Oct 302014
 

On Sunday, Slick and I reviewed all the things we needed to get done that day. Then we decided to instead go to Vedauwoo for a hike.

A late fall hike in Vedauwoo.
We’ve had a spectaular and long autumn in Cheyenne, but up in Vedauwoo the season is already turning towards winter. There were no fall colors left along the trails. Still, it was beautiful, clear and mild – perfect hike weather.

A dead mouse beside the trail on a late fall hike in Vedauwoo.
We saw a number of fat mice along the trail, more than ever before. This guy, however, did not make it.

A late fall hike in Vedauwoo.
Spending the day out here was much more enjoyable than staying at home and responsibly completing our tasks. You can see why my computer desk still isn’t built yet, right?

Oct 282014
 

Last month when I finished assembling the rainbow layer cake, I had a lot of leftovers from trimming the layers down to level. Ever frugal, I put them, along with a bit of leftover icing, in the freezer. A few weeks later in October, we were scheduled to have a social event, so I pulled out the cake scraps for reuse. After thawing, I mashed up the cake and icing with a fork and added in some flavoring. I rolled the mush into balls and put them in the freezer again. Shortly after that, our social event was cancelled, but I went ahead anyway since I’d started the thawing process and with the flavor syrups, they’d never freeze solid. I used my chocolate melting pot again, this time with half dark Ghirardelli and half regular-level chocolate and dipped the not-frozen rounds in. I spaced them out on wax paper and put them in the fridge to firm up.

Since we had nowhere to take the treats and they were way too much dessert for the two of us to eat, I took them in to work where they were a huge hit! The first box vanished immediately with requests for more. The next day, I brought in the second box, which was also the box of seconds – all the lumpy, misshapen and imperfect truffles. It didn’t matter, they were gone just as fast. Right before the last one went, I realized I had no photos and snapped this shot with my cell.

Cake Truffles, the single photographed subject.

You don’t have to keep them refrigerated, but I did because the chocolate coating was tender and melted quickly in the hand. I thought the soft, squishy inside tasted better cool or cold, too. They were perfect to throw in with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. I didn’t succeed in making something less sweet – these were even sweeter than the cake last month. I don’t have high hopes for next month either, as I recently saw a photo of a sweet treat I want to try out. Oh wait, I just thought of a way to make it savory. We’ll see.

Oct 272014
 

The prize bag was delivered over the weekend, so now all may revel in the goodness, even if you weren’t the lucky one this time around.

The Happy Halloween Contest Prize Bag, all done up and ready for delivery.
Now that I’m not out gathering up miscellaneous bags all the time, I found some treasured Edward Gorey gift bags at the bottom of the stack. This one was so appropriate for the Halloween contest and the last one (cats) was fitting, too. I hand lettered this contest winner tag – you can tell because it is so damned sloppy.

The Happy Halloween Contest Prize Bag, the goodies.
The goods! First, the special item I mentioned, a pumpkin carving Dremel kit on the right side. Carving up a jack-o-lantern will be so fast and easy now! And messy. In front of the Dremel are some Halloween themed temporary tattoos, Stacey’s first set of winner Sharpies, butterscotch candies, a skeleton cat head pin. Middle front and moving clockwise, some Halloween skull rings, rubber severed fingers, TLTBE and winner badges, along with a big green bunny badge, and some wax vampire fangs. Upper left has some specialized Nerds candy tubes beside a pair of crochet kits in envelopes. Some more cute postcards that I’ll never use, a Death By Pie sticker and a sparkly black cat temporary tattoo finish out the stash this time around.

Phew! Another prize bag wrapped up! I liked this contest a lot; it was one of my favorites. I liked all the short little stories about costumes past. Sweet, funny, fond memories were pleasant to read. Thank you all for playing and don’t forget to come back for more!

Previous Prize Bags:
Continue reading »

Oct 172014
 

And thanks to Random.org here is our winner:

The winner!

Congratulations, Stacey!
I will be in contact with you shortly to coordinate prize bag delivery.
Thank you all for playing! I enjoyed all the costume related stories.

ETA: Stacey is out of town currently, so the prize bag will wait patiently until her return.

Oct 132014
 

Halloween, stolen from the internets.
This month I have a special item for the prize bag, so we must have a contest. This is my favorite holiday, although I always have trouble getting a costume together and am inevitably a last-minute witch.
The Wizard of Oz, Wicked Witch
With my wardrobe, dressing as a witch is actually lazier than pulling a sheet over my head to be a ghost. Still, I think costumes are a huge part of the holiday, so that is where our focus will be.

