Monday, December 15, 2014

Doodle Day December

We're half-way through the month and almost done with the year...I believe it's time to panic about all the things I haven't finished yet for the year.

I'm doing Doodle Day (started by the lovely Alison Hertz) again this month - at least the first half of the month; I don't know if I'll have time to continue in the second half of the month because I have other art I need to work on.

The theme for the month is holiday words which we can interpret as we like. Enjoy!

12/1: light
12/2: peace
12/3: tree
12/4: bell
12/5: star
I liked this so much, I made it my profile pic. Sometimes, a drawing just falls into place without too much effort. This was one of those times.
12/6: flame
12/7: life
12/8: oil
12/9: presents
12/10: snowflake
12/11: skates or skating
12/12: frosty
I ran out of time and could only manage this rough sketch
12/13: boots
12/14: family
Yellow-billed Cuckoo on left, Smooth-billed Ani on right: same family, different genus and species
Hope you're having a not-too-stressful December so far!

"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be." ~ Douglas Adams

Monday, December 08, 2014

Coconut Cake

Yes, you may sing that to the tune of Porcupine Pie (which makes me sound so old).

For Son2's birthday, I made a coconut cake, which turned out pretty tasty. I will also admit here, to the entire world, that I am a bad mom and completely forgot about his birthday and forgot to plan a cake for him. Luckily, Facebook notifications reminded me of the day, and my son, then, reminded me that I hadn't made him a cake. Oh, the comedies of aging and having a bad memory.

I figured some of you coconut lovers might want this recipe too. 
Coconut Cake (a.k.a. "I forgot about my own son's birthday" cake)

adapted from Elegant White Cake in King Arthur Flour's The All-Purpose Baking Cookbook

8 T butter, softened
½ C vegetable shortening
1 T baking powder
1 (to 1¾…I only used 1) C superfine or granulated sugar
¾ t salt
2 t vanilla extract
1 t coconut extract/flavor
5 large egg whites
2¾ C cake flour
1 C milk
1 C (plus maybe 1/8 more for decoration) toasted coconut - I used shredded but I guess you can use flake if you like chunky pieces

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter, shortening, baking powder, sugar, salt and extracts until fluffy and light, approx. 5 minutes depending on the power of your mixer. Add egg whites one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Stir 1/3 of the flour into the mixture, then half the milk, another 1/3 of the flour, the rest of the milk, and then the last of the flour, scraping down bowl occasionally. Add 1 C of the toasted coconut, stirring until just combined.

Pour batter into 2 greased and floured or parchment-lined 8” or 9” round pans, 3 8” round pans, or a 9x13” pan. Bake the cakes for 23-26 minutes (for the 8” pans), 25-30 minutes (for the 9” pans), or about 35 minutes (for the 9x13” pan). Remove cakes from oven and cool completely on racks before frosting.

Use your favorite frosting recipe, adding 1 t of coconut extract into it. Sprinkle the frosting with the remaining ¼ C of toasted coconut to garnish.

Enjoy with or without guilt and a candle!

"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be." ~ Douglas Adams

Monday, December 01, 2014

My Favorite Scene - Powers of Ten

Welcome to the last video of the year, and possibly the last My Favorite Scene video, period.
Because this is a longer video than I normally make, it exceeded Blogger's video size limit of 100mb (it's 108.9mb), so I had to upload to YouTube and give you a link to it here instead.

I hadn't realized the banana tree behind me was trying to attack me while I was recording - it did an amazing job of messing up my hair - but maybe it'll give you a good laugh, like it did me when I watched it.

Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to watch me babbling my way through another My Favorite Scene segment. Please join me next week when I have a recipe post next week...and no banana trees!

"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be." ~ Douglas Adams

Monday, November 24, 2014

Things that make me happy

Like most of you, I have an assortment of things that make me happy - little snakes, down comforters, whipped cream flavored vodka, hangnails that pull out cleanly without bleeding all over the couch I'm sitting on. One of the less weird things that make me smile is Bead Style magazine.
I'm obsessed by jewelry making. It's so weird because I don't wear a whole lot of jewelry, usually just my wedding ring. But, when I look at jewelry making books and magazines, I get a stupid happy grin on my face, the same stupid smile on your dog when you come home and he thinks you have a bacon treat for him.

