It's cold and very wintery already in Northern Alberta - our first 'staying' snow landed on November 1st. Already the stores were being filled with Christmas decorations and reminders that we better get shopping early - The Countdown Has Begun! It is easy and fun to get caught up in the energy of the season and I am definitely one who likes to decorate early and watch The Grinch asap.
Growing up, Remembrance Day was honoured at school and talked about a little bit at home but I don't remember going to any of the city-wide services. However, my husband served in the Canadian Armed Forces when he was younger and views Remembrance Day as Sacred. My eldest son is heading in that direction as well, planning to sign up after graduation next year. So the significance of Remembrance Day is very close to our hearts.
This year, I created a Memorial Wreath for our front door using a wire form and burlap roll, and sewed on simple red poppies. This simple wreath is in honour of those who didn't make it home, those that did, and those yet to Serve.
Thank you, we will not forget.
Well ... not a fail!! [I don't think, anyways]
I haven't seen Deb and Lisa's results yet, but I think mine turned out alright! Yahoo! I have to admit that my confidence was mightily shaken after the last challenge. I can't quite rid myself of this nagging feeling that I am likely to come out in these challenges as the underdog. I could blame it on the fact that I have to do my challenges late into the night after the little ones are in bed, but the truth is, I'm just really, really impatient. Especially when things aren't working out and then I tend to say screw it, good enough. WRONG ATTITUDE! I think these public challenges are going to be a nice little life lesson for me.
Anyways, this project was a lot of fun. I felt pretty confident with my material of choice in terms of it's forgiving texture, but I really felt horrible when I looked at the name of the product after the fact. It was called Plastilina. I thought, oh great, here I am trying to radically reduce my use of plastic, and I've gone and bought a whole brick of the stuff. It's bad enough that it was encased in plastic packaging. I was in a rush, and it looked like the perfect material, so I bought it. I'm going to have to be a little less impulsive and more aware when I buy going forward. On a happier note, turns out that I'm not so sure what Plastilina is after all. According to the internet, it's made of wax, oil and clay flour. Is it compostable? I'm not sure. I hope so.
So, I started out really strong. I didn't have enough to make this a large project, which I came to regret as I tried to paint it. C'est la vie. I loved the result of the unpainted sculpture and it helped that family members kept saying it looked awesome!
The painting was the tricky part, especially with such a small surface. I tried using my husband's acrylic paints, but I'm so clumsy with the delicate writing via tiny paintbrush and the paints were dried out a bit and difficult to use. I switched half-way to a permanent marker. It was a lot easier to use, but by the time I was done, it looked amateurish and I was frustrated. My daughter came to the rescue! She agreed that it didn't look that great with the marker. A bit of honesty is refreshing sometimes, even when you are frustrated because -- dammit -- I was not going to fail again!
So I carefully scraped all the lettering off, grateful that I was using clay! I smoothed it out as best I could and started again. But it was about 10:45pm and I was freakin' tired! Gracie brought me some of her paints and we experimented not only with the paint dilution but also with its application.
Turns out the Wilton fondant tool came in handy again! I used the needle end like a fountain pen. It took awhile, but it was much better in the end. Finished it off with a coat of my daughter's clear top coat nail polish, and voila! I didn't get to bed till nearly midnight, but I went to sleep with my pride intact!
So without further ado ... here is my offering!
Until next time!
Oh for the LOVE OF GOD!!! NOT AGAIN!! Debbie and Lisa's look so AWESOME! Huge sigh. I see now what I need to do...less literal, more interpretive. Okay, okay. Apparently I'm a slow learner.
Until next time then. The Game is afoot...
Wow, what an interesting challenge!! Thanks Deb....hahaha
I think I spent about three times the time thinking about how to attempt this and making a plan, than the actual time spent creating it! Oooh what fun 😀 My only regret is that I didn’t have more time to spend on this little beauty – but I’m pretty proud of it none the less. I know Deb thinks she’s won this round, so I can’t wait to see what the girls have come up with!!
Thankfully I had most of the supplies on hand for this, and only needed to buy some air dry clay to do the pages on the book (total cost about $10).