In the comments, tell me about a Halloween costume that sticks in your memory. Was it awful, falling apart or uncomfortable? Was it the best of the show? Did nobody understand it? Did it take forever to make? Funny? Scary? Pretty? Ugly or disgusting? It doesn’t have to be your costume – think of what you’ve seen, your friends, something from a party. Even an idea for a costume that you haven’t made or seen yet is fine. Just make a comment about a costume and you’re in! We’ll close the contest at 2130 MT on 16 Oct, Thursday so the winner can be announced by Friday morning.

Summary: Enter a comment about a Halloween costume before 2130 MT on 16 Oct 2014, which is this Thursday.
The Too Lazy To Be Evil jack-o-lantern. Yes, I made it.

The SFP (The Standard Fine Print):
You must be a registered user for this blog – because that is how you can make comments! You may have only one entry into this contest. If you make multiple comments, you will still get only one entry, so comment as desired. You must either live in a place I commonly drive to or past or be willing to submit a mailing address to me to receive the prize if you win. I’m happy to mail the prize anywhere in the world where it is legal to do so. The prize bag contains items I have collected, been given, picked up, found, bought, or even made myself, for whatever reason and may be desirable, useful, useless, or merely silly to you; I make no guarantees to the value, usability or likability of the prize, although they have been historically well received. The prize bag contents are of my own choosing and are not being provided in exchange for any influence or services from you beyond your comment entry and your eternal, undying devotion to this blog and; therefore, my ego. And Moxie says you must be her minion after her takeover of the world, so there’s that.

Oct 122014
 

I told you that I’d show more pictures of the pendant when I got it back from grading, but then I turned around and put it into the Halloween art show at the CAG (Cheyenne Artist Guild) without any time in between left for taking pictures after I made a chain for the piece. So, instead I took a shot of it in the showcase:
Pendant, in the showcase.
Yea! Unfortunately, I had to remove the piece from the show for other, show-detail-related reasons, but it worked out alright. With it back, I can modify the chain to my preferred length and wear it. Yea again! Now that I have it in my hands, I can’t stop looking at all the flaws, but I do still like it. It is quite obviously a first project, a learner piece, but I am sweet on it. Since I’ve shared, I will now consider this piece totally done and remove it from my Work in Progress list. You’ll see it again – I’m going to wear it!

Maker talk:
Those rivets! Oy! The outer ring rivets were supposed to be tiny silver nubbins, but as I was working at home, the smallest hole my Dremel could make was those, which fit the big, tube rivets. They do not look good on that narrow border. I didn’t have any good way to cut the tube or wire rivets, so they are almost all either too short or too long. Fighting with them meant bending the piece in the center and I don’t know if I can fix that. The layers are misaligned, due to both inexperience and the aforementioned Dremel limitations and that is unsightly. I might actually remake this piece, one day when I have no pressing deadlines (like I have now) and prove that it can look the way I think it can, now that I have better tools and a smidgen of more experience. Plus, since it isn’t being restricted by class project rules, I can use some cool patinas on it.
The chain: I spent close to three hours making that chain for the piece and there is one big thing I would change – those spirals! They look neat, but they tangle like you would not believe! Since I prefer shorter chains, removing the spirals will likely be all the alteration I need to make before wearing it. But I will not make those spirals as part of a chain again! Lesson learned.

Oct 092014
 

The holidays are coming up, so now seems like a perfect time to do some more internet window shopping. Here is my latest collection of cool stuff from the the virtual world.

Chris Roberts' Bona Lisa print
Chris Roberts’ Bona Lisa print – $60
Decorate for Halloween in a different way with this print. Now you can see plainly what Mona Lisa was hiding – her skeleton.

Anna's little Witch Mouse ornament
Anna’s Little Witch Mouse ornament – $19
If prints aren’t for you, maybe a twee witch mouse piece is the trick. She also has Franken-mice, furry were-mice and zombie mice.

Jacob & Celeste Ewing's Red Fire Dragon Mask, Handmade
Jacob & Celeste Ewing’s Red Fire Dragon Mask, Handmade – $360
This piece of art rises above all other masks! Beautiful.

Now, let’s climb down from the Halloween soapbox of shopping to look at less themed items.

The Kitty Kitchen Treat Machine Cat
The Kitty Kitchen Treat Machine Cat “Gumball” Machine by Lucky Yuppy Puppy Co. is sadly not in production anymore. The idea is that you fill the globe with treats and your clever kitties turn the wheel to work the gears that drop treats into the bowl, like a gumball machine. Self-treating cats! They’d love it.

