Monday, November 24, 2008

A Day for Something Special

When I'm upset, I like to bake. It makes me feel as if I'm accomplishing something, the house smells SO good, and it makes everybody else happy. Usually I bake bread. I'm out of bread flour, so today I baked Apple Bars.

Apple Bars... what a pitiful name for something so sublime! These bars are seriously GOOD! If you try these, write me back with suggestion for a better name, OK?

Apple Bars

1/2 cup melted butter (1 stick)
1/2 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup old-fashioned oatmeal
2 baking apples, peeled, cored, chopped
2 cups coconut, divided
1 1/2 cups flour

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 9" x 13" baking pan and set aside.

In a medium bowl, mix the melted butter, white sugar, and brown sugar and stir well. Add the baking soda, salt, baking powder, vanilla, cinnamon, and beaten eggs and mix well. then add the oatmeal, chopped apple, and 1 1/2 cups of the coconut (the other 1/2 cup is to sprinkle on top before baking). Last, mix the flour in thoroughly.

Spoon the very thick batter into the prepared pan and smoooth it out, then sprinkle the reserved 1/2 cup coconut evenly over the top.

Bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, or until slightly browned on top. Check them at the earliest time as these bars must not be overbaked.

Cool, then cut into bars like brownies. Hide them from anyone with a ravenous appetite. The first time I made these, Jake ate half the pan in one sitting before I could stop him. Oh my!

Remember those beautiful I views I posted last week? Well, this is what it looks like today. Combine unrelenting fog with a bad mood and too much to do, and it is most definitely a Baking Day!

Because this day is *so* gruesome, I am going to "kick it up a notch" and make these bars truly decadent by topping them with some Vanilla Butter Sauce.

Vanilla Butter Sauce

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup cream
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons good vanilla

In a small saucepan over medium heat, mix the butter, cream, and brown sugar. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes or until slightly thickened. Remove from heat, then stir in the vanilla. Serve warm.

(Go easy on this sauce; it is VERY rich and a little goes a long way.)

By the way, not everyone shares my opinion about the weather. Solomon the llama is quite at home in it. He's such a character - he saw me with the camera and had to come investigate.

And then everyone ELSE had to come see what I was up to.

I think they were expecting food rather than a photo-op, poor babies. Let's see... the white blob on the left is Firebrand the alpaca, then Julianna, another llama. Lydia's old pony Penny is front and center, and if you look closely you can see Julianna's cria Beatrice peaking out from behind her hips. And of course, there is Solomon, whom you have already met.

I'm glad they came up to see me. My mood improved quite a bit, and I noticed that even though I was cold and damp, there was still beauty to be captured with my camera.

Even in November my garden isn't dead - the spiders are still busy at any rate!

I hope you all have a Blessed Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Diana's Sprite is finished

My daughter's best friend Diana is a delightful young woman whom I have had the pleasure of knowing since she was... oh... about 6 or 7. She is intelligent, articulate, artistic, and when she and Alice get together I simply can't hear fast enough to keep up with their chatter. I am going to miss that so much when they both go away to college next fall.

This is Diana getting ready for Prom last spring. Their theme was a masquerade ball, but instead of wearing a mask as the other girls did, Diana chose to do hers with her make up and a few embellishments.

I was so delighted by what she did that I was inspired to make a doll. I know posted in-progress pics of this one months ago, but the loss of my sewing machine meant I couldn't finish her wings. It's back now though (woo hoo - my baby is home!)so this weekend I threaded it up with some Sulky Holographic and let loose and finished those wings!

So, without further ado, here she is, wings and all.

I am extra proud of the appearance of her hands. Sherry Goshon gave me a few tips last fall and I can't believe the difference those few tweaks make in getting fabric and wire hands to look natural and "real".

Of course I couldn't stop with just a little sparkly thread, but had to add some microbeads and glitter as well as some interesting fibers. Why stop when you're having so much fun??

The real girl is more delightful by far, but this little creation makes me smile.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Day of the Dead Challenge Doll

Oh, how I struggled with this doll! Perhaps it was a certain internal discomfort with an unfamiliar concept, or perhaps I just didn't have a clue what I was doing, but almost every detail of her creation caused me headaches.

On the other hand, I now have a better handle on working with paper clay, and the basic techniques of tole painting finally "clicked". And I learned that pattern drafting isn't as complicated as I thought -- her whole costume was designed and drawn from scratch. I know, I know... princess seams are easy, but you have to start somewhere!