I'd let my subscription to Bead Style lapse because I was purging magazines for a while, but I missed it. So, when my agent's daughter started fund-raising for her Girl Scout troop and I saw that this was one of the magazines they offered, I leaped at the chance to subscribe again. Leaped...across the room...to get my credit card...

I need counseling.

If you love jewelry-making like I do, or are in the market for a magazine to fill that void in your life, you might want to head to this website to help support the Girl Scouts organization. (**note: apparently the fundraising is over, so I don't know if the links still work)

Or if you prefer chocolates and other confectionery goods instead of magazines, since that will really, literally, fill a void in your life, specifically your stomach, you can get those through the Girl Scouts too.

"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be." ~ Douglas Adams

Monday, November 17, 2014

RETRASH - a book review

If you know me, you'd probably know that I am loathed to do a number of things: drive, exercise, do interviews, and do book reviews. Oh, and I hate to leave the house too, but let us talk about my serious neuroses some other post.

So, you may have fallen off your chair when you saw "a book review" in my blog title. It's a lot easier to fall off the chair if you're sitting on a therapy ball, by the way.

But, yes! You read right - no need to keep rubbing your eyes or wonder if the mushrooms you ate last night were hallucinogenic - this is really a book review. It's a pretty short book review, but it is an actual one.

I recently won an e-version of an usual but über cool book.

The book, written by Nathan Devine, is cleverly titled, retrash: Upcycle, Repurpose, Reuse, Recycle. As Nathan says in the forward, "This book represents a small part of the solution to our growing problem of waste..." and features the work of indie artists and crafters who created stunning new things out of old materials that would otherwise have cluttered landfills.

Divided into twelve chapters - fabric/fashion, timber, electronics, linoleum, paper/cardboard, kitchenware, billboards, metal, glass, mixed materials, jewelry, plastic - each section is full of gorgeous color photos along with the artists' descriptions of how they came to make what they do, what inspires them, and more. Their Etsy addresses are given in case anyone wanted to order their products, which I know you will find irresistible. Or, if you're the creative sort yourself, their creations will spark your own ideas of what to do with the materials around you that would usually be thrown out. 
an example of the extraordinary art in the book
However it moves you, and I promise it will, you will leave this book never looking looking at trash, or art, the same way again.

To get a discount coupon and for info on how to order the book, go to the retrash Facebook page. It would make a great gift for those on your list who are environmentally-minded or have an artistic soul. And, you know, the holidays are coming up!

"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be." ~ Douglas Adams

Monday, November 10, 2014

Coconut Cheese Pie

First of all, before we get to food -- yes, I'm cruel -- I want to put in a plug for my wonderful, talented, and amazing sci-fi critique group captain, Russell James. This guy is so creative and prolific, he really writes circles around anyone else I personally know. For only 99cents, you can get a few hours of wondrous adventures of the imagination with his latest anthology, Outer Rim.

And now, what you came here for...Coconut Cheese Pie!
1 1/2 T butter, softened
2 2/3 C (approx) coconut (I used shredded but I'm sure you can use flaked)
4 eggs
1/2 C sugar
1 8-oz package of cream cheese
3 T lemon juice

Spread butter evenly over the bottom and sides of a 9" pie pan. Press 1 1/3 C of the coconut into the butter, forming a shell. Place 1 C of the coconut, the eggs, sugar, cheese and lemon juice in a blender or a food processor. Blend until smooth. Pour into the coconut shell. Sprinkle remaining coconut in a ring around the top and center. Bake at 325F for 30 minutes. If the coconut on top browns too fast, cover with a circle of aluminum foil.

Serve warm or cool; refrigerate leftovers.

"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be." ~ Douglas Adams

Monday, November 03, 2014

My Favorite Scene - a Chinese poem

I've been on a "get in touch with my heritage" kick lately. It's too bad my mom isn't alive to appreciate it. Some Chinese poems that I used to recite have been running through my head. And then for the #inktober sketching challenge, I chose to run with a Chinese theme. Like so:
Because I've got my heritage on my mind, I decided to do a reading of one of my favorite poems (and I have many) for the My Favorite Scene segment.
video
Okay, I had typed and uploaded everything above, but then....

You ever have one of those days where one minute, you're done with grade four and you have all summer to just sit around and read and you're just champing at the bit to head to the library and the summer is stretching endlessly ahead of you, and then the next minute, you are fifty years old and have over-committed yourself and for some strange reason, the earth seems to be rotating faster because time seems to be flying by, breaking the sound barrier?