Bunny Paige Paved and Spiked heart pendant
Bunny Paige’s Pavèd & Spiked Heart Necklace – Volcano $70
Colorful, metal spikey, a pinch of sweet heart – this is perfect for any fierce gal. I think even some guys could pull this off, too.

Bunny Paige Paved and Spiked heart pendant
Madeleine Belanger’s Wooden Bunny Necklace – $45
Coincidentally, I have some sketches in the planning phase to do vaguely similar pendant pieces. This gal has already done it and they are adorable. Miniature art hanging around your neck, delicate and charming.

All right, we’ve had the fun of window shopping and not spent a dollar. Good job, folks.

Oct 082014
 

Almost halfway through 2013, I decided to focus my reading attentions on science fiction novels, especially those considered classic, or hard sci-fi. I didn’t read sci-fi exclusively, but I did make it my main course and ended up with 26 books that were categorized as science-fiction over a year of time. Beyond the classification it had to be a new-to-me book, the first in a series or a stand alone, I wanted each in electronic format, and there would be no duplicate authors. It was an interesting experiment and here are my results.

Finished
************************************

  1. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
  2. Red Shirts by John Scalzi
  3. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
  4. Wild Seed by Octavia Butler
  5. Old Man’s War by John Scalzi
  6. Dune by Frank Herbert
  7. Makers by Cory Doctorow
  8. Pattern Recognition by William Gibson
  9. 2001 A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke
  10. The Outback Stars by Sandra McDonald
  11. 2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson
  12. Foundation by Isaac Asimov
  13. Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein
  14. A Girl Called Badger by Stephen Colegrove
  15. The Stars My Destination (aka Tiger! Tiger!) by Alfred Bester
  16. Flashforward by Robert J. Sawyer
  17. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
  18. Sphere by Michael Crichton
  19. Contact by Carl Sagan
  20. Wired by Douglas E. Richards
  21. CyberStorm by Matthew Mather
  22. The Bleak Door by Christian Baker
  23. Ringworld by Larry Niven
  24. Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
  25. The Forever War by Joe Haldeman
  26. The Atlantis Gene by A.G. Riddle

I thought about writing a full review for each one, but I don’t think that’s really the way to go. All these books have many reviews online that are easy to find if you’re interested. Instead, I’ll summarize by groups.

Top great sci-fi books

  • The Stars My Destination (aka Tiger! Tiger!) by Alfred Bester
  • Dune by Frank Herbert
  • Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
  • 2001 A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke
  • Old Man’s War by John Scalzi
  • Contact by Carl Sagan

Worst rubbish; shouldn’t have been published because they’re crap

  • The Bleak Door by Christian Baker – writing so bad I couldn’t finish it
  • Wired by Douglas E. Richards – writing was terrible, but I finished it
  • The Atlantis Gene by A.G. Riddle – the least worse of the worst, it was merely bad

Biggest disappointments:

  • 2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson – supposedly a great author, I hate these characters and almost everything about this book
  • Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein – Maybe you had to be a hippie to get into this, but it didn’t live up to expectations for me
  • Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood – I expected a lot from this author, but this main character was simply not worth caring about.

Miscellaneous callouts

  • Saddest book: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
  • Most fun to read: tied between Ready Player One by Ernest Cline and Red Shirts by John Scalzi
  • Better for young adults: A Girl Called Badger by Stephen Colegrove

Percentages of expected science fiction elements!

  • Aliens play a significant part in story: 46% of my list (an even dozen)
  • Being in space, going through space, getting to or surviving on another planet: 46%
  • War!: 19% (five books)
  • Plot was dependant on post-apocalyptic conditions: 12% (three books)

Some of these books aren’t like the others:

  • Ready Player One by Ernest Cline was heavily sci-fi, but without aliens, war with aliens or other countries or planets, no space travel or other planets (virtual reality doesn’t count as space travel) and while the world was crappy, it still had structure similar to today.
  • Wild Seed by Octavia Butler would more appropriately be classified as fantasy, as the main story devices are reliant on things that have no basis of possibility, unless you are one of those people that believe in the supernatural as reality.
  • Pattern Recognition by William Gibson should be classified as fantasy, as again the tale is dependant on supernatural abilities. One could argue that it is only fiction (not fantasy) and the abilities in the book are merely preternatural, and I would not argue against that.
  • CyberStorm by Matthew Mather is only fiction. Nothing in that book couldn’t happen today, under the combination of situations presented. I’d suggest anyone curious about doomsday preppers read this book.
  • Wired by Douglas E. Richards has to be fantasy. The magic chemicals in it are so ludicrous I cannot categorize it fairly any other way.
  • Flashforward by Robert J. Sawyer can be argued for fantasy or science fiction. The story presents a scientific basis, but it is definitely fuzzy. I’d still leave it in sf, myself.
  • The Stars My Destination (aka Tiger! Tiger!) by Alfred Bester is an older book and was a small fuss to find in electronic format. While it has two elements that fall under fantasy, the rest is very sci-fi. In fact, there are many pieces that are fully cyberpunk – well before that particular subgenre existed.

