Birthday Dinner Recipe: Fresh Pasta

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When Rem and I were on vacation, we celebrated my 55th birthday with a delicious home-cooked dinner.  I haven’t made pasta for years and years but love the slightly irregular, slightly chewy fresh noodles and knew it was part of my desired menu.  We also had flat roasted chicken, asparagus, and a yummy chocolate cake for dessert.

This was a fresh spinach and herb pasta which made beautiful, springy, green noodles but the flavor was pretty mild.  I will try it again with more herbs next time.

Here is a little slide show made from pictures of mixing the dough, rolling it out, cutting the pasta, and cooking it (some of the same photos are throughout the recipe as well).

Fresh Spinach & Herb Pasta

Adapted from King Arthur Flour

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3 cups fresh spinach and herbs (any combination of spinach, arugula, green onion, chive, basil, green onions or other fresh greens and/or herbs will work fine – we used mostly spinach,  with some very finely minced rosemary, thyme and some dried basil because we didn’t have fresh)

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt or coarse sea salt

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour, plus additional flour for rolling out pasta

2 large eggs, room temperature

You may need 1 or 2 Tablespoons water

Optional: Cornmeal for rolling out pasta

Directions:

Wash and dry your fresh greens and/or herbs.

Coarsely chop the greens and herbs and place in a sturdy bowl and sprinkle with the coarse salt.

Use a pestle, dowel or other implement to grind the salt and herbs together into a wet paste. (I used a metal spoon) and set aside.

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Mound the flour on your work surface.  Make a well in the flour with your fingers and crack eggs into well.  You can start with a fork but I just used my fingers to start mixing the eggs and flour together.

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Add the herb paste to the flour and egg mixture and continue mixing.  You may need to add a tablespoon or two of cold water to form a rough dough with no dry flour left on the counter.  However, I didn’t need any water.  The dough will be fairly stiff.

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Knead dough for 8 to 10 minutes, until the dough is smooth and springy.

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Wrap in plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature for 30 to 60 minutes. Note: you may also choose to do this in a stand mixer, or in your bread machine set on the dough cycle. If you use your bread machine, cancel the cycle after about 10 minutes of kneading, and remove the dough.

Divide dough into 4 pieces.  With a rolling pin, roll out 1 portion of dough at a time on a large cutting board lightly sprinkled with flour or cornmeal, rolling dough quite thin, about 1/16th of an inch, although I don’t think mine was that thin.

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Cut into narrow strips, or roll up the whole sheet and then cut.

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In these pictures, when I rolled the whole sheet of pasta before cutting, it should have been in a looser roll.  Be sure to unroll the cut pasta.

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Toss strips lightly with a little flour or cornmeal and allow to dry for 10 to 15 minutes before cooking.

If you aren’t going to use all the pasta, you should dry it for a few hours before storing.  I tried making nests, but my pasta was on the thick side and ended up sticking to itself.  I should have left it just spread out (or maybe hanging over a broom handle!)

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Meanwhile, bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil.  Drop the pasta in and cook for about 3 to 4 minutes, testing for doneness after 3 minutes.

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Drain the pasta, add a simple sauce or just butter and Parmesan cheese and serve.  We used a splash of heavy cream (left over from another recipe), some butter, Parmesan and freshly ground black pepper.

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Mangia!

Thanks for your visit.  Still to come: flat roasted (or spatchcocked) chicken and chocolate cake.

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Walking Sea Ranch & Turning 55

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I’ve celebrated another birthday at Sea Ranch and so far 55 agrees with me. Yes, I’m falling apart…

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…but slowly.

I managed a zipline course just days before my birthday which included both fear and fun in exhilarating measures.

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I decided to walk the length of the Sea Ranch bluff trail while on vacation, something Rem suggested and reminded me I’d done a few years ago. With my Fitbit I could log my steps and mileage and Rem agreed to drop me off and pick me so I wouldn’t have to backtrack. It is a beautiful way to experience the coast.

