Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Whole Kit(ten) and Caboodle of Fall

It's going to be 82 degrees today.  This makes me rather cranky, because in my mind, late October should mean cozy fires, flannel sheets, hot cocoa, and sweaters.  Well, I'm keeping the faith, because the forecast for Saturday shows a high of 59 and a low of 33!  So I'm going to enjoy this warmer weather while I can.

At least the garden is responding to our increasingly colder nights.  We're ju-u-u-ust starting our flower blooming season.  Our gardenia bushes are blooming again. 

Our camellias...not the big, droopy, peony-like ones, but the smaller, delicate ones...are blooming, too.

Hostas are shooting up flower stalks.

Our front japonica bushes are just starting to unfurl the round orbs that will eventually turn into big black berries.

And oh, the fall leaves!  I love living in the woods!

To borrow a phrase from Karen Carpenter:  "[They've] only just begu-u-u-u-u-un..."

The berries are all turning...

And the turkeys are back!

Our town just had their annual hot air balloon festival, too.  It's small, but we love watching the colorful patterns drifting over us.

The cats are loving the prolonged warm weather, too.  Whether hanging out on the back deck...

...chillaxing in the warmth of the sun room...

...or generally making themselves comfortable wherever...

...they know how to enjoy life!

I hope you have time to slow down a little this week, too.  Enjoy the extended fall!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

This Takes the {Cookie} Cake

Todd and I drove to the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina this weekend to visit family and enjoy a little hiking.  In South Carolina the leaves are just beginning to turn, but that transformation is well underway just a bit north.

We hiked on beautiful paths...

...and through lovely valleys in the shadow of the mountains.

We saw lakes, rivers, streams, ponds, and waterfalls.

Huge trees - virgin hardwoods!

Smaller ones, too.

We enjoyed the sights...

...while staying clear of some less-than-friendly locals!

Todd's dog Borga came with us.  She can be a real pain to take on trips, because she's high-strung to the extreme.  She always cries en route to our destinations and then once there, too,  if kept in the crate.  However, she usually calms down after a nice walk, and she always like to pose in our pictures.

We had clear days and beautiful nights. 

It was a great trip!

We've been really, really busy lately, and I've only had time for one Halloween baked item:  a cookie cake baked in a 9" cake pan.  Now, if you grew up in the midwest, or at least in central Indiana, you knew the Original Cookie Co. in the Greenwood Park Mall. The OCC always had these amazing gigantic cookie cakes that I'd salivate over.  I never bought one, but had slices at the occasional birthday party.  With ice cream or without, the giant cookie cake never failed to satisfy.  The center was soft.  The outside edge was crisp.  The frosting was tooth-achingly sweet.  What's not to love?  Learning that I could make my own at home was proof that knowledge in the wrong hands can be very dangerous indeed! 

Not very spooky?  Perhaps you didn't notice the terrifying Halloween funfetti sprinkles I used!

It was so easy to make.  I used this recipe from Sally's Baking Addiction, just changing up the sprinkles. 

I piped buttercream frosting around the edge and in the center. 

It was really, really good - soft in the middle, crispy on the outside edge, just like the OCC, but fresher and, dare I say, tastier?  I recently made a batch of peanut butter chocolate chip cookies and learned that they, too, have a giant cookie cake version.  I think I know what my next post-holiday baking project is going to be! 

Have a great week!

Monday, October 13, 2014

A Mini Chair with Flair

I know that I have a lot of hobbies.  I don't have the time or energy to work on all of them, so I usually pursue one single-mindedly while the others languish, and then I move on.  Hobbies that have received my laser-focus include knitting, baking, insect collecting, photography, embroidery, writing, learning a foreign language, studying a specific period in history, puzzles, quilting, woodworking, bird watching, gardening, exercise, card-making, kayaking...the list goes on and on.  Some things overlap...I always have a puzzle going, a knitting project on the needles, and a book or two that I'm mid-way through.  Still, it's a handful trying to devote enough time to each hobby to assuage the guilt I feel for the money/time I've spent on half-finished projects that I push out of sight because I'm just not interested in finishing them in the moment.  Well, I've gone and added another hobby to the teetering stack.  I've fallen in love with miniatures. 

I've actually been interested in miniatures for a long time, but didn't think I could afford to indulge.  Then I discovered that I could make a lot of the furniture with a simple scroll saw, and many interior items with polymer clay.  Now, I'm not interested in dolls or traditional dollhouses.  What really inspired me was a Brambly Hedge-style tree house, found here.  I loved the fact that most of it was built from scratch.  For those who don't know, Brambly Hedge is a woodland creature-filled world sketched in a style somewhat similar to Beatrix Potter's.  Here are some photos from one of my books, showing the hollowed-out trunk:

The interiors are delightful - overstuffed and charming.

All of these little items can be crafted by hand!  To practice, I built my first piece:  a tiny overstuffed chair for a future living room.  The tutorial itself is here.  I'll just show you the progression of the piece, built completely with foam core and cardboard.  My chair isn't nearly as realistic or fancy as hers (real piping!), but it's much better than I expected it to be.  I hope I'll keep improving!

Shown next to Todd's iPhone for scale.  The chair is a little less than 3" tall.  The cushions are removable (squeal!).  I am in love with it, even with my many mistakes.  It was a fairly quick project...one hour plus a day to dry for the initial frame, and then a Saturday afternoon spent adding the arm supports and fabric.  I'm going to make another one soon, and as soon as I get some polymer clay...watch out!  Todd and I are going to start on the tree house rooms soon, too.  We're still trying to locate plywood that's the optimum thickness.

I also made a pop-up card for a friend's birthday last week.  Sharks can be so charming, can't they?

I hope you've been able to do something creative recently.  Have a great week!