Monday, March 31, 2014

Magic: The Art Therapy

It's raining Beebles!

When times are tough, it's good to have an outlet. As it so happens, times have been pretty tough recently (hence the temporary blog hiatus) so I know this firsthand. Still, I didn't realize the truth of it until one of my relatives asked me what my outlet was. After a moment's thought, I realized I had indeed developed a renewed passion since the troubles began: arts and crafts. 

Along with teaching myself to crochet and dabbling in doilies (blogs to come!), my first defense was in the form of art. In the manner of true art therapy, I took to drawing, sketching and coloring like I hadn't done in weeks. 

Blub blub, blub blub.

One of my favorite pastimes has always been creating art from scratch, usually featuring fictional characters of my own design. However, sometimes even thinking of what to doodle can be taxing. Since this was the case for me, I used some of my brother's Magic the Gathering cards to, in essence, make my own coloring book.

Creepy, but cool!

Thanks to both of my nerdy brothers, I admit that I know how to play Magic The Gathering, and have even on occasion won. One of my favorite parts of the game though, is admiring the art on the cards. My favorites are usually colorful (Phantasmal Mount), adorable (Basking Rootwalla) or both (Segovian Leviathan), but I can also appreciate the alienesque, especially when comically named (ahem, Lhurgoyf).

Photosynthesis in lizard form!

While delving into drawing and coloring once again, I realized I had far more experience in the first and far less in the latter. I made my first few attempts with Prismacolor markers, and then decided to go even further out on a limb and break out the colored pencils, a medium I hadn't used in years.

A Smaugling?

Luckily, I have quite a stash of high quality colored pencils, and had just recently perused an art book at a book store that taught me a nifty new technique. As most artsy people probably know, one can use complimentary hues instead of simply black or gray to add depth as well as shadow to your subject. In the case of the Pygmy Pyrosaur seen above, that meant using purple to shade his yellow hide. For a first attempt, it didn't turn out half bad!

Beebly bobbly boo!

My next endeavor was an adorable card my brother picked out just for me - a beeble! The specific model of choice was the bouncing variety. As always, I penciled my initial sketch first.

Leave it to beebles!

Once I got his pose just right, I darkened my pencil outline to get that coloring book effect. While I didn't do that for the wee dragonling, I thought it would do this cartoony creature well.

Orange you glad I'm so cute?

Next up, let the coloring begin! Some of the beeble breeds, such as the Bouncing Beeble, were pinkish in hue, but my choice of orange pencil was really setting the stage for the slate blue Bubbling Beeble I had in mind.

Beebles bobble but they don't fall down!
In this mid-coloring shot, you can see what a difference that extra depth of color can make (though in this state, the beeble looks rather like a half shaven potato mouse...).

Hooray for beebles!

At this point, my beeble had a complete foundation of orange shadows and a slate blue topcoat. Believe it or not, the coloring above was done with entirely just these two pencils.

Bouncing, bubbling beebles for all!
For a final touch of contrast, I bust out a darker blue pencil for the shadows, and would have brightened the highlights too had I not left my pencil sharpener at home. Needless to say, the success of these Magical trial runs will make sure this new technique is a consistent part of my coloring repertoire from now on. 

Trite though it may seem, I agree more than ever with the old adage that every cloud comes with a silver lining. I would amend it however, to say that some clouds are lined in gold. Thank you so much to all the wonderful family, friends and neighbors who have brought sunshine into our cloudy day, and let us bask like rootwallas through the storm! <3

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Winter Olympic Game Night - International Nerd Food!

Mmmmm... Olympic Rings

The Olympics aren't over yet, and that means there's still time to celebrate! What better way to ring in the closing ceremonies than with a Winter Olympic themed party? Perhaps an Olympic themed game night, complete with plenty of international, sporty and delicious snacks!

Cheers!

International sodas were an easy and fun way to get the party started, while incorporating the multicultural awesomeness of the Olympics. From left to right we have (in name if not in origin) German, Russian, Australian, Mexican, American and Japanese sodas! Behind the tasty beverages, you can also see our Olympic onion rings, chips, Bugles, salsa and homemade guacamole. 

Bonus themed snack: the Bugles filled with salsa look like mini Olympic torches!

Curling stones never tasted so good.

On the appetizer scene, I was able to honor one of my favorite sports from the Winter Olympics: curling! I'm not sure why it's one of my favorites, but it is. Perhaps it's because Kirby could turn into a curling stone back in his N64 days, or maybe because it's so easy to make delicious renditions of curling stones out of stuffed mushrooms.

It appears the curlers were hungry...

To make these little delicacies, I followed the recipe for Mouth Watering Stuffed Mushrooms recommended by 2200 positive ratings. Turns out they weren't wrong! Minor changes I made were including some sauteed scallions in the filling, nixing the cayenne pepper and adding parmesan and a red pepper curling handle on top. Yum!

Olympic Sharlotka - Russian Apple Cake (German Style!)

Next up, dessert! When thinking up options for a themed dessert, I opted for a Russian apple cake known as sharlotka. After perusing the internet for the best recipe to follow, I thought I'd give my own family cookbook a try. While that side of my family is German in heritage, my great grandparents lived in Russia before emigrating to the United States, and as luck would have it, I found exactly what I was looking for.

This one's for you, Great Grandpa Scholl!