Sunday, March 1

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Walking north from the Sea Ranch Lodge on the first day I soaked in the gorgeous ocean views, the soothing sound of the waves, and the familiar smell of salt air and sage-like plants along the trail.

The trails here often seem like something out of a fairy tale, with bridges crossing small creeks, tunnels formed from wild hedges and seals barking on the rocks and in the water below the bluff.

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Rem and I weren’t sure our cellphones would work so I’d picked a spot to meet about 4 miles up the coast, where a short trail linked the bluff and the end of the aptly named (and currently blooming) Wild Iris street, near the White Barn.

Distance: 4.21 miles. Steps: 8,600.

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That afternoon, Rem and I baked my birthday cake, using the recipe I’d previously made as cupcakes: Chocolate Cake with Guinness. I remembered it being a delicious, moist cupcake, not too sweet, with a deep chocolate flavor and a slight earthy quality from the stout.

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Monday, March 2

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We started my birthday by driving down to Shell Beach (the beach closest to the house) to watch the sunrise. Low clouds thwarted that idea but once up and out, I decided to walk south from Shell Beach to meet up with where I’d ended the day before, Wild Iris. There are numbered trail posts that help to match your location with the map, though they don’t indicate distance, which is too bad.

Rem headed back up to the house and I headed down the coast for the first of two walks that day.

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Walking along I enjoyed some of the Sea Ranch architecture. Houses are in shades of grey and brown, like driftwood. From the street side, this one is tucked down into a berm and the grassy roof helps it to blend into the surrounding landscape.

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From the side you see skylights and the grass roof.

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From the ocean side it looks more conventional, with more skylights and plenty of windows to enjoy the view.

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Another house reminded me of photos I’ve seen of African rondavels.

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This house has a wall that is almost all glass. A little greenhouse-type structure in the corner protects the hot tub from chilly coastal winds while retaining the view.

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Once again, Rem and I met at Wild Iris. Back at the house I made one of my favorite breakfasts: a fried egg sandwich with bacon on a toasted English muffin, and Rem gave me the birthday card he’d made.

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Cheeky. But he can get away with it since 1. I love that he makes me laugh and 2. He gave me a spa day at Imperial Spa  in San Francisco for my gift.

Sitting in the window seat reading and crocheting on my very-slow-growing scarf was an important part of my morning.

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…as was putting together my birthday cake. I split the two cake layers to make four thin ones and layered them together with semi-sweet chocolate ganache.

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Buttercream frosting with instant espresso powder was the finishing touch. I did a crumb coat (thin layer of frosting to keep the crumbs in place), let it sit in the fridge a bit before swirling on a ridiculous amount of frosting. The leftovers went into the fridge to eat sandwiched between graham crackers.

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After lunch (open faced tuna melt with Swiss cheese), I went on the next bit of my walk. I started at the trail head by Shell Beach and headed north again.

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Rem and I met at the corner of Tide Pool and Sea Drift, not far from the Del Mar Center.

Distance: 4.73 miles. Steps: 10,728.

I brought The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman along on the trip and picked out “Flat Roasted Chicken” for my birthday dinner but instead of the tiny potatoes she fixed with it, I’d been wanting to make hand cut pasta for ages. So we did! I’ll write another post soon with more details on the spatchcocked chicken and fresh herb pasta. Suffice to say, it was a red-letter day dinner.

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It was ambitious and we were both tired after the busy day, but it was fun cooking together and both dinner and dessert were delicious. Rem surprised me with another gift certificate (for art supplies) and we finished the day with a soak in the hot tub.

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Tuesday, March 3

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Walking north from the spot I reached on Monday, I noticed the different textures of the landscape I was passing through.

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The views are often breathtaking and the path continued to unfurl like a story, hiding then revealing portions as I walked.

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I passed one of my favorite Sea Ranch homes, one whose interior I’d love to see, as well as others that caught my eye for their charm or quirky design.