I started by doing something that may seem a bit bizarre, I drilled a hole in the book pages on each side and screwed in some screws to hold the pages down – not wanting to glue down the every page for strength – time saver!!. Then I went outside and spray painted the book and the tree twig from my backyard white for an extra added feature ;D
Using polymer clay for the bones on the fingers with a wire stem for strength, I made each finger individually. I laughed a lot during this process! Baking them separately (not wanting to put the book in the oven) created its own challenges. They turned out to be almost all the same length...just like real fingers, right?!? Why do I keep having trouble with fingers, or things that look like fingers? LOL ‘Well, they’ll just have to work’ I told myself and set them aside!
After rolling out the air dry clay on wax paper and cutting the edges square to match the book, I pulled out my grand stash of rubber stamps and ink, and started my super spells!! That really was the most fun. Part truth, part inside joke, those were fun to create!! I set them over the pages of the actual book to dry overnight so they would have the right curve to them. The next day, I set out to assemble the parts and add a few extra touches. I used some sparkly nail polish to add some highlights to the page impressions, and hot glue fixed the clay pages, fingers and twig in place.
I signed my piece with one of my blackberry onyx spiders and called it a day!! One last feature is only visible in the dark...my piece de resistance!! NAILED-IT!!
Bring it on ladies!!!
VICTORY! Double fist pumps to the Max!! Turns out that having a plan and taking your time actually creates a better result…who knew?!?
I started this Challenge by purchasing a $4 hardcover book from Dollarama and a $3 block of DAS clay..everything else I had in the Craft and Nail Tech boxes in my basement.
I wanted to create a Spellbook that had spooky Witches Fingers instead of skeletons (can they read with no eyeballs? I don’t think so) and a Hallowe’en-flavoured spell. After a search on Pinterest, I found this well-known poem and thought it was perfect!
This project took me quite a while to make because of drying time – which broke up the project into do-able 1-hour creating chunks, exactly how I like to operate!
Creating the fingers was a little tricky for me, taking more time to shape in a way that would ‘hold’ the book but not interfere with reading the words. I used my hands as a template for size, forming crude fingers from wire as a base for the clay and then shaping. Once they were formed and dry, I painted them greyish with touches of brown and a watered-down green wash.
I created the nails with tips and gel nail colours and hot-glued them to each finger.
Dipping the hardcover book into a pan with very strong tea and then curling up the pages created the ‘old and used’ look that I had in mind. Fortunately, there were empty pages at the back of the book that, once dry, I could trace the poem in the font that I liked and then glue them into place. A few spider stickers and it was done!
Creating this Spellbook for Hallowe’en inspired me to keep going - I made two more signs and ‘poisoned’ apples to work with my Witch’s House theme. At the start of this project I was seriously doubting my creative skills, (the Autumn Cake from Challenge 1 kicked my butt!!) however….I think I have redeemed myself Here's my Spellbook set up!
Happy Hallowe'en and a Blessed Samhain to All !
Hello Friends! I am so excited for this next challenge...I am feeling the need to redeem myself after my disastrous Challenge #1 !!
I found this Halloween decor in HomeSense and loved it so much that I almost bought it! But...then I thought 'Wouldn't this make for a Great NAILED IT Challenge #2?'
Carla and Lisa are on board...So I invite you to create with us ~ share your Spell Book in the comments section below (whether it's a Victory or a 'we'll just put this in the basement' Creation, we want to see it!)
Happy Hallowe'en and Blessed Samhain to you all!
So here we go...the results of our first challenge!!
So, as I said in the prior posting, I had my sites and expectations set pretty high for myself before this attempt. Let’s just say it, WOW...cake and icing is hard to work with! I did a little research beforehand knowing that fondant or some sort of modeling substance was going to be needed here for the tree and leaves. It mostly came down to money and time for me and so making fondant was out. I found a recipe for a simple (or so I thought) Marshmallow Fondant that requires very few ingredients and one for Butter cream Frosting (recipes and links below) for between the layers and the outside the cake.
I began with a shopping trip to the store, and purchased two French vanilla cake mixes (my fav ;D) and a few extra ingredients that I didn’t have at home, like icing sugar and marshmallows.
