One Man’s Trash…

I’ve been dreading this.

Honestly, I don’t even know what to say about the whole portfolio review experience. The following anecdote probably sums it up pretty well.

When I got home from the conference on Sunday, my husband was helping me bring my things in from the car.

He: I wasn’t sure where you wanted your portfolio.
Me: In the trash.

Now that a few days have passed, I realize just how ridiculous that statement is. I mean, throwing out all that paper would be wasteful and environmentally irresponsible. I should probably just give it to one of my cat-owning friends to line their litter box with.

My portfolio review was with an AD from Abrams. Among his accomplishments are art directing the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series and giving two workshops at the conference. He also finds bacon delicious.

Sorry, I felt the need for a non-sequitur there.

He was friendly. Seemed to like me. I mean, why wouldn’t he? Everyone loves a neurotic Jew. Well, except for maybe Mia Farrow. But, I digress.

From the beginning, I got the distinct feeling that he didn’t much care for my work. Not that I can blame him. I wasn’t happy with most of the pieces I included. But unexpected surgery (and a decided lack of talent) kind of put the kibosh on my plans to clean up my older work and create new, better work. So, he was mostly looking at (to put it nicely) junk.

Izzy the Dog did not go over well. He was lukewarm toward Everett the Owl. The only pieces he really seemed to care for were what he called the ‘funny stuff’. Also, known as the not-quite-kid-appropriate stuff and the there’s-really-no-use-for-this-other-than-to-put-it-on-my-blog stuff.  He also told me there’s no money in this business.

Sigh. The old ‘don’t quit your day job’ routine. Well, the joke’s on you, Mr. Art Director, I don’t have a day job!

There were a few positive nuggets amidst the rubble. He was impressed by my ability to give myself assignments…and complete them. He also said I had interesting stories (talk about a non-sequitur). And he complimented me on being able to (water)color inside the lines. Okay, even the positive stuff is starting to sound bad now, so I’m just going to stop.

Oddly, when it was all over, I didn’t feel so bad. I went to my next workshop, schmoozed with another artist, sat through the final keynote. All was right with the world. I left the conference, started driving toward home, let it all sink in, and…bawled like a baby.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

 

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Daily Sketches : Henry the Goose

So, I was sketching this goose and decided to make a quick color version for Sir (I like to give him little watercolor doodles – usually when I pick him up from school). He asked me what her name was. I told him that I didn’t know. He then told me that her name is Henry. Not exactly what I had in mind, but we’ll go with it.

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Daily Sketches : Turkeyfoot(less)

The fact that I am able to sketch anything at all right now means one of two things. Either the full impact of my portfolio review hasn’t hit me yet or I have somehow grown an ever-so-slightly thicker skin. More on that later. Maybe.

Anyway, here is a turkey who, because I apparently can’t draw the nethermost extremities of poultry, is missing his feet. This actually isn’t for a Thanksgiving illustration, but for another project I am working on (because I am a glutton for punishment). Again, more on that later.

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Fused, Slumped, and Pretty Sweet (if I do say so myself)

Hey, kids, I have finally emerged from my drug-induced haze! Hooray!

The post-surgery pain hasn’t left me completely, but it is manageable with just a little Advil here and there,which means I can now spend (most) of my day in an upright and un-looped condition.

To be honest, I don’t remember a whole lot from last Tuesday through about Saturday. It’s all kind of a jumble of painkillers,  blood,  Arrested Development, ice packs, and pudding cups.

While I was convalescing, my husband was kind enough to go and fetch my finished fused glass pieces from the class I took two weeks ago. I was so excited to seem them. (Well, as excited as one could be while biting on a giant gauze pad and randomly passing out.)

They turned out even better than I expected! In fact, I loved them so much that I used one of my few moments of semi-lucidity to get online and start shopping for kilns. Let’s just say that it is a good thing I didn’t have access to my wallet (and it was time for another pain pill) or I probably would have made a very expensive impulse buy. Instead, I passed out.

Crisis averted.

I still desperately want a kiln, but they are far too pricey and would most likely fry the wiring in our old house (we can’t even turn on the microwave and toaster oven at the same time, lest we trip the damn breaker).

Aaaaanyway, I wanted to share how I made these in case anyone else wants to give it a try. I found a pattern online for something similar, but it didn’t really give the best instructions. If you know how to cut glass, this is actually a pretty simple process.

Square Fused/Slumped Dishes

The first thing that I did was cut three 5″ squares of glass to serve as the base (I used an aqua color for two of them and a swirly blue/light blue for the third).