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This huge play fort is carved out of trees and hedges and is large enough for me to stand in without stooping.

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For the 50th Anniversary of The Sea Ranch, historical trail markers such as this one have been added alongside the path.

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Although it isn’t part of The Sea Ranch, I wouldn’t consider this bluff-trail walk complete without a coda: the portion in Gualala Point County Park. I gave a small mental cheer when I passed the last numbered trail post, but continued on.

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I thought of my dad along this last section, remembering one summer when we both had our bikes at the house. We rode at different times of day, and would leave small offerings for each other at the last sign on the path just before reaching the beach. A pine cone or two stacked pebbles would be arranged for the other person to find on their next ride.

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I looked for pebbles to leave and thought about all the feathers I’ve found since he died. I hadn’t seen any feathers on the bluff, although until then I hadn’t been looking for them, and thought it would be nice to find at least one small feather.

Sure enough, I found just that: a tiny white bit of down, about the size of my thumbnail. I kept looking and found a second and then third itty bitty little feather. It made me laugh because if you asked my dad for a small portion at a meal, he would dish up about a teaspoon of lasagna or a single strand of spaghetti. Somehow, those three tiny feathers made me think he was saying, “One small feather? Here you go, is this small enough?”

Coming to the last curve, I took in the last gorgeous views.

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I found several small pebbles and left them at the sign by the beach.

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Walking back to where I was meeting Rem I saw several clusters of daffodils I’d missed before. We have daffodils blooming at home in San Rafael in two planter boxes on our patio. There are also daffodils in bloom in front of the Sea Ranch house and many other homes here, which makes me happy because they always remind me of my birthday.

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Distance: 4.66 miles. Steps: 10,323. (The extra part, in Gualala Point County Park, was 1.46 miles and 7,011 steps, which is reflected in my total distance).

This walk felt like a gift to myself that I unwrapped as I walked along.

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Thanks for stopping by.

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Zipline Anniversary Adventure

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Rem and I donned harnesses and helmets for another high-adventure experience. We started vacation on Friday, February 27, our 16th anniversary.  We decided to celebrate with a few hours ziplining up in the redwoods.

I’m not particularly fond of heights but I thought I could manage this and also have fun.  It was fun, exciting and scary for me and Rem agreed it was fun and exciting but he wasn’t scared.  There were frightening moments leaving the platforms for each zip, but the part that made my knees wobbly was standing on the small platforms, high in the treetops of often-swaying trees.

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Here’s Rem getting geared up. Helmets and gloves, plus a leather “brake” for the right hand that goes over the glove, complete the ensemble. We were at Sonoma Canopy Tours near Occidental which is part of Alliance Redwoods Conference Grounds. Though it is a Christian facility, you wouldn’t have known that from our experience.

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Each tour group has 8 guests and two guides.  Alina clipped us safely to the line and started us on each zip, and Joey received us on the platform at the end of each run.  Both provided training, safety information and guidance along the way and both used humor, encouragement and a balance of what TO do and what NOT to do. They also told us about the trees and plants we were moving through and reminded us to enjoy the beautiful views.

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Our group included a young couple who work at a ski lift in Mammoth and four women, part of a group of eight members of the board of directors of a nonprofit (the others followed in the next tour 20 minutes later) doing team building together.

The first training is done between two trees at the base of the hill.  Joey demonstrated his simple hand signals for slow down  or start braking - move your braking hand off the trolley (the metal part that slides along the cable) and put it flat on the cable behind the trolley and above your head, and for stop braking, so you didn’t lose too much momentum and stop before you got to the platform.  Parking brake means to grab the cable with each hand so when you do stop, you don’t start sliding backwards.

One by one we each stepped up on a small wooden step  (it looks kind of like a miniature picnic table) and Alina hooked the trolley, which was attached with straps to our harness, onto the cable, then clipped our lines to the trolley, directed us to put first the left than right hands on top of the trolley, and sit down in the harness.  She taught us how to straighten out if we started to turn (“steer with your wrists”) and if we did have to pull ourselves in, how to do that.  We each experienced turning, braking, parking brake and pulling ourselves back as well as a short zip down the training line which was just a few feet off the the ground.