I had also mentioned that I didn’t own any round cake pans, so I dug around my cupboard and brilliantly (if I do say so myself) greased up some individual Corning ware casserole dishes stashed away in the back! The small rounds measure 5.5” diameter, and the larger one is 8”. The cakes baked up beautifully, although because I was short on pans and simply impatient, removed every single one of them warm. In so doing, broke nearly everyone in half! That’s a problem icing can fix, right?! I set the cakes aside and let them rest overnight. That was day 1. It all started out so innocently...
Day 2 – Decorate. The Butter cream icing turned out quite delicious, although it required a bit of tweaking, and the colors weren’t great to match - I used liquid food coloring, where a food coloring gel would have made a difference. I applied a generous layer of icing between my 5 crumbling cakes, and secured them together with wooden kabob skewers.
I wasn’t taking any chances with the outer layer of icing glory, so I did a light coating of icing to act as glue and popped this bad boy in the freezer for three hours before attempting the final colored coating. Being cold definitely helped with this part of the process. I methodically slapped on the layers of color and tried to smooth out all layers of color at once to get that gradient blended look which as you can see is identical to the original...lol!!
Time to move onto the Marshmallow fondant...yikes! This was hard stuff to work with, and I only used about a quarter of the batch which felt like a waste, but oh well, lesson learned. My hands were coated in bright red, then a dark brown.
It took time and patience to get what details I did do, and I had to re-paint the leaves red a second time to get them to be red, not soft pink lol. And when all was said and done, the tree turned out more like a log of $#&% giving the middle finger!! Yep, count it, four fingers and a thumb, and the middle one is raised loud and proud!! Hahaha not on purpose I assure you! Needless to say, I won’t be going into the cake decorating business anytime soon.
Yep - Nailed-It!!!!
In a word…FAIL
My refined sugar-free cake started out with High Hopes, however the recipe was not a great white cake recipe to begin with and I think that was the beginning of my trouble. I used coconut sugar to replace the white sugar and added 1 tbsp of Pumpkin Pie Spice. The flavor of the cake was nice but, in my son’s words, “No offense..” (which guarantees that I will be offended!) “…it’s more like a pound cake than a white cake”. Ouch! And yet, he was absolutely correct. *sigh
I used an Avocado Chocolate Ganache for the filling, which was absolutely delicious! I used the ganache to create the tree on a piece of parchment paper and chilled in the freezer – it worked! Unfortunately, the flavour didn’t really go well with the pumpkin pie spice.
The icing was a bigger challenge than I expected! I started out with using a flax seed egg recipe to create a meringue. It used white icing sugar though, so I used maple syrup..that didn’t work. I don’t know what I did wrong, but it didn’t fluff up at all. Second try was a recipe for Buttercream Icing from Martha Stewart’s website..the flax seed egg fluffed up beautifully! That is, until I added the maple syrup and butter.
Third try was an Aquafaba meringue creation…and I gave up on the maple syrup and just used icing sugar. But only ½ cup, so much less than a regular icing! I coloured it with Wilton colouring and just went for it!
The flavor of the meringue icing was actually pretty good, very light! Unfortunately, the combination of ganache, pumpkin pie spice and foam was NOT a winner.
I think the Final Creation picture actually looks better than it did in real life. It was tasted by everyone and the kids took a piece in their lunches for school the next day…when the foam icing had dissolved in a puddle at the base of the cake. All I can do is laugh…
Until Challenge #2...
Omigosh. It looked so doable.
I started out super strong. Got my layers in order, did a crumb coat ... I was pretty confident when I started in on making my icing. And actually pretty proud of myself because I never take the time to do a crumb coat and usually regret it.
Also, I bought fondant for this! No problem, I could make the tree and the leaves and it would look soooo professional!
My cake was leaning like the Tower of Pisa, but as always, I thought “Oh, I can just fix that with icing.” What's the definition of madness? Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results? [insert maniacal laughter]
I carefully applied the yellow icing. Pretty tough to get smooth, but I thought I'd not worry about that yet. I cleverly piped on the other colours, ready for the final sweep around with my professional level Wilton spatula.
