Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year 2009!

Image Credit: The Online Fireworks Museum

Happy New Year Everyone!

The Husband and I sit watching SciFi's Twilight Zone Marathon... A tradition here at our house (except for the year the Three Stooges Marathon gave it competition, but that is another story entirely!) We watch with the 'closed captioning' on of course though, so that he can provide a custom rock concert experience for us to enjoy.

Icy beverages will be consumed, the ball will drop in Times Square, The Boy will be called (or texted if all the cell lines are jammed!), and I will be sleeping in tomorrow!

However you celebrate I hope you are safe and warm and with those you love.

Stay tuned this year for more creative projects, updates on the family, and of course entertaining stories of my wacky adventures!

Best wishes for a wonderful evening and for the opportunity of good fortune in 2009-

That reminds me! I'd better go bury the quarter in the front yard!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Enjoy The Journey

Okay, so sometime ago (like October!) I promised you an update on an adventure I had with a famous person and a cool person. Oops. Life does seem to provide lots of opportunities for distraction, no?!

The adventure was a trip to Stamplistic in Amherst, Ohio for a girls weekend with my friend Patti (she's the cool one!) to take some classes taught by Tim Holtz (he's the famous one!). This "Designer Road Trip" was titled Enjoy the Journey. If you are not familiar with Tim Holtz, he designs for or has featured products with Ranger, Idea-ology, Stampers Anonymous, Tonic Studios, and more. His Twelve Tags of Christmas in 2007 and 2008 and his technique challenges are beyond belief tutorials... you must check them out.

Consider my directing you there a belated Christmas gift if you haven't seen them before!

I promised Patti I'd make her famous once she hit my blog. You know - because all of my readers are trend setters and movers and shakers and such. Cutting edge type folks. I know it is important not to let friends down - especially when they are the most awesome kind like Miss Patti. So without further ado...

Me, Tim Holtz, and Patti

Tim taught six classes while he was in town. I signed up for two of them. It was more than a little hard to choose! I was in shock to find that they did not sell out immediately (what's wrong with us North East Ohio?!) I wanted to stretch my comfort zone and try something new, so I went quite the opposite direction of paper crafting.

Here are some examples of the items we didn't make:

"Artful Hand" (I truly wish I'd picked this one too...)

"Nostalgic Memoirs" (or maybe this one?)

"Distress-a-palooza" (okay! fine! I should have taken all of them!)

Can anyone explain why I have no photos of the "Generation Grunge" project? I did sign-up for the "Fireless Raku & Fragments from Clay" class as well as the "Shrink Mosaics" class. Here are some details from each!


"Now’s your chance to learn a few great techniques whether you’re a clay user or not! I’ve combined my 2 favorite techniques into one mega workshop. Discover the iridescent colors and textures of creating raku pottery – or is it? In the first half, you will learn the techniques used to create this incredible look of an ancient art form using oxides, Ranger’s Perfect Pearl pigment powders – and polymer clay of course. Learn the simple tricks to mold making using Mold-n-Pour and rubber stamps too.

Then we’re off to achieve the look of metal fragments using polymer clay and pigments… Learn a simple basic technique using polymer clay, rubber stamps, and Perfect Pearl pigments. We will also explore pigment mixing for various metallic finishes and learn the in’s and out of the Ranger Melting Pot. Get ready to play with clay…"from Tim's Site

This one was way out of my comfort zone, but I learned a lot. The main problem I have with classes of this nature is that when I have many choices, I tend to become overwhelmed... does this happen to you? Any creativity I have seems to fall deep into the black abyss of doom and it cannot crawl out. Everyone else is sparking ideas all over the place and I'm over here in the fetal position, mentally paralyzed, rocking quietly, muttering to myself, "Make a decision! Make a decision!" I like the concept of the pieces I made but have no idea what to do with them! I think that the pen nib piece will adorn the front of my art journal if I can get it to stick.

The clay is nothing exotic - any polymer clay will do. It was suggested that Donna Dewberry's clays are terrific and much softer and more malleable, like buttah, better for the molded projects.