We loaded up onto benches in the back of a pickup and rode way up the hill to the first platform for our junior zip (or “bunny hill” as Joey described it). This platform has railings and because it is on a hill, you just step out onto it.  So far, so good. We get clipped onto a line circling the tree (as we did at each platform along the course) and our guides tell and demonstrate the procedure again.  One by one, we each take our first zip – that’s Rem leaving the first platform and heading to the second.

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Looking out to the second platform, it looked kind of far away!  Even this junior zip felt quite fast and high up from the ground.

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Rem was breezily looking down over the edge and completely at ease on each platform (none of the rest had railings) while I would cling to the rope overhead that our lines were clipped to around each tree. I didn’t mind if other people were near the edge but every time Rem would crouch or lean to take a photo, I felt a little woozy and weak-in-the-knees.  My arms and shoulders were sore and tired last night and I realize that at least in part, that was because I was hanging on for dear life!

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Looking down from the second platform. It is about 80 feet up and the distance is longer from platform 2 to platform 3.  The ride is faster too.  Platform 3-4 goes over a 300-foot ravine and is about 300 feet long (as I recall).  It’s 500 feet to the next one.  The order of who went first for each zip changed.  I went first once – from platform 2 to platform 3.

I kicked the small landing step three times as I arrived, not slowing down quite as efficiently as I should have. Rem had to pull himself in once, as did some of the other lighter-weight guests or those who nervously braked too soon. Not an issue with me.  I watched Joey and only slowed when he indicated to.  One of the women in the non-profit group was quite anxious and did one tandem run (she was small and for this zip could have been stuck part way out on the line), but she made it the whole way through the course with all of us cheering her along.

Here is Rem departing on a zip. That platform looks really far away!  When Alina would ask if I was ready I’d think “if I waited until I was ready, I would be here for hours” and just take a deep breath and go.

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The next, and longest zip is 800 feet long. You can’t even see the next platform!  This is Rem coming towards the platform that I’m on.

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Getting a little closer…

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There are cameras mounted in one area, so we could buy a picture (Rem didn’t want his) taken on a fairly short zip.  I got brave enough to actually lift my hand and wave!

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Of course when we had a chance to look at Rem’s pictures, he’d caught almost the same thing:

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The next section from platform 7 to 8 was a spiral staircase climbing 30 feet up.  Joey went up with the first four people and Alina took the our group.  She’s the one with the yellow helmet.

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From there we crossed a 175′ long sky bridge, feeling every sway and swing as we walked.  I didn’t much like crossing this and the next bridge.  We were over a ravine.  I didn’t look down.

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You’re still attached the the line but the undulations of the bridge and the uphill climb at the end were a bit stomach-dropping.

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Our guides described the new Extreme course they are building with much longer runs, higher elevations and sky bridges that will be without railings and will have gaps in the planking.  No. Thank you, but no.  I’m so not interested!  Night time ziplining will also open with lights in the trees along the way.  I think not.

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Others were walking without holding on to the railings.  Rem was blithely taking pictures but I was holding tight to the cable. Well, I did pose once when our guide offered to take a picture of the two of us.

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The perspective is a little tricky in this picture – believe me, the ground looks much closer in the picture than it was in reality.

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This is just before the last zip.  From there, we had one more adventure to experience.

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From the final platform we rappelled 80 feet down to the forest floor.  Hanging on to the rope and stepping off the platform was looking like no fun at all.  You have to go to the edge of the platform and do this little maneuver so you end up with both feet on the edge, facing inwards.  Luckily, Alina had a nice trick that involved crossing my feet and swiveling around and I managed it without too much embarrassment. Once you’re off the platform it’s fine and I was glad to be back on the ground.

Here is Rem coming down.

