Sunday, April 12, 2015

Frog watercolor progression

About a hundred years ago, when I was working on my art degree, I had to take a watercolor class. It wasn't my favorite at the time and I haven't messed with it over the years. But recently I decided to give it another go, to incorporate into my children's book illustrations.

This is more practice while I try to get the hang of it. Which is mostly just trying not to be a control freak over what it does.

Click to enlarge.

 See where I tossed salt in the blue area. Messing around with texture. Eh.

I wish I had left the leaf simple and not added the veins.

So far, watercolor seems 50% fun and 50% what-the-hell-is-happening??

In this last step I opened the photo in GIMP (like PhotoShop but without the price tag), added light to the eyes, and deeper shadows, adjusted the levels for brighter brights. Maybe too much, I may back that down a little after I see a print. I'm not a purist; it doesn't bother me to tweak it when it's going on a journal cover and whatever else.

Here's the original little guy. Mine turned out kinda chubby.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Arkansas Crossroads quilt block

I love those quilts that make you work to figure it out. And again I was way off - although there is more than one way to skin this cat, as you'll see at the bottom of this post. This is the Arkansas Crossroads quilt that 24 Blocks shared on their facebook page (from Charlotte T.)

Arkansas Crossroads quilt

I had three different ideas for how this might be done but none of them were as simple as how you actually do it.

The basic block (from ) :

Arkansas Crossroads quilt block

Four of them together (from ) :

Arkansas Crossroads quilt blocks

And some basic how-to's with pictures on (more illustrations on their site):

A look at another Arkansas Crossroads quilt. This one is on Quilts from the Bluffs and she offers an excellent free pattern on her page. Her way is how I thought this quilt would go together. Probably the way I'll do it.

Arkansas Crossroads quilt on QFTB

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Beta tank inside a bigger aquarium

This is a 3-gallon round tank inside our 20-gallon aquarium. It has a ceramic soup mug under it to lift it up high enough that the surface is level with the water surface in the bigger tank. At first I had it sitting on the bottom but remembered that beta's need to surface regularly. My first clue was when he started clutching his throat and going into death spasms. Just kidding. Anyway...

The beta has plenty of room to swim around. He gets to interact with the guppies and tetras without any harm. The guppies will sometimes gather and watch the beta like they're at Sea World or something.

Betas don't usually feel threatened by smaller fish but the guppies seem to be big enough that betas will see them as a threat and attack. I tried putting a beta in with an oscar one time, thinking no way will the beta go after that big ole fish. Wrong. That poor oscar was just minding his own business and the beta went after him like a Tasmanian devil.

I put plastic canvas craft mesh on top of the beta tank to keep him from going Evil Knievel over the side into the main tank. They will if they get the chance. I melted four holes into the top of the plastic tank with a soldering iron so I could secure the mesh onto the tank with twist ties. There is a small hole for the air stone tube (air set low so the surface is calm enough for the beta to make his bubble nests). The pellet food just drops through the mesh.

This is the plastic canvas I mean. Like for yarn crafts, etc.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

1 Chicken - 3 nights of delicious meals

This post is mainly for College Man and his girlfriend. This is how I use 1 chicken for a few nights of easy, inexpensive, meals.

You'll need:
  • 1 whole chicken (it's the cheapest way to go)
  • 1 small bag of little red potatoes
  • Bag of carrots OR Green beans (2 cans, drained, or a big bowl of garden fresh green beans)
  • 1 package of flour tortillas
  • Grated mild cheddar cheese
  • 2 cans of biscuits, the cheap ones that are 10 small biscuits to a can, homestyle or buttermilk (NOT butter flavor, trust me)
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • Seasoned salt
  • Salt
  • Pepper

If your pantry was completely bare and you had to buy everything on the list, you're probably in at around $18-$20. About $6 per night for 3 suppers that will feed 3 or 4 people.

You'll also need:

Roasting pan, or any big pan that is oven-safe, like a cake pan
Lid or aluminum wrap
Frying pan
Big pot

Night 1 - Roast chicken and vegetables

Start early so the chicken can cook a good long while. Other than cook time, this is quick and easy. You'll be able to get on with other things while it's in the oven.
  • Scrub the potatoes and cut them into quarters, put them in the roasting pan. (They might not all fit, leave room for carrots, chicken on top)
  • Scrub and cut carrots, about thumb size is good, add them to the pan (or use the green beans)
  • Sprinkle veggies with seasoned salt
  • Rinse the chicken and place it on top of the veggies (if you want to get fancy, pat it dry with a paper towel and rub melted butter all over it). Toss any innards and neck in the pan too; you'll use them later..
  • Sprinkle the chicken with seasoned salt
  • Cover with the lid or aluminum wrap.
  • Cook in a 350 degree oven for about 3 hours.
There's your first night. Save some of the chicken for the next meals; pull all the meat off and save in a container in the fridge. Save all the bones, skin, gristle, neck, innards, the whole carcass, and all the juices from the pan in another bowl in the fridge.

Night 2 - Chicken quesadillas

College Man is a chicken quesadilla expert but here it is for anyone else who stumbles upon this post.
  • Season some of the chicken meat with seasoned salt. You can even use most or all of the chicken if you need to. Not much is needed for night 3.
  • Put a frying pan over med-low heat, use a non-stick pan or spray a regular one with a little cooking oil.
  • Put one of the flour tortillas on the pan.
  • Add about 1/4 to 1/3 cup of chicken to the tortilla, try to keep it all to one side so you can fold it over
  • Add some grated cheese.
  • (Leave it like this or add anything in the fridge that sounds good: real bacon bits, chopped bell pepper, sliced black olives, etc.)
  • Fold the tortilla over and let one side brown a little. Flip it over so the other side can brown.
There's your second meal. Serve it with picante sauce or sour cream if you have it. No biggie if you don't.