There we go, a brief summary of the books, as a whole. Leave a comment if you want to know anything specific. Now that this is done, I’ll go back to reading whatever I feel like.

Oct 032014
 

Time for cats!
The Captain, enjoying the heating vent.
The autumn weather is getting chilly (we had snow last night again) and when the heat kicks on, this is where you can find the cats – sitting directly in front of the vents.

Moxie and The Captain, playful in the sunshine.
Moxie is our fierce light and shadow hunter. The sunshine is her favorite play companion – or should I say victim?

Friday, the most awkward sleeper.
Friday is often found in the most awkward and twisted, crunched up positions for napping. Her contortions look uncomfortable, but I think she is simply being her weird, catty self.

The Captain, enjoying the heating vent.
Sweet Friday.

Oct 022014
 

Last weekend, Slick and I went to see Ghostbusters. It is playing in the theaters as part of their 30th anniversary.
Empty theater.
We were the only ones there. It was neat to have the theater to ourselves. The movie itself was a tad grainy; a testament to how spoiled we are with crisp, clear pictures today. It was fun to see Ghostbusters on the big screen.

I’d wanted to show you some pictures of my diorama pendant, but the instructor still isn’t done with them yet. As long as no one will be terribly disappointed, I’ll share a small cell pic I took with it still on the block, the night before I turned the piece in. If you think you might be disappointed with a tiny shot, don’t look, just come back in a day or two when I get the piece back and can photograph it properly.
My class project, a diorama pendant.
Now that I’ve been away from it for a few days, I like it more. We’ll see how I feel when I get it back again.

Sep 222014
 

This weekend was the cats’ designated birthday. While Oz was likely a month or so later/younger than the four siblings, we simplify and roll them all together. For the cats, we had extra playtime, lots of catnip and love fits, as well as a roll of toilet paper soaked in catnip tea. A couple of the siblings like to shred toilet paper and paper towels, which is why you won’t find exposed paper products in our house normally. So, they had a good time, but for us humans, I made cake.
Rainbow Layer Cake - September Baking Project
Since there are only two of us, I didn’t want a huge cake. I used six, six inch diameter pans, so this was a smaller stack. I seem to only have six inch cake boards, so this is cake right to the edge of the board.

Rainbow Layer Cake - September Baking Project
The first slice. Pretty! I made the yellow and orange layers thicker since they were going to be squished at the bottom. That worked pretty well.

Rainbow Layer Cake - September Baking Project
I used dark chocolate icing between the layers and milk chocolate on the outside. With these busy colors, I had to put up a light piece of paper background to keep it simple. The coffee grinder and blender would have detracted, I think.

Rainbow Layer Cake - September Baking Project
That was bright and fun, but very sweet. Next month maybe I’ll aim for something less sweet or even savory.

Sep 182014
 

Last night went somewhat awry. I voted to watch an extra episode of tv on the sofa, which pushed our evening constitutional out and thus, my workshop time. Bad me. But, I did get my patina tests done, at last, so I am ready to do work in class tonight. I’ll try to grab a photo of the patina samples. Until then, here is a shot of the diorama pendant pieces all cut out.
Diorama pendant in the making.
They still have the paper patterns on them. You can see the copper peeking out on that second piece with the tree. This shot is before filing and sanding the edges. Now that they’re mostly smooth, the pattern papers are in shreds clinging on to the metal for their very existence. They’ll be gone tonight when I work on texture and color. That is why I really wanted to get the patina samples done, so that I could make progress in class. I hate sitting there not being able to work on my project. Last week, I ordered my metal as soon as I got my project approved, but it didn’t arrive until Friday, so my whole class time on Thursday was for experimentation (which is cool, but I’d rather do at home) and for ring making (for the later chain for the pendant, which I’d also rather do at home).