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We celebrated our successful completion of the zipline course with a feast at Negri’s.

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You can have the whole dinner or just an entree and we decided to do the whole enchilada, so to speak.  Or maybe that should be the whole plate of ravioli.  With Rem’s fried prawns and my chicken Marsala we got minestrone, French bread, salami, green salad, bean salad, pickled vegetables, delicious homemade ravioli and then the entree! I had veggies on the side and Rem had french fries.

The door handles are giant utensils – appropriate for the generous meal.  We didn’t finish it all and will have leftover minestrone for a lunch or dinner at Sea Ranch.

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Ziplining wasn’t as scary (or uncomfortable) as skydiving.  It wasn’t the huge adrenalin rush either, but for me, it was more fun.  I’m glad I did both.  Here is a necklace I got after skydiving and had in my bag yesterday.

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Thanks for the visit! I’d love to read your comments.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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One Final Round of Valentine’s Cards (Including A Collage Workshop)

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My favorite craft shop in Marin, Once Around, offered a Vintage Valentine collage workshop with collage artist and author, Anna Corba.

We each got a sweet little packet in a stitched paper bag she’d made from old French newspaper that had several cards and envelopes, a piece of heavy watercolor paper and a postcard made of wood tucked inside to serve as the bases for our creations. She had several boxes of vintage-style images, mostly color copies of beautiful paper ephemera from her bountiful collection, and we could sift through to find just the right images, patterns and colors for each card we made.

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Anna showed us samples of her own work and talked about how she likes to work – letting each unique image speak to her, and working with a color palette based on the images she chooses.  We trimmed and tore the different pieces of paper and then starting moving the elements around like the pieces of a puzzle until we found a pleasing composition.  Anna walked around the table making suggestions and helping when someone was stuck.

She pointed out that a piece of darker paper along the bottom of the composition can be helpful to ground it, and it is nice to tuck a little surprise inside a card that coordinates with the design on the front. We also decorated envelopes, or in some cases, small paper bags, to make a matching set.

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During the last part of the workshop we were able to seal two of the collage designs (the thicker flat cards) with beeswax.  This was just lovely, though I wish we’d had more time to spend on it. First of all the scent of the warm wax is divine, and reminded me of a tiny chapel in Italy that had a huge arrangement of white lilies and was completely lit with beeswax candles . Brushed across the collage it added a dull sheen and faint golden color, saturating the paper and allowing some layers to show through others.

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In this card you can see the sheet music behind the other paper.  I wasn’t really able to capture the beauty of this technique in my pictures.

The downside is, you don’t always want a background paper to show through and by the time I learned that, I’d already created this card.  I wish I’d trimmed the wide striped paper so it wasn’t behind the puppy and kitten images.

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Anna had stitched this little sleeve using red thread and then cut a wide scalloped edge for the wooden postcard. After the class I was able to finish all the envelopes with paper brought home from the class and a few extra embellishments from my own stash. My style is busier and messier than Anna’s but I really appreciated and enjoyed the techniques she showed us in the workshop.

I don’t tend to use glue sticks but they are more forgiving then the tape rollers I favor.  Anna reminded me of a technique I’ve seen before but forget about: use a magazine you’re done with as your surface to glue on, keeping your work surface clean. As soon as a page is sticky, turn to a clean page. Once you’ve got your design pretty much set, maybe about 75% in place, she starts gluing the images down and uses a brayer to really stick things together.

My brayer has been sitting in a drawer, rarely used, but after the workshop, I got it out.  I also put an old magazine on my craft desk and started using these tools: a clean page for using when I put glue on a piece of paper, and the brayer to roll over the card and get it really fastened together.

After the workshop, I spent time on the little collage Valentine’s I was crafting. I’m sure I will use Anna’s style again on other cards, but these were the busy, multi-layered cards I’d been working on with bits taken from envelopes (the lining, stamps and postmarks), maps, old dictionary and textbooks, packaging, magazine pages, vellum, tissue paper, washi tape, vintage sheet music, calendars, newspapers, business cards, and other beautiful paper.

