Let me off the grid! A journey toward artful, holistic living in the middle of Sin City...

A journey toward artful, holistic living in the middle of Sin City...

Friday, December 28, 2012

Thrift Store Love and Cookies...

A little voice told me to stop into the Deseret Industries thrift shop this morning while I was out doing errands.  This is the first time I've been in there and I was specifically looking for a bowling ball to create this:

I have the pennies.  Where to find a bowling ball...which I found on Pinterest from a friend's page, the tutorial for which you can find here.

Not only did I find a bowling ball (complete with ugly bag, which will go right back to a thrift store, unless my daughter wants it), but also a wonderful glass decanter that I can use for my vanilla extract that I'll be making as soon as my vanilla beans arrive, AND a 100% wool plaid blanket that I intend to throw in the washer and dryer to felt so I can cut out shapes to make a garland.
Total price for these goodies:  $10.  Happy dances.

Now onto my new favorite cookies:  chocolate gingerbread drops.  The recipe arrived in the holiday King Arthur Baking Catalog.  I love these so much!

Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies

1 3/4 c. flour

1 tsp. baking soda

2 tsp. ground ginger

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. cloves

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

1/2 tsp. salt

1 T. cocoa powder

1/2 c. butter

1/2 c. brown sugar

1/2 c. molasses

1 c. mini semisweet chocolate chips

sugar (I used the sparkling sugar from Wilton that you can buy at JoAnn's)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Grease cookie sheets. 

Combine the flour, baking soda, spices, salt, and cocoa. In a separate bowl, beat the butter with the sugar until light and creamy.  Add the molasses and beat until combined.  Beat in the dry ingredients, then stir in the chocolate chips.

Scoop the dough a tablespoon at a time, and roll the top in the sugar.  Place the unbaked cookies 1 1/2" apart, sugar side up on the cookie sheets.

Bake for 10-12 minutes until their surface begins to crack.  Remove from the oven, cool on the pan for 5 minutes.  Transfer to a rack and cool completely.

Yield: 30-32 cookies

Recipe from the King Arthur Flour catalog

I really, really wish I knew how to put a "print" box around my recipes so that it would be easier for you to copy.  If anyone knows how to do that, please let me know!

Off to mix the ton of documents I shredded this morning into the compost pile... 

Friday, December 21, 2012

Dear Wal-Mart:

You suck.  I didn't much like you anyway, but now I'm sure I will never patronize your stores.

Nothing would please me more than to see you bastards go bankrupt.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Various and Sundry

There are two new arrivals at our house (both inanimate, praise the gods).  The first is a bamboo bread box:
outside of the bamboo bread box

bread box with 3-day-old Trader Joe's rosemary bread that is STILL soft!
Believe it or not, I awoke one recent morning thinking about bread boxes and wondered why people don't use them anymore.  The best answer David and I could come up with is that they put so many preservatives and crap into bread these days that they are no longer necessary.  I mean, why would you need one to keep Wonder Bread fresh when it has a shelf life of 28 years.  (Yes, I guess that is hyperbole.  David says I use hyperbole more often than necessary.)  Well I looked up bread boxes online and discovered that putting bread in the refrigerator actually dries it out faster than if you just leave it on the counter.  AND bread boxes keep bread fresher longer.  So, since I love to make my own bread (no Wonder Bread in this house, thank you very much), nothing would do but that I procure a bread box immediately.  This one is bamboo and boasts that it is naturally antimicrobial and made of 100% organic bamboo.  Sounded good to me.  Also, the price sounded pretty good - $29, plus shipping.  It was supposed to arrive right around Thanksgiving, which it did not.  I contacted the company 5 days later and was kind of whiney about it.  They apologized and said, "How about no shipping charges?"  Good customer service is what I said.  So it arrived a couple of days ago and it really works.  That rosemary bread is usually hard as a rock after 2 days.  It is still lovely.  Big happies.

Here's what arrived today:
The Whispermill!
Ooooooh, aaaaaaaahhhhh!!!  I've been wanting one of these for a long time.  It's so wonderful to grind your own flour.  And to celebrate, I mixed up some of these:
Gingerbread Scones
Tasty out of the oven, but even better the next morning.  I'll let them sleep in the bread box overnight and have one (or 3) for breakfast tomorrow.  I know you want to make some of your own, so here is the recipe:  (If anyone knows how to put this in a little box with a "PRINT" button, would you please tell me how?  I saw that on someone's blog, but I can't remember whose and I thought it was pretty cool)

