throw something together.  Now, don't get me wrong, Mr. Pocket is quite the amateur chef.  But usually he improvises, so the recipies I've been collecting just don't get used.  Until now.  This is one that Mom gave me, because she'd tried it and loved it.  It came from Cooking Light, and the recipe is here.  You should try it.  Because oh my goodness, it's the best dinner we've cooked in the new place.  Mr. Pocket even said so.  I mean, look at this:

Mr. Pocket's second helping.

How can chicken, rosemary, thyme, potatoes, tomatoes, and olives ever be bad?  (Okay, sure, if one of those things is something you generally don't like, but aside from that.)  It's super easy, too.  And roasting might be my favorite way of cooking.  I don't care that it takes longer.  Really, try this recipe.  You'll thank me.

Meanwhile, an update from Mr. Pocket's World of Maille:

The dear gentleman hard at work.

There's been a lot of mailling going on.  He's working on a hauberk, as you see above, in stainless steel.  And he's been making some small items for friends out of aluminum rings and scale:

Gauntlet in progress...


I, meanwhile, have lots of wedding things to do.  Pray for me that I get it all done in time!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Back with Needles

Finally!  PocketSize has come back to yarncraft! 

I'll forgive you if you don't get the reference

Anyway, with the apartment getting settled, I have gotten a little knitting time.  And with some small departmental meetings at work with people that know that I'm still paying attention, I've been able to crochet.  So I've got a sweet little project basket kickin'.

Want a closer look?  It's three shawls I'll show you, though one is only a few rows in.  I've been really wanting more shawls, so that's what I've been into making.  Here we go...

This one is Katika.  I had started it back before Christmas, and got several rows in, but then let it sit for months.  When I picked it up again last week, I dropped half a row and I realized I'd been leaving out an important yarn over for most of what I had done, so I ripped it back to the beginning and started over. 
 The yarn is Neighborhood Fiber Company in a one-off colorway.  I got it at last year's Homespun Yarn Party.  It's really nice and bouncy.

Next up, I'm finally knitting Damson.  I've been trying to settle on the perfect yarn for it, and even though it's a few yards shy of the required yardage, I'm using another yarn I got at last year's Homespun Yarn Party, from Ashton Studio Arts. 
Doesn't look much like a shawl in this pic, because I started it on the spur of the moment and grabbed straight needles to do so.  Now I really need to switch to circulars, because it's getting a bit heavy.
It was really hard to get the color of the yarn right, and even this shot isn't really accurate.  It's a gorgeous bluish lilac color. 

This last one is my travelling project, because it's very simple and easy to keep track of.  A couple weeks ago, I went to a yarn shop I hadn't been to before and they had Zauberball.  I'd never found a Zauberball before, but I wanted one.  So of course, one had to come home with me :)  I had such trouble deciding on colors that I realized that I don't have any really neutral shawls, so that's what I got:
The pattern is Eva's Shawl, and it's a really simple three-row repeat.  Which is what makes it ideal for department meetings and other times when I need relatively mindless work.

By next week I should have some bookbinding photos for you.  My only DIY project for the wedding...  So check back soon... :)