Mold and pour is totally cool stuff. If you are interested in this type of project you need it. You can create a mold from literally any item. Very nifty. Tim created the skull mold right before our eyes. I so had to use that one...

We used a pasta machine for both projects. To create the fragments, we broke our blocks into sticks and then into smaller pieces. We put "raw" pieces through the machine cold just once to retain the jagged edge. To create bigger pieces, we put several through at the same time. A second run through will 'mash' them together, but you start to loose definition the more it goes through. For the molded pieces we worked the clay with the pasta machine until it was most pliant and warm for easier shaping. You can also work the edges once molded. If you check out the 'face', 'leaf', and 'key' I molded before baking below you can see how I rolled the edge in the final image above.

We were able to give the illusion of carved or stamped metal on the fragments using rubber stamps. Excess was trimmed away to create the neat edges. We used a razor cutter and I still have all my fingers! So proud!

Fragment pieces were decorated with the metallic color pigment powders prior to baking, it was fun creating some special colors to create different metal looks. When coloring these, it is helpful to use your fingers for more control. This way you can retain the black in the crevices.

Molded pieces were colored post cooking. These pieces were painted with micaceous iron oxide using a metallic brush and then the perfect pearls were added. The micaceous oxide provides tooth and imparts a sparkle. For the dark clay we used the "interference" colors. They appear white until placed on the dark surface then the colors will come through. Once added, the color will not come off as these pigment powders contain a fixative. Apply powder to the piece with a brush, then dampen with water and work in with your fingers.

Yes of course I bought a meting pot. With so many uses how could I not!? We baked the clay right inside for 15 minutes @ 275° with the lid on. (Use the oven in your kitchen to make cookies to eat while you admire your excellent work later instead!) But remember: Tim says not to look inside! If you lift the lid the heat will escape and you will need to add 5 additional minutes to the bake time. So just don't peek. Really. They are still in there. He promises.

Once done, you can use them to adorn jewelry, scrapbook pages, other 3-D pieces, any number of things.


"Combine the luster of glazed tile mosaics with the fascination of shrink plastic…Just when you thought you knew everything about shrink plastic – guess again. Learn a great technique to create glazed mosaic “tiles” out of shrink plastic. Then explore a world of color using Ranger’s Adirondack Alcohol Inks to enhance your tiles with tones of color and stamped images from the Tim Holtz Collection. Learn some great tricks on using the Melting Pot for this unique material - you just might discover a new addiction…" from Tim's Site

Patti reads over the instructions - smart girl this one!

This one was definitely my favorite. I had an easier time during this class with my choices. Knowing that my imaginary craft room is decorated in greens and blues gave me a pallet, then I simply picked images as I went.

You may think that we stamped on the plastic before we shrunk it - not so. Tim suggests that at least with these images, they will be too small when they come out - they don't call it shrink plastic for no reason! We actually stamped on glossy heavy weight paper with black ink. I love Tim's stamp designs, so I ended up with lots of scraps for future projects too!

Shrink plastic rocks. I knew this when I was 7 and the coolness still remains. This way of working with it was unbelievable. First we filled our melting pots with UTEE (ultra thick embossing enamel). Once it was melted (at 340°, the highest setting), we were able to place our pre-cut pieces of shrink plastic directly into the molten UTEE. Then the magic! They shrink up instantly! Once they had shrunk, we pulled them out with our tweezers and allowed them to cool on our craft sheets (no, I didn't buy one of those... only because I already had one! You need one of these too. Trust me.) You could trim off any odd edges if you want, but generally they add more originality.

We flipped them over to their back side and added alcohol inks until we liked the effect. You could use alcohol ink blending solution to thin some spots if you wanted to, so that the images were highlighted in spots.

Once the color was dry, we selected images for each tile.