Gingerbread Scones
2 c. flour
3 T. brown sugar
2 t. baking powder
1 t. ginger
1/2 t. cloves
1/2 t. allspice
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1/4 c. butter
1 egg, separated
1/3 c. molasses
1/4 c. milk
sugar for sprinkling
In a large bowl, combine the first nine ingredients.  Cut in butter with a pastry cutter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Make a well in the center.  In a small bowl, stir together egg yolk, molasses and milk.  Add all at once to the center of the flour mixture.  Stir with a fork until combined.  Knead dough on a lightly floured surface for 10-12 strokes or until nearly smooth.  Pat dough into a circle; cut into 8 wedges.  Beat egg white until frothy; brush over tops of scones and sprinkle with sugar.  Bake on an ungreased baking sheet at 400 degrees for 12-15 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes before serving.

Now, here are some things that happened when I made these.  I added a 1/2 c. of currants.  And after I put them in the oven I thought, "Oh, a little orange or lemon zest would have been good."  But, too late.  File that away for next time.  Also, the original recipe says that the dough may be a little stiff after adding the wet ingredients.  Ha!  So sticky when I turned it out onto the board, I had to add about 1/2 c. of flour.  Also, I put the dough onto the cookie sheet and then pressed it into a circle instead of trying to lift the circle off the board.

I have to go now because the scones are whispering that they would be a lovely bedtime snack and I am inclined to agree...

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Fish Update

No one has come forward to claim responsibility for the gifting of the  mystery fish.  They now have a proper home:
The mystery fish
and are providing hours of entertainment for Sophy:
What the hell is that???


I came downstairs at 4:30 this morning to let Murnie-the-Dog out, and noticed a plastic bag wedged under the courtyard gate.  In bare feet on cold concrete I walked closer to investigate, and found:
What is this?  Goldfish?  It's not bad enough that we're taking in stray dogs and feeding stray cats?  Now the goldfish are saying, "Hey, jump in the bag and follow me!  I know a great place where we can live?"  Seriously?  Why goldfish??? 

Saturday, December 1, 2012


Do you know what these are?  If you're from Ohio, I know you do.

These are buckeyes.  Not the kind off the tree, but lovely peanut butter-chocolate goodness.  I just got finished making a ton of them to give as gifts, along with rum balls (those were last weekend) and peppermint bark.  There hasn't been this much sugar in my kitchen since last December.  Kind of scary...

I KNOW you want to make these, so here's the recipe:

Mix together very well:
1 lb powdered sugar, 1/4 lb melted butter, 12 1/2 oz jar peanut butter (smooth or crunchy - I always use smooth, so I can't vouch for the results when using crunchy).  Form into balls the size of buckeyes (or walnuts, for those of you who are not acquainted with buckeyes).  Refrigerate overnight or until firm.

THEN, melt 2 1/2tablespoons of paraffin wax in a double boiler with 1 cup of chocolate chips.  Put toothpick in peanut butter ball and dip in melted chocolate.  Put on waxed paper and cool.

Big smiles, sticky fingers.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

I love autumn...

Delicious satsumas from the co-op and walnuts from my friend, Marilyn.  Life is good...
That nutcracker has been in my family for as long as I can remember.  It was such a joy to pull it out of the drawer where it's been stashed for years and put it to use.

Monday, November 12, 2012

A new family member...

David with Rosko the Dog
This little guy appeared in our cul-de-sac about a week ago looking lost and very frightened (the dog, not my husband who is holding him).  He figured out how to get into our back yard and stayed huddled in a corner by the wall.  We put out food and blankets for him, speaking gently and trying to make friends.  Saturday, David was sitting outside reading and suddenly felt someone pawing at his leg.  He looked down and our new little friend jumped right into his lap!

We're pretty sure that someone just abandoned him because the poor thing spent a lot of time standing in the cul-de-sac staring at the main road.  Plus, he's housebroken and is such a joyful thing, now that he's not terrified.  The thought of someone abandoning an animal fills me with outrage.  How could anyone be so heartless?

I have to admit that a chihuahua is not the sort of dog any of us imagined owning, and we really weren't looking to add another animal to our menagerie, but we can't turn away someone in need.  Besides, how could we resist those ears?

Sunday, October 21, 2012


Freakin' HUGE apples.  The size of my two fists together.  Got 'em from our co-op yesterday and now it's all about apples.  Apple butter cooking in the crock pot.  Apple bread baking in the oven.  Apple compote on the pancakes this morning.  Apple pies this afternoon.  Apples to eat with friends.  Yep.  Thirty POUNDS of apples...