After I had my bases, I started cutting random squares and rectangles out of several different colors of glass (in shades of blue and green). I was advised not to stack the glass pieces more than three high (including the base). So, I arranged the larger squares/rectangles on the bottom and then put a smaller square/rectangle on top (you can see this in the process photo at right).

I continued arranging and fitting the cut pieces together until the entire base was covered. I tried not to leave any large gaps in between pieces, but a little extra space is fine. It is hard to cut pieces that will fit together perfectly.

Then came the fun part (that took me for-freaking-ever to finish). I pushed the top two layers of glass of the base and began cleaning the pieces. You want to use window cleaner and paper towel to get any fingerprints, bits of glass, etc. off.

After each piece was clean and dry, I used a toothpick to apply some hairspray (yep, the instructor gave us each a little cup of hairspray to stick the pieces together) and then put each piece back onto the base in the original arrangement.

Since I don’t have a kiln (yet…heh, heh), the instructor took the pieces with her to fire in her kiln. I am told that the process involved firing each piece until it fully fused and then firing each one a second time in mold (this process is called slumping). This second firing is what gives the dishes their raised sides. Otherwise, they would have just been flat squares.

The whole process is fairly easy if you have glass-cutting experience. Even if you don’t, it is all a series of straight cuts, so very beginner friendly.

Here are a few more photos of the finished pieces…

photos : fused glass dishes by yours truly

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From Vine to Pie : Vanilla Pumpkin Pie

Currently on Day 3 of my recovery. Hopefully I’ll be seeing you all on the other side of my drug-induced haze very soon. Until then, here’s the second part of my fresh pumpkin pie tutorial/recipe/thingy.

So, you navigated your way through the pumpkin puree tutorial and you’re ready to pat yourself on the back (go ahead, I’ll wait) and make a pie.

Now, I have yet another confession to make. I cannot make a decent pie crust to save my life. If you can, I applaud you and encourage you to do so before getting started on this recipe (and if you could make a couple extras and toss them my way, that would be swell). If you can’t, then get thee to the grocery store and score yourself one of those frozen jobbies like I usually do. This recipe makes one 9″ pie, so if you don’t feel like doing math and doubling it, just throw the extra pie crust in the freezer.

I found a recipe similar to this years ago and I have tweaked it some. It’s a little lighter on the pumpkin pie spice than most recipes, but the vanilla totally makes up for the toned down spices.

What you need:

1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree (you’ve totally got this covered, so don’t even think about using the canned stuff!)
1 (12oz) can evaporated milk
2 eggs
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 Tbs. flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice (I sometimes like to use my own mixture of cinnamon, cloves, and freshly ground nutmeg)
1 unbaked pie crust

What you need to do:

Preheat oven to 450°.

In a large bowl mix pumpkin, evaporated milk, eggs, sugar, flour, salt, vanilla, and pumpkin pie spice. (Using a food processor is much easier, but most of the time I can’t be arsed to drag mine out so I do it the old-fashioned way.)

Pour filling into pie crust, pat yourself on the back for not spilling any onto the baking sheet. *Pick up baking sheet oh-so-carefully and proceed to spill filling over the side of the crust. Look to make sure there aren’t any little ears around, curse heavily while cleaning up the mess and then try one more time to get things in the oven without any more spillage.

Bake at 450° for 20 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350° and bake for 40 minutes or until filling is set. Let cool before slicing and serving with **cinnamon whipped cream.

*** Brag incessantly to your friends about how YOUR pie was made with fresh pumpkin and not that canned stuff and/or snicker to yourself when someone gripes that they couldn’t find any canned pumpkin at the grocery store.

* optional
** also optional, but very tasty
*** again, optional, but very good for the old ego

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From Vine to Pie : Pumpkin Puree

I am currently recuperating from oral surgery, so instead of writing a new (drug-induced and likely incomprehensible) post, I’m sharing some oldies but goodies. Here’s a timely post to welcome you all to November. (Also, don’t forget to vote…pretty please?)

I have an embarrassing confession to make. For most of my life, I lived with the understanding that a pumpkin was a large orange thing whose sole purpose was to be cut open, gutted, carved, lit with a candle for a couple of hours, and then trashed and that pumpkin was something that came in a can.

Like most kids whose mothers kept their kitchens stocked with fish sticks and Kraft macaroni and cheese (but only if it was on sale or we had a coupon – otherwise, it was too pricey), I had no idea that one could actually make food without the use of a can opener or powdered processed cheese food. I was raised by a woman whose cooking philosophy has always been ‘If it takes more than five minutes to make, it’s not worth making.’ Needless to say, I had a lot to learn about cooking and I had to do it on my own.