It helps to place the prepared tiles on your back board to see which direction they will be oriented in before choosing the images. (Just for fun take a quick digital photo of it before going on so when they are all over your work place later drying, you'll remember where to glue them back on!) We roughly trimmed around them. Added glossy accents to the back of the tile and held them in place over the pre-trimmed image. Then once it was partly dry, we trimmed the paper the rest of the way down as close as possible to the tile. It was helpful to bend the paper up around the edges to complete the look. We are trying to create the illusion of stamped colored glass here. Held the image in place a wee bit longer and then they were complete. Just a personal note - I had trouble trimming close enough and wished I had run the edge of the exposed paper with a black sharpie to hide where it met the tile - but only someone with extreme crafter's AR-OCD like me would likely notice. (You know who you are. I've seen you at the meetings!)

The back board was painted black and the ribbon was affixed.

Then we adhered the tiles to the back board. (Bonus: if you have any odd dings or marks on the tiles, like finger print or nail marks, you can hit it with your heat gun and they sort of melt right away.) A chain completes the project and now it can be hung. Voila! A beautiful piece!

Last but not least, I won a door prize! Yea me! Very excited to get some new tools to play with. Hopefully soon! The crackle accents is calling to me...

We also got a nifty bag to commemorate the class - and since I took two classes, I got two bags! One was promptly (yeah right!) whisked off for Edwina to enjoy as I know she will.

A belated thank you to Tim, Mario and all the folks at Stamplistic for a wonderful opportunity!

And of course to Miss Patti for sharing the journey with me. Will you forgive my lateness, dear?

Stay tuned for February when the Further Crafting Adventures of Patti and Connie (and Gretchen and Edwina too!) continue!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Gold, Frankincense, or Myrrh?

Neither! Santa brought some inspiration so I took advantage of it and made these pieces!

I bought these beads a while ago at a trunk show held at Embellish. There are both 6mm round and 24x17mm flat ovals of black gold Amazonite. The smaller ones are black glass E beads.

I had not used this type of magnetic clasp before and wasn't sure if I'd like it, but I must say it's great! So easy to get on and off, but no issues with security so far.

I've gathered quite a stash of materials - so I think there will be more pieces coming as we move into this cold, cold winter.

Excellent excuse to stay inside and be creative - and there are a lot of ideas bouncing in my head!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Monster Christmas Everyone!

Still celebrating?

The spirit of Christmas still swirling about like the first magic snow?

Don't let anyone shut you down.

Let your light shine and your voice sing loud and proud!


I do love a good monster! Stop over and appreciate their cousins too.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Santa Came! Santa Came!

Woke up to gently falling snow outside the window this morning.

It truly is the most wonderful time of the year.

Santa did stop by as predicted and he did leave some juju fruits for the biggest boy, much to his delight.

My wish for you and yours is a holiday filled with quiet moments of sharing. Learn something about someone else. Try to make someones day brighter. Teach a lesson only you can teach. Laugh. Cry. Whatever your heart is called to do.

Like the song says, "Be of good cheer!"

Spread that cheer - it's scientifically proven that attitude is contagious. Keep that spirit passing throughout the year.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Christmas Eve Miracle

Ah yes... we gathered for Christmas Eve at the Macko Family homestead. As many of us that could were there and those far away joined by phone. Nana made the traditional items while The Husband made his famous pasta with chicken, peppers, onions and garlic - a changing of the guard he called it. The children held up well to the removal of cavatelli from the menu - no riot ensued to my amazement.

Speaking of amazement - Chip stupefied and astounded us with his feats of skill. Can your brother-in-law suspend a spoon and fork on the edge of a glass with a toothpick and then burn away half of it while maintaining balance? Bet not.

The Boy and I rounded out the evening watching "It's a Wonderful Life" before retiring to await Santa's arrival. (Yes of course I still believe. Don't even tell me you don't!) I'm pretty sure visions of sugarplums were dancing in some of our heads (except when some of the bigger kids saw them, they probably looked like juju fruit)

A wonderful and blessed time was shared by all.

Hope you too were able to spend the evening with someone you love.