Monday, October 15, 2012

Tuesday, July 31, 2012


Hurray!  I actually finished the second mitten last night, but was too tired to post the picture.  Other fiber news:  I finished spinning/navajo plying the second bag of the dreaded turquoise mohair (looks just like the first skein, so I'm not posting another pic), spun/plied some lavender/pink/blue wool that had been sitting on a bobbin for ages, and am currently spinning some black wool roving with some sparkly stuff that will be a novelty yarn (pictures of that when it's finished).

We went to Venice Beach and spent four glorious days away from the Las Vegas blast furnace, walking uncounted miles all around this bit of paradise.  Here is a view of the Grand Canal:
Earlier that evening, my husband and I encountered this fellow on the Venice Pier:
Everyone was madly snapping pictures (me included) and he just hung out like a rock star:

It was quite an experience to be so close to him.  Doesn't he look prehistoric?  And that wingspan was enormous!  You'd better believe that we all made way when he spread those wings...

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Portable Writing Desk

I have been searching for a portable slope writing desk for quite a while.  At last, I discovered one one Ebay.  Mark, the seller, was willing to negotiate on the price and last Tuesday it arrived:

It is about 160 years old, mahogany, weighs a ton, in beautiful condition, and exactly what I was looking for.  The felt on the writing surface needed to be replaced.
So I did:
This is what it looks like on the inside:

There are two pull out drawers under the cubbyholes, but you can't really see them in the picture.  The original key was lost.  I went to a nearby locksmith, who suggested I go to Gene's locksmith shop, which is not too far away.
This is Eric,
who hand filed my key.  He is of a disappearing breed - a locksmith who loves antique locks and taking the time to create things by hand.  Here is the beautiful key he made:
It works perfectly.  Needless to say, I love my treasure and use it every time I write a letter or practice my penmanship.  I believe that things like this should be used, not sat on a shelf to collect dust.  I like to think about all the letters that were written on it in the past and the lives of the people who used it.  Now my desk will have new memories to collect...

Sunday, July 8, 2012


Starting the second one tonight...

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Fiber Update

The mitten is almost finished!
my first mitten, minus thumb
Yes, I am fairly impressed with myself, thank you very much.  By tomorrow I hope to have it finished and a start on the other one.  Happy.

More fiber news:  remember the hideous mohair?  Well I got it plied.  It looks pretty nice.  One more bag to go.  AND there is a challenge going on at my favorite yarn shop to create a skein of novelty yarn, which I did.
novelty yarn on top, mohair on bottom
Guess what the novelty yarn is???  A couple of years ago, one of my students brought me a bag of fluff and asked if I could spin it.  I told him that just about anything could be spun and asked him what it was...tee-hee...the stuffing from a baseball!  I found it recently at the bottom of the cedar chest and decided to spin it up.  It's plied with some wool pencil roving that's been sitting around for eons.  Ta-da!  Novelty Yarn :)  The best part?  I used up two things in the chest that were just taking up space.  Two down, 399,999,999,998 to go...

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Mitten update

Behold, the Thumb Gusset:
Yes, I'm fairly tickled with myself, though I know only too well that pride cometh before a fall.  Who knows what the yarn demons have in store for me...

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Knitting with Sputnik...

That's what it feels like whenever I try to knit with double pointed needles.  After wrestling with this at my favorite yarn shop last night, I have gotten this far:
This is the beginning of my first mitten.  I am determined to learn to make mittens (because God knows we need them in Las Vegas at this time of year) and to knit them on dpns (because there's just not enough stress in my life).  And also because mittens are on my 101 Things to Do in 1,001 Days list.  Watch for updates...

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Abandoned Art

Here's my latest thing - it goes by different names, but basically you make art and then leave it as a gift somewhere for someone to find.  My blog friend, Palma invited me to the Facebook Art Abandonment  group.  Here is more information from Michael deMeng, who began the group.

I am ready to send my first pieces out into the world, where I hope they will be loved.
"Enjoy the Mystery" ATCs
ATC envelope
abandoned art message
It will be interesting to see if there is any response...

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Mohair...the Bane of My Existence

If you've checked out my 101 Things To Do in 1,001 Days page, you may have noticed that I have a lot of fiber that needs to be spun.  A LOT.  Well, I've been working on this turquoise mohair for ages and finally got one bag spun.  I hate mohair.  I don't even know why I bought this.  It's fuzzy.  It gets in my nose.  It's slippery.  Maybe it was the color.  I can't remember.

