Thursday, December 22, 2011

Paper Snowflake Gift Wrap

I always say, "Presentation matters!" when it comes to gift-giving, but I may have outdone myself this year. But what else was I supposed to do while finishing Season 2 of Breaking Bad? I mean... really. It's so easy, it doesn't even require a tutorial. Just wrap a gift in white paper, make a lot of paper snowflakes, and tape them to the box by their centers, so the edges flutter freely. 


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Fiona Apple's Vocabulary Lesson for Sorely Wronged Ladies

A few weeks ago I put Fiona Apple's Extraordinary Machine in rotation because Courtney E. Smith put it on her Top Five Desert Island List, saying, "We are chronically inseparable in times of trouble, Fiona and I. She wasn't cool, she was commercial, and writing songs straight out of her journal on that first album... It feels like we've grown up together, but haven't necessarily grown out of our bad habits." 

Since then, every woman I've asked has confessed that the album carried her through a rough spot. Even more than eating ice cream straight from the carton, it's a secret ritual. Sorry to blow the whistle, ladies. Here's a news flash for the uninitiated: Pounding the steering wheel and singing "What wasted unconditional love / On somebody who doesn't believe in the stuff!" works. It's the perfect cathartic cross between lament and something much fiercer--with teeth. And it's smart. Unfortunately, it's too smart. I repeatedly had to turn to Webster to decode Fiona's diction.

Fiona says: A voice once stentorian is now again meek and muffled.
Webster says: sten·to·ri·an
[sten-tawr-ee-uh n] adjective: very loud or powerful in sound: a stentorian voice.
In English:
Some dude made her feel disenfranchised.
Use it in a sentence: The stentorian patron shattered the library's stillness.

Fiona says: You came upon me like a hypnic jerk when I was just about settled.
Webster says: Nothing. But says "A hypnic jerk is an involuntary muscle contraction, sometimes called a myoclonic twitch, that occurs during the lightest stage of sleep. This stage 1 sleep occurs as you begin to fall asleep. There may be a sensation of falling followed by a physical jerk back to wakefulness."
In English:
Some dude shook things up.
Use it in a sentence: A hypnic jerk rudely pulled Desdemona from a pleasant half-sleep.

Fiona says: Oooh, after all the folderol, and hauling over coals stops, what will I do?
Webster says: fol·de·rol 
noun: falderal
Umm... right. Falderal. THAT EXPLAINS IT. Except no.
Webster says: fal·de·ral
[fal-duh-ral] noun:
1. mere nonsense; foolish talk or ideas. 
2. a trifle; gimcrack; gew-gaw.
In English: Drama has become the norm for this woman, and she isn't sure how to function without it.
Use it in a sentence:
Selena stared at the cherub-patterned Persian rug idly, ignoring Kanye's folderol.

Fiona says: Conversation once colored by esteem became duologue as a diagram of a play for blood.
Webster says: du·o·logue
[doo-uh-lawg, -log, dyoo-] noun:
1. a conversation between two persons; dialogue.
2. a dramatic performance or piece in the form of a dialogue limited to two speakers.
In English: Seriously?! Using "Duologue" instead of "Dialogue" is way too pretentious.

Use it in a sentence: Never.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Make-Ahead Lasagna with Turkey and Spinach

LASAGNA!! I like to eat, but I don't like to spend hours in the kitchen. This is my new favorite meal because it hardly takes any time to make--but it's so tasty. Build the layers a day ahead and refrigerate overnight, then come home after a busy day and just throw the pan in the oven. I've spent weeks tweaking the recipe, and this is my favorite version.
1/2 lb. ground turkey
1 shallot, finely chopped
8 oz frozen chopped spinach (thawed, drained, duh)
1 container (15 oz) ricotta cheese at room temperature
1 can (14.5 oz) chopped Italian style tomatoes
1-1/2 cups Ragu roasted garlic spaghetti sauce

1 tsp. Italian seasoning

1 tsp. dried basil
9 lasagna noodles, uncooked
2-1/4 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
Grated Parmesan cheese
Cooking spray

Monday, December 5, 2011

Have Yourself a Gothic Little Christmas

Carol of the Bells is my favorite Christmas song, but it's far too short. I wanted to hear a version that didn't end after a blissful minute and a half. Seek on Spotify, and ye shall find... Goth Christmas music! Yeah, it's weird, but Winter's Knight by Nox Arcana sounds like Christmas in a music box in a castle made of ice and glass in a Bavarian forest. It's beautiful! If you can get past song titles like "Phantom Toccata" and "Hallowed Ruins," it's very pretty and--most importantly--concludes with a long version of Carol of the Bells.

Sounds like this...
But looks like this. Am I the only one thinking of direwolves and Winterfell?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Tropical Landscape Painting

It took three months, but I finally finished my first painting on canvas!  It's not perfect, but I learned so much as I worked, and I'm happy with it. After doing three paintings on paper, I realized I love doing it and will continue for the foreseeable future, so I began to invest in better supplies. Now I'm perusing the Dick Blick catalog as it it's Vogue, lusting after thick, buttery, densely-pigmented paints the way other women lust after Louboutins.
Hi. I made a thing.
I love the look of vintage paint-by-number paintings. It's fun to consider that the the mind needs to make sense of chaos, takes a group of colored blobs, and translates them into a recognizable image. It's like inviting Rorschach into your living room. Juxtaposing the casualness of paint-by-number with the seriousness of certain images amuses me. My friend Adam has asked me to paint Medieval religious iconography in this style for him, and I love that idea. But this piece was made for Keith, and he isn't as interested in the irreverent juxtaposition of images. But Keith wants to visit Hawaii, and he can't do it now. So for this piece, I combined the look of a paint by number with that of a postcard.

I used the "make your own paint by number" method I described before, but this time I worked from a stock image. Every step of the process was done by hand. After I made my template on paper, I transferred it to canvas with carbon paper and red pencil. Do you know how hard it is to find carbon paper nowadays?! It's also time-consuming; the tracing alone took about 5 hours. But I'm glad I did it. As I traced, I changed parts of the image and made it my own. Before, I painted directly onto my template, and it felt too impersonal.

When I began painting, the lessons began...  

First lesson: One's first piece on canvas probably shouldn't be twenty-four by thirty-six inches. Oops.

More lessons, a few more pictures, and what I did with it when I was finished...