Peace on Earth - good will to men. Especially our own families.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Magical Windows

I do enjoy a good television program. Make it a holiday program or a craft program (or a really bad SciFi movie, but I digress...) and I am totally there! Watched the 2007 version of this one last year and was totally smitten. The windows of Macy's (New York and Chicago), Neiman Marcus (Dallas), Saks (New York), Lord and Taylor's (New York), Hudson's Bay (Toronto), and the Denver's Museum of Outdoor Art are featured from concept to completion in HGTV Holiday Windows 2008 program. (Click on the link to see the original source for the pictures and some text here.) Can I just say that Home and Garden Channel rocks?

According to the folks at Macy's, they invented the holiday window back in 1862. I'll take their word for it - and I'm so glad they did! Holiday windows are, as one lady in the program said, "Fantasmagorical!" I thoroughly enjoyed the program... Many themes were shown from the modern to traditional and for children and adults alike. And the drama! Would they finish on time? Would the 94 year old hydraulic system at the Lord and Taylor store which raises the windows to street level need Christmas magic to make it work? And would dinosaurs, hippies, and snowflakes really work together for success? I came away with the wonder of Christmas firmly entrenched in my heart and with a need for many of the inventions envisioned by the artists in Denver: top of the list the teleporter and worry wringer!

One of the wonderful things about the windows is that many help to raise funds and support charities such as the St. Jude's Children's Hospital. It is helpful to keep others needs in mind during this season of excess.

For the Hudson's Bay Company windows, Ana Fernandes and Denis Frenette have dreamed up a fantasy forest, where holiday fairies guard special stones from an evil ice queen. In this window, Iridesca the Blue Fairy guards the Amethyst stones with the help of some friendly snails.

This window shows the Emerald Fairy, who lives in the deepest, darkest part of the forest.

Although the Hudson's Bay window fairies are spectacular, I think my favorite set is the one from Neiman Marcus. Store vice-president Ignaz Gorischek asked local kids to design their fantasy trees for the Neiman Marcus' windows this year. The winner Jordan McNair's design (top most photo) is featured as the Neiman Marcus' 2008 Fantasy Tree, which is made of globes and recycling items, giving it the moniker of "The Clean Tree." The entire tree is constantly transforming as it spins and changes colors. Another window (directly above) displays the Faith and Earth trees. The Faith tree, where children play on clouds, is created by a seven-year-old girl, who is undergoing treatment in the Children's hospital. Made of stones and crystals, the Earth tree is designed by a nine-year-old who loves adventures and the great outdoors. The tree below is designed by third grader Richard Forgarty, who was born with only one hand. His design is a tree called "Scottish Rite Rocks!" Made of crutches, wheelchairs, prosthetic hands and books, Forgarty's tree is an expression of his gratefulness for the gifts and care he receives at Scottish Rites Hospital.

Some day my dream is to go to New York City at Christmas time and see some of these gorgeous masterpieces. And of course go to Rockefeller Center to ice skate and see the giant tree. Maybe catch the Rockettes. Totally do the Big Apple - maybe even make mulled cider from it!

So I strongly suggest you check out the show. It plays again on December 24th and 25th. Check your local directory for times and set that DVR!

Come back and tell me which were your favorites!

For a few more "windows" visit Michelle Ward (Bergdorf Goodman's: Holiday, Winter, Autumn, Summer, Spring, 57th Street) and ArtsyMama (Anthropology)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Winter Solstice

Joyous Solstice greetings to all!

Give a nod on this day to our Earth and her Father Sun and Mother Moon. There is so much beauty and balance in our world if we only stop to take it in.

Like my friend the cardinal - may warmth, light, and cheerfulness brighten your holidays!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Island of Misfit Lab Supplies

This year, Miss Stephanie and Miss Irene came up with a dandy idea...

Let's decorate our office doors this holiday season and be festive!

Enter corporate shenanigans and a week or so later we had a blow out contest throughout all the departments in the Plant.

I, being slightly touched as I am, came up with a swell idea incorporating all the 'old school' lab supplies and recycled materials we have laying around the lab. It all came together rather quickly.

For those who may not know, I am a chemist currently working in the quality field in the food industry. I also play a a microbiologist on TV.... well okay, I just impersonate one on occasions for fun at work. A woman of many talents.