So I finished spinning one bag using my drop spindle.  I decided I wanted to Navajo ply it, which is an amusing technique and gives you a beautiful 3-ply yarn.  Surprise.  Each time I began to ply, the yarn would break and there went my spindle, rolling across the floor.  (Yes, there's a reason they call it a drop spindle.)  The only way to fix the problem was to take it off the spindle and re-spin that shit so it had a TON of twist to it.  Which I did, cussing the whole time. 
mohair in mid-re-spin
Finally, I got to the fun part and did the Navajo ply.
Navajo ply on turquoise mohair
Guess what?  I have to do it again because here's another bag of this s*#@!  Did I mention that I hate mohair?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Modern Times

This is my Seurat/Lichtenstein take on Charlie Chaplin.
Last Friday evening the husband and I went with some friends to the Henderson Pavilion to see Chaplin's Modern Times.  The Henderson symphony orchestra played Chaplin's original score, so it was a double delight.  The only thing I could have done without was sitting in the intense heat - it was 106 degrees, and that was at 8 p.m.  Welcome to summer in the desert...

I'm sure that Mr. Chaplin would be pleased to know that people of all ages are still watching and enjoying his work!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Announcing: A New Page

Hi, all -
After looking at my poor, neglected mail art blog, I decided to just get rid of that blog and create a new mail art page on this blog.  I figure that if it's on my regular blog, I might be better about posting things.  This is the idea, however optimistic it may seem.  I will try to do better.  Anyway, on this page you will find pictures of cool mail art I receive and cool mail art I make.  And anything else I think is interesting and pertains to snail mail.  So don't forget to check it every now and then if this is something that interests you, OK?  The tab is at the top and says "Mail Art".  If you can think of a better name, let me know...

Monday, May 21, 2012

And the winner is...

selected by, Simona Cordara!  Simona, please contact me with your snail mail info, and my altered book will be winging its way to you very shortly!

Thank you everyone for visiting my blog during the party.  I look forward to getting to know you all!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Oh. Hell...

You know that the "real" world is encroaching when your laundry eats your couch...
horrifying view of my couch last night
Fortunately, I was able to dodge a sock trying to snake its way around my ankle and escape to my art room where I made these:
op art postcard

another op art postcard
Unfortunately, today I absolutely must address the laundry situation, as my work environment is not clothing optional and summer vacation is still three weeks away...

Thursday, May 17, 2012

All Together Now!

Hello, party-hoppers!  My name is Julia.  Welcome to my blog.  Pull up a pillow and be comfortable.  Sip some tea or a glass of wine, depending on your mood.  Feel free to snoop around.  (I love snooping - don't you?)

Amy insists that we speak glowingly about ourselves and I've been pondering what to say ever since I signed up for this party.  I guess what I like best about myself is that I'm never bored.  Really.  Never.  I'm one of those people who can't wait to retire (5 more years!) because I have so many things to do besides work.  Two things I do consistently are play in my garden and play in my art room. Every day.  Sometimes for hours and hours.  Like I'll still be in my pajamas and it's 6 o'clock at night and all I've been doing is painting and collaging and making a mess.  Some things I do for a little while (Kung Fu - I have a second degree brown belt, playing in the SCA, making and selling baskets).  Some things I keep coming back to (belly dancing, knitting, drumming - frame drum and doumbek).  I love taking classes just to learn new things (Italian, jewelry making, dance).  It's important to me that I keep finding my boundaries and walking along those edges.  Of course, all this adventuresome learning and experimentation have left me with many more unfinished projects than I'd like to admit.  And sometimes the unpleasant thought crosses my mind that this behavior is not admirable - that it is the sign of adult ADD.  (Good gods, am I really suffering from "Shiny Chicken Syndrome"??? I think I'll choose to call it "bohemian" and leave it at that...)

Well, one project that I did finish was my giveaway for this party. (Yes, I can finish a project when I really put my mind to it!)  It's an altered board book.  Here are a couple of pictures:
the cover
one of the spreads
 Elsewhere in my blog I've posted a picture of another spread.  And there are two more pages, plus a surprise, but I'm not going to post those pictures because then it wouldn't be a surprise now, would it?  If you'd like a chance to have this book for your very own and find out what the surprise is, leave me a comment telling me where you'd go if you had a time machine.  I'll choose the winner through on May 21, so be sure to check back here.

Thanks again for visiting.  Now I'm off to visit you!  Party on...

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

RIP - Maurice Sendak

Thank you, Mr. Sendak.  You will be missed.

What is your favorite Maurice Sendak book?  While I love Where the Wild Things Are, I think my favorite is Outside Over There.  Something about brave "Ida, with her wonder horn" who dares to face the goblins in order to rescue her baby sister really appeals to me.  I love the hero's journey.  Such a strange, atmospheric, lyrical book.