*taking deep breath after longest run-on sentence ever*

I have. I'm having one of those days. Soooo, I did not get to translating the poem like I promised above. I will just tell you that it says something about the setting moon, calling crows, and frost filling the sky. And also something about the freezing weather outside of city of Gouzhou and the ringing of the midnight bell reaching the guest boat. Trust me, it's beautiful in Chinese.

Next week, a recipe!

Do you speak another language? Do you read poetry in a different language? Want to share one with me?

"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be." ~ Douglas Adams

Monday, October 27, 2014

Halloween Illustrators Cyber Party

Jan Clifton Watford created a Halloween Illustrators Cyber Party event, and this is my piece for it. Those of you who are Facebook friends with me already saw this and will know that Anne S. gave me this idea to draw.

To see more of the other illustrations for this event, go to http://www.pinterest.com/jancwatford/halloween-illustrators-cyber-party/pins/

Have a fun Halloween!

"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be." ~ Douglas Adams

Monday, October 20, 2014

Squirrels on my mind...and a prize bomb!

Remember my squirrel drawings? Well, I went and had some postcards made with the illustrations to send to art directors:
 
Those are from Moo.com and look pretty nice. People I know have also requested their own sets of postcards or note cards, so I've been looking at different printing places to make some nice ones that don't cost an arm and a leg. VistaPrint did a good job at reasonable prices. For 4.25"x5.5" cards, I am asking $1.75 for one card or $8 for a pack of 5 cards (both with envelopes). 

I've been doing squirrel drawings every day, so I'll have plenty more designs to choose from. :)

Now for the exciting part of the blog: prize bomb!

I know how hard it is to get around to reading a bunch of different blogs, and even harder to actually make the effort to leave a comment, so I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge a couple of people who leave more comments than anyone else on my blog (besides my sister, but I already give her plenty...advice; she loves that because all younger sisters love unsolicited advice from their older sisters). And those two lovely peeps are....*applause*... Maureen and Steve!

So, Maureen and Steve, for being loyal commenters you have a choice of a set of my squirrel note cards, a paper copy of In A Land Far Away, or some handmade soaps. Let me know!

Do you have a favorite site to recommend for printing up cards or do you do it on your own printer?

"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be." ~ Douglas Adams

Monday, October 13, 2014

20 years of writing: a long, difficult road

Writing for publication, that is. I've really been writing for much longer than 20 years if you count any creative writing that wasn't done for a school assignment...including schmarmy poetry and stories that led nowhere fast that I penned in elementary school.

And it's not actually 20 years, but because I started querying in 1993 and the first two pieces I submitted were published in 1995, the mid-point is 1994, which would be 20 years.

I hadn't looked at my records in a long time, but I was pleasantly surprised to re-read them. The letters I got from the Indiana DNR were so flattering, I really should frame them.

This was the acceptance letter:
"...the quality was exceptional!" - I should read this line every time I get a rejection
This is actually the first letter I got from them, and they sent the one above after I replied and said I'd be happy to have them keep it on file for future use:
"...you're one of the best writers to approach us lately." - so good for the ego
About the same time that I queried IN DNR, I sent out my first piece of fiction to Ladybug Magazine. It was a story I'd written for the ICL course I'd taken the previous year. The lovely Paula Morrow called me and asked if it was still available (yes, I screamed with joy after I hung up).
 Here's the first page of the story:
one never gets tired of bylines
I must have been on a roll back then. Even my rejection letters were good. See the hand-written note at the bottom? "The story is artfully written - very much so -- Please do try again."
Thus began my foray into writing. Unfortunately, while my writing career started on a high note, there were many depressing low ones in between too. While I never really stopped writing, I stopped submitting for a while.

It wasn't until the past 5 years that things started happening and chugging along again. For that I have to thank The Minnows Literary Group (and Michaela Rossner from Gotham Writers Workshop), my in-person SCBWI group (we need a name, people), and the Penguin Posse - my online critique group (and the 12x12 Challenge), and, my agent, Ella Kennen.