Patinas done, I went over to spend a couple minutes on the latest Scrappy Cat while the metal cooled and set. One ear didn’t want to turn out, so I had to fight with it a lot more than I intended and then we had a blowout:
Scrappy Cat in the making
Oops. Easy fix; sorry Cat. Also, don’t worry that the legs are uneven; they’re not attached yet, only laying there. I wanted to see how it looked mostly together. I am really liking the paw shape now that I’m boxing the edges out and the extra batting in the paw pads makes them puff up in a pleasing fashion, like cat paw pads do. It will be tomorrow before I have time to get this fixed up. This is what I get for pushing on and working while I’m tired and overdue for bed!

In case that wasn’t enough, I had one more mishap. As I turned out all the lights, shooed the cats from the workshop, I gathered up the patina chemical bottles to take upstairs for class the next day. In my tiredness, I failed to put the lid on the blue dye-oxide and didn’t notice until it was all over the floor, table, and my arm and hand. UGH! Put everything down (everything I hadn’t dropped already), turn on the lights, shoo away the curious cats who magically reappeared at my sounds of dismay, get washcloths and try to scrub blue out of everything. I was mostly successful, but events like this make me glad for every time during the workshop building that I’ve told myself it was “good enough for a workshop; it isn’t a tea parlor, after all”. Indeed.

I did finally get to sleep around midnight. Today is a day I will have some coffee.

That’s what I’m up to. I need to remember to take more pictures so I can document my progress. I really hope that diorama pendant turns out well. I am fond of my original sketches, so my hopes are high.

Sep 152014
 

I’ve told you how much I love hiking the Turtle Rock Trail – at least four times just on the blog. Well, last week I had Monday off (due to some use-it-or-possibly-lose-it vacation time) and decided to go out to Vedauwoo for a picnic lunch and some sketching. We hadn’t been up there yet this year, and although Slick had to work, I really wanted to get out there.

After spending double the usual travel time due to road construction, I decided to start in the middle of what I refer to as the Parking Lot Loop of the Turtle Rock Trail. I call it this because if you miss your turn (on either side) of the trail, you end up off the trail and have to walk through the parking lots to get back to your car. It is much nicer to walk the trail instead of the hot asphalt. It was beautiful, of course.
The parking loop of the Turtle Rock Trail.
Here’s my trail start. The sun was mild, being partly cloudy out, and the breeze was gentle.

The parking loop of the Turtle Rock Trail
This tree is quite determined to grow.

The parking loop of the Turtle Rock Trail.
This was my view while eating lunch. It is a panoramic, so unless you have super-wide monitors, you might have to scroll to the right once you open it. It would have been a perfect nap spot, if one were snoozy.

Fall colors emerging on the Turtle Rock Trail.
I thought it would be too early for any fall colors yet, but you can see here that autumn is starting already. There were ripe rose hips on this rosey section of the trail, indicating the end of summer.

Memorial sign for Gary E. Rorvig on the Turtle Rock Trail.
Off the footpath and slightly up a hill, there was the pictured addition; a memorial plaque Gary E. Rorvig, the designer of this trail I love so much. He died earlier this year. This is a link to his obituary.

Fall colors emerging on the Turtle Rock Trail.
The yellow leaves looked like flowers bursting with color as I came around this particular corner. After I passed this bit, I stopped for a while to sketch out some ideas. I’d thought I’d draw inspiration from nature along the path, but my head was already so full of other ideas that I didn’t need more inspirations.

Brown squirrel on the Turtle Rock Trail.
This guy was also on the trail, although he retired to the tree when I passed. There were about two or three dozen ground squirrels, a number of frisky dragonflies and a fat robin on the path, too. It was wonderfully quiet; the most sound was the wind through the trees and my own footfalls.

This trail is still my favorite and I’m sure I’ll share more pictures of it in the future. I’ll try to make the views and subjects different so you all get a rotation of looks. If you’re around the area, I highly recommend it. Take your time, pack a sandwich and maybe share a couple photos with me if you go.

Sep 102014
 

By special request (from Slick), my August baking project was for square sugar cookies covered in chocolate. I wanted a chance to use my chocolate melting pot and this was it!

Bare cookies, ready for chocolate.
You can imagine that square sugar cookies were pretty easy to make. Roll the dough out, use a ruler to get your squares, then I simply used the ruler as my cutter, too. Sure, they weren’t perfect squares after baking, but they’re still squarish. On the right you can see the chocolate is melted and ready. I used Ghirardelli dark again – it is delicious.

Chocolate covered cookies
I had enough chocolate to do two thick layers on each cookie. Since Slick likes chocolate things cold, these went straight into the refrigerator for him.

Chocolate covered cookies
They stacked up nicely. It wasn’t a wild or exciting baking project, but it was pleasing to do some custom baking for My Love.
Now to consider the September baking project. I’m thinking cake.