I really really like her in her "bald" state, but she doesn't look quite Dutch enough to suit me. What do you think?? (As always, please click on the photo itself to view it full size if you want to see more detail.)

She even has the proper footwear.

I looked ALL OVER the internet trying to find a pattern for her hat. I finally designed it myself by looking at photographs. It is made of silk chiffon -- the delft motifs are still clearly visible through the fabric. Those "wings" are starched within an inch of their lives, but are still a little floppy, so I will probably stitch in some fine wire so they are more posable.

She looks "Dutch" enough to me now, but I still really really liked her bald. Hmmmmm...

The buttons I bought for her bodice are gold colored. Once I held them up to get a preview of how they would look I realized that was a mistake; she needs white buttons. Back to the fabric store for me!

I am wrestling with myself over how much embellishment I want to add. On the one hand, the Dutch are a plain people. On the other hand, her costume is NOT authentic and the Day of the Dead is supposed to be over-the-top. Maybe a little embroidery around her bodice? Something in her hands? Definitely a neck ornament of some kind!

Still thinking...

Friday, November 14, 2008

A Beautiful Day

The poet may declare that a day in June is rare, but when it comes to sunshine in November in Oregon, that's about as rare as it gets. I got out my camera today to take photos of my Day of the Dead doll, but it was so beautiful I had to take it outside. What an incredible afternoon I had!

One of the cool things about living on a farm is that we share our little world with a LOT of other life. This hawk was just hanging out in a tree down by our creek. (Click on any photo to see it full size -- these small shots just don't capture the effect.)

He flew off when something caught his attention. I didn't think I would actually be able to catch his photo, but I did.

As I was walking around the barn, a blue heron flew by overhead. They are the most amazing things to watch in the air. There is something very prehistoric looking about them.

This flock of pigeons more or less lives on top of the hay barn. See the round thing casting a shadow in the lower right? That's a rock my father-in-law threw up there years ago trying to scare away the pigeons. That didn't work very well...

The cows don't mind them though.

And then there are the starlings that swarm everywhere. Generally I can't stand the rude, noisy, messy things, but they are so graceful as a flock on the wing... I have to appreciate the beauty they make too. (Starlings... ugh!)

This field across the road has had wheat, grass, corn, and hops growing in it in years past. Two years ago a vinyard was planted. The setting sun on the dying leaves shown like living gold.

I think grape vines have just about the most perfect leaves.

As I was admiring the leaves, this flock of geese flew over. They were having a high old time, honking back and forth to each other and swooping up and down their lines. Aren't they the funniest creatures?

If you turn around and look the other way, across our back field is Mount Angel itself, crowned by a Benedictine abbey. On a still morning we can hear the church bells calling the brothers to prayer. The "mountain" itself is only a couple hundred feet tall, but it stands all by itself in the middle of flat fields so it really dominates the landscape for miles.

The sun sets so fast this time of year. Looking back to the east I was able to catch the last little glimmer of direct sun just kissing the top of Mt. Hood. That's when I was reminded that it really *is* November after all and I wasn't wearing a jacket -- it got cold FAST.

As I turned to walk back to the house, I met Jake on his way in from the barn for the evening. He's pretty nice to come home to.

The Day of the Dead photos can wait until tomorrow. This day was too wonderful not to remember somehow.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Close, but no Cee-Gar

... as my Dad used to say, LOL. My little piece for a Halloween Challenge on one of my favorite groups tied for first place. In a run-off vote, it lost by *1* vote! I confess I would have liked to have won, but I'm pretty pleased with it regardless, and tickled to death that other people like it too.

The challenge was to do something "cute" for Halloween -- not beautiful, and it mustn't scare small children.


(Now, if you've been reading this for any length of time, you know by now that I don't do "cute". "Can't" might be the better word, LOL!)

Anyway, this little guy is based on an online class by Marilyn Radzat at That Creative Place for her Leaf Babies, though about the only thing he owes to her instructions by the time I got through with him is his pose. (If I ever get around to it, I will also rebuild his little coffin. I did the best I could, but it's really pretty crude.)

I have another Leaf Baby in progress, but he is currently suffering from a bad rash caused by unpainted texture medium, and is not ready for his close-up yet. Just WAIT until you see the little bed waiting for him!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Quick Update

I had hoped to post photos of my latest works-in-progress yesterday when my challenge was scheduled to be over, but my piece tied for first and is in a runoff voting to determine the winner. From what I hear, the voting is still tied, LOL!

Stay tuned!

Along those same lines, I hope YOU all voted today. No matter who wins, I am still so proud to have had a hand in choosing our next leader.