One of the things that I have learned is that just because pumpkin can come out of a can, doesn’t mean it should. A few years back, I was encouraged to try making a real pumpkin pie with real, fresh pumpkin. Believe me when I say, once you’ve tasted pumpkin pie made with fresh pumpkin, there’s no going back. Can be damned!

The most ridiculous thing is that it is so easy and yet, so many people just keep cranking those cans open.

Okay, I admit, making your own pumpkin puree is more work than opening a can, but it is sooooo worth it. I promise.

So, for those of you who are feeling adventurous this fall, here is my tutorial on how to make a right tasty pumpkin pie (Note: I’m going to break this up into two posts – one with instructions on how to make the pumpkin puree and the other on how to make the pie).

Pick Your Pumpkins

It should be noted that not all pumpkins are created equal. The most accessible pumpkins out there were not grown for the purpose of cooking. The very large, flat-bottomed pumpkins that are everywhere this time of year are great for carving jack-o-lanterns, but have no practical purpose beyond being decorative.

Pie pumpkins are small, round, and usually darker in color than decorative pumpkins. There are several different kinds and, until recently, I had always used sugar pumpkins (except for the one time that I mistakenly used decorative pumpkins resulting in a culinary fiasco that can be summed up in one word – yuck). However, last week I discovered Mystic pumpkins at our farmers market and I must say they are quite delicious and sweet.

In general, one small pumpkin will make enough puree for one 9″ pie, so be sure to purchase enough pumpkins for your pie baking needs.

Prepare Your Pumpkins

Once you have your perfect pumpkins, grab a knife and get ready for some fun. Heh.

Cut around the stem of the pumpkin like you would if you were carving a jack-o-lantern. Try to stay as close to the stem as possible though, so as not to create too much waste.

Pop the top off of your pumpkin and discard. Then, with a large knife, cut your pumpkin in half from top to bottom.

Next, prepare to eviscerate your pumpkin.

With a large spoon, scoop out all of the seeds, guts, and stringy bits. If you fancy toasted pumpkin seeds (and extra work) separate the seeds from the innards before tossing them away.

Once your pumpkin halves are all hollowed out and the pumpkin carnage has been hidden away neatly in your trashcan so as not to arouse any suspicions, you are ready to bake!

Bake Your Pumpkins

Preheat oven to 325°.

Place your pumpkin halves on a large cookie sheet with open sides facing down.

Bake pumpkin for 40-60 minutes until the flesh of the pumpkin is fork-tender and peels away easily from the skin.

Remove pumpkin from the oven and let cool slightly while mentally preparing yourself for the next step: skinning (bwhahahahaaa!).

Skin and Puree

While the pumpkin is still warm, peel the flesh away from the skin (that sounds totally gross).

Place your now-naked pumpkin into a food processor or blender and puree until the screaming stops smooth.

Bake It, Cook It, Freeze It…

Now you have fresh pumpkin puree that is ready to fulfill it’s life’s mission as a pie (or muffins, or cookies, or soup, or anything else you might want to make with it).

Or, if you’re completely indecisive, you can throw it in a freezer bag and let it languish for awhile while you decide what to do with it…just try to make a decision before it gets covered in freezer fur.

photos : pumpkins in various states by yours truly

 

 

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A Vote for Me is a Vote for…Well, uh, Me. Yeah.

Kids, today I’m here to talk to you about something very serious.

Winning.

Now, I’m not talking about that crazy Charlie Sheen tiger blood coke-fueled erratic behavior type of winning. Nope. I’m talking about my own special brand of crazy Coke (and other caffeinated beverage)-fueled erratic behavior kind of winning. The kind that forces me to look at each and every one of you with a suspicious and judgmental eye while trying to determine whether or not you’re telling me the truth when you say you voted for me (in all three categories) in this year’s Mobbies competition.

Well, did you? Did you vote today? Will you vote tomorrow and every subsequent day until voting ends on November 10? Do you really love me or would you rather see me sitting in a corner softly weeping and drowning my sorrows by gnawing on a wheel of smoked Gouda? And, if the latter is the case, would you be willing to send me a wheel of smoked Gouda (because it’s my favorite)? Also, crackers. Preferably with sesame seeds in them.

Wait, what?

Oh, yeah, winning. If you want me to win, then vote for me…because, trust me, the last thing anybody wants is for me to be replaced by Ashton Kutcher.