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Mini card fronts that I layered onto small place-cards and added embellishments and rubber stamped images.

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Little tags stamped on a paint chip.

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More tags stamped on vellum, an envelope liner, an old math textbook page and more.

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Little tags cut out, hole-punched and tied with pink string.

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Embellished cards.

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Two of the larger cards. It makes me happy to spend time crafting and I love when I put together a card and know exactly who it’s for.

I know Valentine’s day has passed but I just didn’t get it together to post these pictures sooner.  I wanted to share them with you and, as always, I appreciate you taking the time to stop and look at what I’ve put up.  Thank you.

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Art from the Heart 2015

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Rem and I exchanged handcrafted Valentine projects with each other.

Last year we did it a little differently and instead of each of us working on an item for the other, we created something together:

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I had an idea for a message for my project this year but hadn’t figured out a medium or design. Rem wanted to think about the whole thing and after doing a little research (at Michael’s) he agreed to another swap.  I am glad because I really love the items he’s made for me over the years and the little gallery of Art from the Heart we have on either side of our bed.

We worked on them independently and save the finished projects for Valentine’s Day. This might mean I hastily grab some paper to cover my project when Rem comes out of the bedroom or I might find glue out on the dresser after work.

My heart for him this year has a number on it.  I cut each tag out of aluminum flashing and used metal stamps to stamp the number on each tag.  I used ink to enhance the numbers.

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The rest I just wanted to look kind of mechanical and the antithesis of a lacy, flowery, sweet Valentine.

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It doesn’t actually turn or move (except the little tags with the numbers, which will swing on their pins if you tip the heart), but it looks kind of like it could do something.

I picked up different gears and wheels at Michael’s and also used a small roll with a gear on one end from a tape runner, covered in copper foil tape from the hardware store. A larger roll held ribbon before I covered it in aluminum foil tape. A few brads and buttons were from my craft supplies and I picked up a piece of aluminum flashing and a small brass knob at the hardware store.  That visit included a fun conversation with a salesman (I need to take the finished project back in to show him how it turned out).

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There is a small heart, which I punched from corrugated cardboard and covered with aluminum foil tape with wings that I also found at Micheal’s. A piece of foam core backed the aluminum flashing and I used gold embossing powder around the edge.

The number represents this:

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Rem told me he found two hearts, the larger one made of wood and the smaller one of foam.

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He wanted to cover them with something red.  He asked for help finding the red stones, which when he saw them, he said thought they were perfect. He got a bag with several shades of red, some translucent, some not.  I love the rich color.

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He looked for something smaller to put in the center to cover the smaller heart and found red beads.  He said he considered covering the base with aluminum foil before gluing on the glass stones, but decided he didn’t like how it looked.

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It is very sweet having someone craft something just for you and this shiny red-covered heart looks luscious, kind of like a cherry pie filling.

Thank you for you stopping by.

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Sometimes I Do

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Sometimes I get my  10,000 steps in a day. Sometimes I don’t.  Sometimes I eat Girl Scout Thin Mint cookies and read People magazine.  That’s just how it is.  Just wanted to be clear that I don’t always manage to get my steps in every day.

Last Thursday I had oral surgery.  The first 24 hours after the procedure I was using ice packs and sleeping quite bit. I took it easy for most of the weekend, napping and crafting.  I found my energy was fairly low.  Now I’m struggling to get back into my fitness routines.

I took a walk today.  Maybe I’ll manage one tomorrow.

Thank you for stopping by.

 

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Reward – First Bloom

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Just a day after the last post, the first little bud blossomed into this sweet mini-daffodil.  More green tips are pushing through the dirt and I expect another bud to bloom any day.

I tried to blur out some of the ugly background (chain link fence, etc.) because when I look at the flower, that’s all I see.  It is difficult to find an angle that doesn’t show the fence.

Thanks for stopping by.

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