It looked not bad! Sure, it was still obviously leaning and there were some bald patches and a few chocolate crumbs that had escaped their coat, but on the whole, not bad!
I mixed the cocoa into the icing and it firmed up enough that I thought, hey, why bother with the fondant? I'll just roll this stiff buttercream and shape it onto the cake!
And it looked pretty good. For a bit.
Actually, it looked a bit like a creepy hand climbing up the side of the cake, but I figured the leaves would be able to make it look more 'natural'.
I figured out the fondant. Not quite the rusty red I was going for – more the colour of a tongue -- but maybe if I rolled it out with some cocoa powder, it would darken it a bit. My Wilton fondant knife didn't work as well as I had hoped, but I found the other end worked pretty well – less knife, more like a thick needle.
As I was working with this, I noticed that the icing on the cake looked a bit ... lumpy. To my utter dismay, it was kind of just wilting. Melting down the cake. The tree was too heavy and it wanted to fall and take the cake with it. Aack!
I quickly put it in the fridge to slow it down. I just needed it to hang in there for the photo shoot!
By now I had some pretty sad looking leaves, and thought, what the hell ... just get them on the cake. Out came the cake again, and I just started piling on the leaves. I wasn't really even looking at the picture at this point, which is pretty obvious when you see how many leaves I put on my version. I was hoping they would cover a multitude of sins.
And now I was glad no one was nearby because I started killing myself laughing. I couldn't stop. I texted Deb and Lisa and here's a quick transcript.
Me: Omigosh, I can't stop laughing!!! [Laughing/crying emoji] I started out strong, but holy crap ... it's a mess!!! I'm going to have to rely on some pretty amazing lighting for the photo shoot.
Deb's response: Hahaha I'm sort of happy to hear that.
Lisa's response: I totally just laugh sprayed chocolate all over my phone.
Without further ado, here it is...
I can't wait to see what they came up with after all this. I know Deb's warned us that hers did not -- to put it delicately -- turn out quite as she had hoped. Lisa? I have no idea. It's probably perfect, damn her.
At least I know it will taste good.
or...Changing the Holidays to Follow the Earth's Natural Cycle.
In the years since my spiritual path diverted from the mainstream religion I grew up with, we have changed the traditional cultural holidays of Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter to follow the Earth-based observances of the Wheel of the Year. With the exception of Hallowe'en (which has definitely grown into a money-making beast of its own!), these Big Three holidays seem to get the bulk of the advertising dollar and have been a big part of our lives!
These holidays conveniently follow the pagan sabbats rather closely - we have just shifted the focus to align with our Earth-based path.
Thanksgiving has been replaced with Mabon. This is our time to give thanks for the Summer Harvest, a feast with family and like-minded friends around the Autumn Equinox in September. The date adjusts to suit everyone's schedule and we enjoy good food and fellowship as we adjust to new schedules and relax into the Earth's journey towards her Winter Sleep.
Yule begins the Return of the Sun - we really feel the loss of sunlight as the days grow shorter and colder during Autumn...I can imagine how our first ancestors must have wondered if the Sun would ever return..what joy must have been felt when they realized that the days were getting longer again! So that is what we honour, the gift of sunshine and the promise that spring and summer will come again. We gather for a special dinner on that Darkest Day, embrace the quiet and light candles symbolizing the light's return.
We celebrate the Magic of Santa a few days later, decorating with stockings, a tree, presents and enjoying our time together as a family.
Ostara is probably my children's favourite. On that still-cold First Day of Spring, we wake up very early and gather with friends to await the Dawn. We cheer when those first rays of sunshine appear! Followed with a Pancake Breakfast, a chocolate egg-hunt, the movie Hop (love that one!) and lots of hot coffee!!
Adjusting the mainstream holidays that are focused on in school, tv shows, shopping malls, etc to following what the Earth is naturally doing has changed the seasons for me personally. My connection to the Earth has deepened, I no longer dread the long, cold winter to come. Right now, Mother Earth is going into Her resting time and I will wait for the Sun's return as patiently as possible until the promised Spring.