Click here (or on the badge in my sidebar) to vote for the 2011 Mobbies. Voting is open through November 10 and you can cast one vote per day in each category. Go! Now! Unless, of course, you plan on voting against me. In which case, please disregard.

 

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The Good (Teeth), the Bad (Teeth), and the Ugly (Teeth)

So, I currently possess three traits which, when combined, can make for some pretty unpleasant situations – bad teeth, a high pain threshold, and a knee-buckling, heart-racing, dry-heaving fear of dental procedures.

Now, I don’t know if it is physically possible for one to be born with bad teeth, but my own life experience has told me that it has to be. As a small child, I began visiting the dentist religiously – every six months. And every six months, without fail, the dentist would find a cavity.

Now, I should mention here that my mother was a world class sugar rationer. My brother and I were allowed very little sugar in any form – cookies, candy, ice cream, pretty much anything that would make a child’s eyes sparkle with the sheer joy of a potential sugar high. So, it wasn’t poor diet that caused my teeth to crumble like the delicious cookies we weren’t allowed to eat.

My mother, frustrated with having to drag my whiny little self to the dentist for fillings all the time, instituted a toothbrushing routine that we were made to follow. It involved an hourglass shaped egg timer. I hated that thing. My brother and I were forced to stand in front of the bathroom mirror brushing our teeth non-stop until all of the pink sand flowed from the top chamber to the bottom. No amount of toothpaste drool or sore arms could get us out of brushing until the last grain of sand had fallen. And you know what?

I still had cavities.

The dentist started sending me home with little pink tablets, which I was made to chew in order to show where the plaque was on my teeth so that I could see where to focus my rigorous brushing efforts.

And I still had cavities.

Fillings, surgeries, braces, root canals, more fillings – honestly, who could blame me for my general distaste for all things dental?

As an (anxiety-ridden) adult, I found ways to avoid going to the dentist. When my teeth would start to hurt, I took advantage of the aforementioned high pain threshold and employed a wide range of methods for ignoring the problem. When I was pregnant with Sir, I was stricken with an unbearable toothache. The pain was so intense at times, that I would literally fall to the floor. After several sleepless nights, I broke down and had an emergency root canal. Shortly after Sir was born, the same type of pain developed in the adjacent tooth and I had yet another root canal. But this time life got in the way and I never had the tooth restored.

It was fine for a while. The temporary filling held and all was right with the world. And then, one day, as I was eating a turkey sandwich, the whole thing just broke right at the gumline. I was horrified and hugely embarrassed, but I decided to hide it rather than face the dentist. I mastered the art of talking out of the side of my mouth. I never smiled fully. And I would always do my best to sit to the right of people so they wouldn’t accidentally catch a glimpse of my awful disfigurement.

Recently, I have been experiencing some very intense pain coming from two teeth that had lost their fillings (yeah, all those fillings that were placed years ago when I was a kid, are now starting to fail). For a while, I quietly subsisted on a diet of Advil and silent-agony. Then, the sleeplessness started. I knew I had to do something.

Fast forward to two days ago.

There I was, sitting in a dentist’s chair with my heart nearly beating out of my chest – toes curled, hands clenched – awaiting the bad news. And bad it was. Four of my teeth are a total loss. Two wisdom teeth and two molars (the ones causing my pain) are broken beyond repair and have to go. Even worse, the dentist was fairly sure that my other broken tooth was also a loss and that I would need an extraction and an implant (unless, of course, I wanted to spend the rest of my days half-smiling and jockeying for position in social situations). He asked me to come back so that he could take a closer look before making a final decision though.

Fast forward to this morning.

There I was, sitting in the same dentist’s chair – slightly less frantic, but still quite scared – awaiting the possibly bad news. The dentist drilled, he inspected, he drilled some more, he sighed, he took a brief break to see another patient, he came back and drilled some more. Did I mention that I didn’t have Novocaine during all of this? Because I didn’t. Finally, the tooth was drilled down to what was considered ‘keepable’. He said it would be a challenge, but he thought that he could construct a new tooth for me.

And (with Novocaine this time) he did!

In less than an hour and for about 10% of the cost of an extraction/implant, this AMAZING dentist was sending me on my way with an actual functional tooth! It’s a little smaller than my original tooth and it’s not quite as strong, but it’s a tooth! And I highly doubt that anyone who didn’t know that it wasn’t a real tooth could even tell the difference. I am so thankful!