Night 3 - Chicken and dumplings, southern style

(This can wait till the next night if you're tired of chicken)

Here's a day to start kind of early too, but you'll want to check in on your broth occasionally. This looks long but it's really no big deal:
  • Put all the chicken bones, carcass, etc., in a big pot and fill it with water. If you have any part of an onion that can go in, even peelings, all the better. It will all be strained out later.
  • Bring it to a boil, reduce the heat to a low simmer, and let it cook for at least an hour (the longer, the better, just don't let it boil down; add hot water as needed)
  • About an hour before you want to eat, strain all the chicken parts out of the broth. Make sure no little bones slip through.
  • Put two quarts of the broth back in the pot and bring it back to a good simmer (freeze the rest in ziplocs or plastic containers; it's great for cooking rice, mashed potatoes, all kinds of good stuff)
  • Put 1/4 cup of flour in a bowl.
  • Open the 2 cans of biscuits, place one in the flour, turn it over to cover it well, flatten it out with your fingers, just squeeze it round and round till it's fairly flat.
  • Pinch nickel to quarter size pieces off the biscuit and drop them in the simmering broth. Do this to all the biscuits.
  • When you've put the last piece of biscuit in, check the time and let it simmer very low for 1 hour.
  • If you had any uncooked carrots left, grate a few of them into the pot (if you had left over cooked carrots, add those at the end)
  • Add about 1/2 tsp salt.
  • If you happen to have celery salt, add a dash of that. Or chop up a little celery in it if you have any. No biggie if you don't.
  • Stir it often; it tends to stick to the bottom of the pan.
  • When it's done, stir in what's left of the chicken meat if any.
  • Taste to see if it needs any more salt.
  • Pepper to taste.

Bonus recipe for the broth - Sausage and rice gumbo

In a big pot add:
  • About a quart of the chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup of uncooked rice
  • 1 smoked sausage, cut up
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • Also good but not necessary, any of the following: 1 can of ranch beans or red beans, chopped onion, chopped bell pepper, chopped okra, chopped celery
  • Best spices to add if you have them: Tony Cachere criole seasoning, smoked paprika (or regular paprika), chili powder, garlic salt, celery salt, dried basil, dried crushed bay leaves
Bring it to a biol, then reduce the heat and let it simmer for 20 minutes.
After the rice starts absorb the water/broth, add hot water to make it however soupy you want your gumbo.
Salt and pepper to taste

Illustrating the cat

I have 4 picture book projects to illustrate (two of my own and two for friends) but haven't been really satisfied with where my look/style is.

This is Fiday night's illustration of our kitten and her fear of the thunder storm going on.

Cute but kinda boring.

This is last night's (Saturday) illustration of the same concept. Trying to push more toward funny and more personality.

Less worry about being cat-shaped; more fun.

My friend Wanda says this is what her dog Meesha
does during a thunderstorm.

Here are the steps. All digital. I use GIMP; it's similar to photoshop but without the pricetag.

Simple line drawing.


Some shading.

More shading. Details added.

Window and lightening was pretty much an afterthought.

KABOOM! Light 'er up.

The cat's unofficial name at our house is El Pinche Gato, courtesy of my husband. I looked up "pinche" in my 1987 college Spanish dictionary and it said "rotten". So I went around saying pinche this, pinche that.

Then my father-in-law, who is Hispanic, asked Sweetheart how Spanish class was going at school. I jokingly told Sweetheart to walk into class and say "Pinche escuela." My father-in-law nearly choked on his dentures.

So I typed el pinche gato into Google translate. Google had a slightly different take on "pinche" than the old dictionary. It explains why my father-in-law didn't think pinche escuela was a good idea.

(I just now checked Google translate again; it now says "click the cat" is the translation. That is NOT what it said a few months ago when I checked).

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Bring faded plastic fenders back to black

We bought an old 97 jeep cherokee sport from a friend this week and are fixing it up for College Man. It doesn't need a whole lot done. We changed the spark plugs, put in a new valve cover gasket, cleaned it up, and are about to put a couple of new tires on it. The spark plugs were really all that was needed to get the sputter out. We wanted to put on a new fuel filter but it is inside the tank of this particular model. Since the spark plugs cleared up the sputter, we'll wait a bit longer and replace the filter and fuel pump all at once.

A cool thing I learned from a youtube video was how to get the sun-bleached fenders and other faded plastics back to black... take a heat gun to them.

This is how it turned out on ours. Took about an hour and a half for all fender flares and bumpers.

And BONUS! Check out how bleepinjeep did some cool DIY bushwhacker fenders for cheap in this video. We're gonna do it!

As for heat guns...

I borrowed my dad's but some time before I start pulling up the ugly old linoleum in my laundry room, I'll get my own. This Wagner had the best reviews and was about middle of the price range, $22 bucks on Amazon (the range for heat gun prices was $15 to $30).

No matter where I wind up buying what I'm looking for, I usually check Amazon reviews first. Those people are brutally honest. (Plus, I learned something about fixing the xbox 360 Red Ring of Death in J. Hagen's review... awesome.)

2 heat settings, weighs under 2 lbs. Over 450 amazon reviewers liked it. Sounds good to me.