First, with apologies to the original artist, as shown above in small print, are the reworked lyrics to a popular tune sung at holiday time:

The Legend of Frosty

Frosty the Quality Man was a jolly happy guy,
With a clean lab coat and some sterile gloves,
and some side shields for his eyes.

Frosty the Quality Man was a fairytale they say,
He was made of snow and the chemists know
how he came to life one day.

There must have been some magic in those instruments they found,
For when they placed them on his bench he began to dance around!

O, Frosty the Quality Man, was alive as he could be
And the techs all state he could test and plate
just the same as you and me!

Thumpetty thump thump,
Thumpety thump thump,
Look at Frosty go.
Thumpetty thump thump,
Thumpety thump thump,
Watch those microbes grow.

Frosty the Quality Man, felt the burner heat that day,
So he said, “Lets get to work, please don’t be a jerk,
now before I melt away!”

Down in the factory with a charm swab he would test,
He would rave and rant all around the plant
sayin’, “Won’t you please join QUEST*?”

He led them through the chopper room right to packing line,
He was doing checks for sensory - Oops! “Don’t drink that cooking wine!”

Then Frosty the Quality Man, had to hurry from the Lab
But he waved goodbye saying “Don’t you cry, Hope your Holidays are Fab!!”

Thumpetty thump thump,
Thumpety thump thump,
Look at Frosty go.
Thumpetty thump thump,
Thumpety thump thump,
Watch those microbes grow.
(*I know you need to know what QUEST is... it's our quality task force! "Quality Used Everyday Saves Tomorrow" they're clever too!)

I know it was really Rudolph and not Frosty that hung with the folks on the Island of Misfit Toys, but they're probably all friends like the rest of the beautiful people right?

If you're thinking that I'm especially talented making all those beautiful snowflakes using the filter paper from the lab - you too can amaze your family and astonish friends! Check out the Paper Snowflake Site like I did. Lots of totally cool stuff there!

I especially like the collage of ads from those free magazines creating the tree. Had a blast picking the best images for that one! Do you like the pipette tip star and garland?

Best use for temperature chart recorder paper I've seen! What other lab supplies do you recognize? Swabs? Plate Spreaders? Transfer pipettes? Slides? pH test strips? It was painful to sacrifice my bubble wrap stash...

Safety First! Note the use of safety glasses worn here, as well as hearing protection and hairnets! Safety all around!

We also decided to decorate the lab door...

Thank goodness we don't pour liquid agar into petri dishes anymore! Bless you inventor of PetriFilm Plates!

Now if only the house was decorated!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Stopped by Ralphie's Today

So, I stopped by Ralphie's house today. You know... Ralphie? Ralphie Parker? The kid with the leg lamp in his front window? That's a major award you know!

So many exciting things here in Cleveland... The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, LeBron and the Cavaliers, and the "A Christmas Story House"!

If you're unfamiliar with the movie - then I'm really excited because I must have readers from outside the USA!

Seriously though, thought I'd kick off the festive holiday season by sharing a few snaps from the neighborhood near where I work. Just a few streets over from the Plant, on my way to Chipotle and Target, is 11th Street. The real, live, actual house where many scenes from the movie were shot is right there! It's been voted Cleveland's Best Museum by the locals more than once. If you're able during the proper hours, you can go right in and see many of the props and other memorabilia.

The house is owned by a former Navy man, Brian Jones. He was a big fan of the movie and started out by selling the famous leg lamps. His wife sent him a link to the eBay auction for the house and without telling her - he bought it! Oh my. I'm sure that went over great at first!

It is a terrific stop any time of year - but especially during the Christmas Season.

Ironically, as I moved on toward more photo opportunities (stay tuned!) I drove past the Higbee's building downtown which is also featured in the movie! It's no longer operated as a department store, but still a Cleveland landmark.

Hope you enjoyed this visit and are having a wonderful holiday season so far. Have lots of fun and frivolity, be sure to drink your Ovaltine - but, remember to be sure to be careful!

or else...

wait for it

"You'll poke your eye out!"