Now, I just have the rest of my bad teeth to contend with. But at least I can smile through the pain now.

illustration : bad teeth by yours truly

 

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A Little Something Different

When my muse left me and  I was in the deepest throes of unspiration, I signed up for a one-night open studio fused glass class at Harford Community College, where a friend of mine works. The price was unbeatable, and it turned out to be a great introduction to a medium that I was not terribly familiar with.

My experience with glass never really moved beyond a brief attempt at mosaic work in my early 20s, when I lived a stone’s throw away from one of the largest art glass suppliers in the country. It mostly involved me making a mess and leaving glass shards embedded deep in the carpet fibers for future tenants of our apartment to discover at a later date.

Basically, my only skill walking into the classroom last night was scoring/cutting glass (and, of course, making a mess).

Fortunately, that skill served me quite well, as the project I had planned involved cutting squares and rectangles, which is about as simple as you can get when it comes to glass cutting. Other people in the class used the grinders, but I found them a bit too intimidating my first time out.

My goal was to make three 5″ square dishes that will be slumped in a mold to give them slightly raised sides. The pattern I found seemed simple enough – cut a base piece of glass and then stack random rectangles and squares on top of it.

As with most things that look easy on the Internet, it was a lot more work than I had anticipated, especially when you factor in my perfectionist/OCD nature. Not surprisingly, the three hour class time was not enough for me to finish and I ended up keeping the instructor an extra half hour while I frantically cleaned and re-assembled my pieces. Fortunately, she was a good sport and didn’t seem too put out by my tendency to bite off more than I can chew.

And now, we play the waiting game.

Ah, the waiting game sucks. Let’s play Hungry Hungry Hippos! (Yes, a gratuitous Simpsons reference – you’re welcome!)

I will get to pick up my finished dishes next Tuesday night and I must say, the waiting is interminable for an instant gratification girl like me. One of the most difficult parts of this process was not knowing how the finished product will look. I tried to study some before and after photos of fused glass projects before the class, but I still felt I was going into this thing blind. Hopefully, the finished product will be somewhat representative of what you see in the photos.

So, the class and instructor were great and I definitely got more than what I paid for ($29 for the class and $25 for materials).  HCC is a bit of a schlep for me, but it was totally worth it. If you live in the area, I would highly recommend looking into this class. I may take it again the next time it comes around, so you may even see me there! Hmm, on second thought, that may be a deterrent for some of you. Heh.

photos : pre-fused glass by yours truly

 

 

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Hot Damn! I’m Freakin’ Nominated!

People, as you well know, I say a lot of things – mostly dumb things, but things nonetheless. Most of the time those things go unnoticed. So, I try to say them louder. But no one is listening and I end up just being a crazy person yelling in room by myself and, before I know it, Pandora starts showing me ads for antidepressants and online dating sites and I start to develop a weird following of dentists and pornographers on Twitter.

Wait. What the hell was I just talking about?

Oh yeah, things that I say. So, anyway, once in a while I say something and someone notices. And they think that other people should notice too.

A couple of months ago, I mentioned a *silly little goal that I had made for myself. **It was just a little daydream and ***I never really thought anything would come of it. But today, my awesomely huge little dream has come true.

Today, I was nominated for the Mobbies (a.k.a. Maryland’s Outstanding Blogs) in not one, but three categories.

Awesome, right? Right. But, you all know me, I’m not going to be one of these people who goes completely off the deep end with excitement (yes, I am). After all, I have worked very hard to cultivate an air of cool sophistication (bullshit) and it isn’t in my nature to, say, walk out my front door and scream something like, ‘Take that Baltimore! My blog’s the shit! Betta recognize!’ And even if it was, I wouldn’t be able to shout over the sound of my hippie neighbors playing the xylophone anyway. So, it’s a good thing I’m so calm, reserved, and not at all prone to emotional outbursts.

Yep, that’s me…good old even-keeled Ruth, sailing on a sea of tranquil waters. Ahhhhh(HHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH, I WAS NOMINATED FOR THE MOBBIES!!!! WHOOOO!!!)hhhh…yep, cool sophistication.

 

* goal is neither silly nor little and my entire fragile ego is riding on this, people, so giddy-up and get ready to vote!
** oh, NO it wasn’t!
*** oh, YES, I did!


photo : yours truly by yours truly 

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Illustration Friday : Scattered

The Nightmare Carrots gather with other assorted evil vegetables to mourn the loss of their fallen leader. You may or may not remember what happened to him last week. His shreds will later be scattered on the evil compost heap.

© 2011 ruth blohm-hunter

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