While I never had the opportunity to meet my great grandfather, I felt honored to be able to make something I knew was his favorite, especially since my great grandmother and namesake Lydia was probably the one who made it for him. It was extra special because most of the recipes I had found online were passed down from grandparents to parents and so on, and here I had found one from my own family to share. 


Apple chunks in the snow (a.k.a. flour)

Olympic Yum!

Apart from cutting the apples in larger chunks and extending the baking time (as it was still quite gooey at the recommended time), I made the recipe exactly as written. For future reference or anyone else looking for a great apple cake recipe to try, it turned out great and I would make it the exact same way again. No wonder this was my great grandpa's favorite!

Sochi Mochi Gold Medal!

Last but not least, Sochi Mochi Medals! Even though we already had tons of food and a delicious dessert, I simply could not resist the wordplay. The medals were very simply made: mango flavored mochi for the gold medals (because we're all winners here) and strawberry sour rope for the ribbon. Like most of the other themed food, these were quite a hit.

Go Team USA!

I love the Olympics, and while I admit I kind of root for everyone, I am rooting for good old USA in the end. Way to go to all the amazing athletes competing, from America and across the globe! You guys rock!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Love is in the Cards - Happy Valentine's Day!


Valentine's Day is just around the corner, and if you haven't found a card for your loved one yet, never fear! While the greeting card aisle of your local shopping center may be stripped bare, you can still share the love in style.

Remember when you made your own valentine cards out of construction paper and glitter as a kid? Well here's a grown-up take on the handmade Valentine card, complete in the nerdy meme of your choice. 











But wait, there's more! Valentine Cards, phase 2:







If any of these cards strike your fancy, feel free to share with your special someone! Happy Valentine's Day, all! <3

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Arm Knitting: The Literally Handmade Moebius Scarf

Hand Made & Arm Knit!

While I'm far from an expert by any means, I'd like to think I know my way around a pair of knitting needles. I think yarn is a great craft medium and have made many scarves and hats in my time. However, I recently came across this cool video tutorial on how to arm knit an infinity scarf - something I had never heard of before! Essentially arm knitting is just that - using your arms to knit instead of knitting needles. This makes for very quick work of a project and big, loose loops.


Struck by curiosity, I decided to try it out right after watching the above video (even though it was 11 pm). Before the clock struck midnight, I had a lovely new Tardis blue infinity scarf to call my own, not to mention a fantastic new skill! 

Since the above video from Michaels (which also happens to be the store where I get most of my yarn) does a such great job of explaining and displaying the how-to aspect of arm knitting, the purpose of this blog is mainly to highlight key points and share some fun variations.


It's so FLUFFY!

For my demonstration, I chose to use Lion Brand Chenille yarn in two complimentary shades of purple. This was mainly because I already had them on hand and thought they would look great together. Luckily, I was right!

Casting On - You're Doing it Right!

When learning how to cast on for arm knitting, I definitely had to pause the video. It's not hard, per se, especially with a rewind button, but I thought it might be nice to share a static picture for posterity. Once you've got the method down, proceed until you have an armful of stitches!

Stylish yarn cuffs are all the rage.

One or two rows later, the scarf begins to take shape and show off the cool arm knitting stitchery. If you need any snacks or beverages, now's the time to fetch them, before you become...

There's no escaping it now!

 YARN SHACKLED! Handy hint: You can move your stitches onto a bottle of some sort to hold your place, but you'll probably be done in half an hour or so anyway. Thanks to my lovely mom who gave me sustenance and helped take the pictures for this part of the blog!

Casting Off - Almost There!

Once you have the desired length of scarf on your arm, it's time to cast off. Take into account when deciding the length that due to the large stitches, most scarves will stretch out after a bit of wear.

Finite Scarf

Once you are done casting off, you have your very own arm knit scarf! You could turn it into an infinity scarf from here, but why stop there? Why not try... a Moebius scarf?!


Moebius scarf in the making!

A Moebius scarf is neat because not only does it go on forever just like its infinite cousin, but it also only has one side! To make a mind-boggling, mathematical Moebius scarf of your own, simply flip one of the ends over after folding the scarf in half, and sew together as usual. This way, the knits and purls are on the same side, forever!

Voila! Purple, fluffy, Moebius scarf!

Once you've sewed the scarf ends together and crocheted in any loose ends, your infinity/Moebius scarf is complete and ready to enjoy! But what if you want a different type of color, texture or fluffiness? No problem! The type of yarn you choose for your arm knitting makes a big difference in the final product. 

Take for instance the following scarves, all arm knit with yarn classified as the recommended "bulky":

Mary Maxim Titan
Lion Brand Homespun
Loops & Threads Dewdrops & Loops & Threads Links
Loops & Threads Fuzzy Wuzzy

Each different type offers a totally different look, feel and thickness. The Homespun yarn (a favorite of mine) is super soft, but the thinnest of the bulky weaves and very stretchable, while the Fuzzy Wuzzy stayed the puffiest without stretching, maxing out the fluff capacity! 

Mad arm knitting skills right here!

In conclusion, if your neck is cold and you're feeling crafty, try arm knitting an infinity or Moebius scarf! It's fast, it's easy and it's very satisfying to have a fluffy, literally handmade scarf in roughly 30 minutes. If you've tried arm knitting or other awesome yarn projects, be sure to comment below!