It's enough to make one sing!
So, have heart, if you have only begun writing (or whatever you've decided to do) in the last several years and haven't "hit the big times" yet. Be patient. Don't give up. You will eventually find your groove. Unless you're one of the lucky and talented few whose stars all align like a bunch of stellar schoolgirls in a Madeline story from the get-go, sometimes, it can take a couple of decades to hit the publishing sweet spot, that place where you have arbitrarily defined success, be it having an agent or being picked out by a big publishing house.

Has your career, or a change in life direction, started out promisingly and then took a turn for worse before becoming better?

(I used the PS Express blotter function to blot out the addresses, which is why some parts of the letters look funny.)

"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be." ~ Douglas Adams

Monday, October 06, 2014

My Favorite Scene - In Search of Schrödinger’s Cat

Good gravy; is it really October? May I panic?


This month’s video is on “In Search of Schrödinger’s Cat” by John Gribbin. Enjoy (my rambling)! :)

video
Have you read anything by John Gribbin before? Or, do you have a favorite science writer you can recommend?

"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be." ~ Douglas Adams

Monday, September 29, 2014

Chocolate Coconut Bars, a drool-fest

I am honestly losing my mind. I could have sworn I posted this recipe before, but a search turned up nada.

Per several requests on Facebook, I am sharing this recipe which is one of my favorites: it's easy to make, always turns out, and tastes amazing. Those of you with coconut aversions, I'll see you next week. ;)

Chocolate Coconut Bars - adapted from Martha Stewart's website
3 C finely ground graham cracker crumbs
3/4 C unsalted butter, melted
1 C chopped pecans
1 C semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
1 C shredded coconut (I use unsweetened, but you can use sweetened if you like)

Preheat oven to 375F. Lightly splash a 15"x10" rimmed baking sheet with water, then line with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, stir together crumbs and butter until combined. Evenly press onto bottom and up sides of the baking sheet. Bake, rotating halfway through, until firm, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and cool for 20 minutes.

Spread the pecans and chocolate chips evenly over the cooled crust. Drizzle the condensed milk over the pecans and chocolate to completely blanket crust (but not over the edges). Sprinkle coconut on top.

Bake until coconut is toasted, about 10-15 minutes. Transfer to rack to cool completely.

Hope you'll like this as much as my family does!

"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be." ~ Douglas Adams

Monday, September 22, 2014

That Squirrel! (with apologies to Marlo Thomas)

It all started with an innocent enough drawing of a squirrel to celebrate September birthdays...
but because it's the fall, the season of squirrel antics, my friends had a lot of stories about mischievous squirrels, and I was inspired to keep drawing them.

Bad squirrel, bad squirrels; whatcha gonna do?
 They're fussy...
 And have I mentioned they don't like to share?

 But they are tenacious buggers.
I think I might do a few more "bad squirrels" pieces. Or maybe they're not bad; they're just drawn that way? (Now I have to apologize to Jessica Rabbit.)

Do you have any interesting squirrel stories?

"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be." ~ Douglas Adams

Monday, September 15, 2014

Grand-nola!

Easy Granola

I don't like store-bought cereal. First of all, I feel like they're unnecessarily processed. Secondly, unless you get bulk cereal, it's a lot of packaging - bags inside boxes. Thirdly, many are either too dry or not substantial enough.

I prefer to make my own granola. It's easy and tastes so much better! You might have a recipe that you like, but if not, here's one you can try. It's my favorite.


3 C rolled oats
1 C sunflower seeds
½ C pumpkin seeds
½ C almonds (or your nut of choice)
½ C coconut flakes
1 T cinnamon
2 T vegetable oil
½ C blue agave syrup or maple syrup
¼ C honey
½ dried cranberries or raisins (optional; I never put any in)

Preheat oven to 350.

Lightly grease a baking sheet. Or, as I've discovered, see photo, using my long neglected Silpat baking sheet is even more perfect as I don't have to grease anything and it prevented the granola from sticking.

Combine all of the dry ingredients in a bowl, except the cranberries.

Combine all of the wet ingredients in a small measuring cup and add to the dry ingredients. (Rather than washing yet another cup, I eye-ball the wet ingredients and put them in one at a time before stirring it all up.)

Mix well and spread evenly over the baking sheet.

Bake for about 30 minutes, until the granola looks brown and crunchy. I often give it a stir half-way through as the coconut flakes tend to burn.

Add cranberries if desired after taking it out of the oven.

Enjoy! Let me know if you try it or if you have a good recipe you'd like to share. :)

"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be." ~ Douglas Adams