Don't be fooled. Inside this thin coating of sweetness is a fiery core of total insanity.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Christmas Video

Cause what says Merry Christmas better than half-nekkid British sailors singing a Christmas song?

Thursday, December 22, 2011

What I Did on My Birthday

Today, December 22, is my birthday. Shall I tell how old I am? I'll whisper it. 56.

Me when I was cute.

I had a great birthday.

It started with being allowed to sleep late, till 9:30. I've been suffering from insomnia lately, so sleeping late was a sweet indulgence. On a normal day, despite my insomnia, I'm up at 6:40 to drive Nigel to the train station, but Nigel's group at work has started working at home on Thursdays, which -- hooray for me! -- coincided with my birthday.

So my day started with me stumbling downstairs into the kitchen, still a bit bleary-eyed, searching for coffee. What do I see but a card and a packet of chocolates waiting for me on the kitchen table. Fran's salted caramels, my favorite. Fran's is a Seattle institution.

My birthday breakfast (the Network World mug is a relic of my former life as an editor)

The card was perfect.

Not flowery and sentimental and overdone. Just simple wishes for a simple day. Which is just what I had.

What did I do on my birthday?

Did laundry. Cleaned the refrigerator (Ugh! It needed it). Cleaned the oven (It's self-cleaning, so all I had to do really was press some buttons and wipe the ash off at the end). Washed some dishes, and thoroughly scoured the kitchen sink when I was done. Went out in the garage to check on my latest projects. Wandered around the intarwebs (wasted time on Pinterest). Went out in the early afternoon with Nigel for a latte and a blueberry scone. Read a book (Blood Harvest by S.J. Bolton).

When I was young I would have been astounded if someone had told me that a perfect day for me would be one spent indulging in blissful domesticity. I thought finding enjoyment in housekeeping was a betrayal of my feminist principles (it isn't).

In the evening Nigel and I went out to a local restaurant called HG Bistro for a lovely meal.

Please forgive the bad cell phone photography.

My dinner companion


Our appetizer, crostini with Brie and smoked pork with cole slaw and balsamic reduction

My entree, lamb chops (medium rare) with bean and lentil ragout

Dessert, lemon lava cake (so good!)

Now, while I type up this blog post, Nigel is downstairs playing a video game. There is one last load of laundry waiting to be put away. And I'm hoping the "peaceful dreams to end the day" are in my future.

Happiness is a clean kitchen sink and a good night's sleep.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

More of That Cement Craftiness

Are you sick of my projects yet? Except for some lackluster preparations for Christmas, this is just about all that's going on here. I thought since it's winter and I can't do any real gardening anyway, I might as well concentrate on some craft projects.

I do have one plant still blooming out in my garden -- A Sheffield Mum. But they probably won't last much longer.

Here's how some of my last projects turned out.

The Medallions:

Can you see a lady's face in there?


The Hanging Ornaments: Only three of them came out of the molds in one piece, the fourth isn't going to come out without some persuasion by a hammer.

Lump with Leaf Impressions:

I have also done a couple of other projects with cement. I used a little glass bowl to make a round plant container.

I put the cement in, and then pushed a Styrofoam ball wrapped in plastic wrap into it.

The top edge is a bit wonky, I wonder if I can file it smooth?

The trouble with using glass bowls is you have to break them to get the item out, so they are one use only. Good thing they only cost a couple of dollars at the thrift store. I wrapped it in a trash bag, and then gave it a few whacks with a hammer. It released very easily. I put on leather gloves to lift it out of the bag. If you do this, be careful not to cut yourself on the broken glass shards.

The other item I made was a lump with a deep leaf impression in the center from the little leaf-shaped glass bowl I had, and then real leaf impressions along the edges. It didn't come out perfect, but it's ok.

I still have lots more ideas for things to make with cement, so I hope you're not all bored stiff yet...

Thursday, December 15, 2011

What I Made Today With Portland Cement

Actually, with stepping stone mix from the craft store.

I did manage to drag Nigel to Lowe's to pick up two 50-lb. bags of cement, but I also had a couple of packages of stepping stone mix, so I thought I would start out with some small projects first and see how they went. This mix is a combination of silica sand and Portland cement (I wore a dust mask when I mixed it).

I've been scouring the Internet lately for interesting craft projects, and ideas for things to make with cement. Actually, I've been on Pinterest, checking out lots of craft projects, and this one caught my eye. Making lace ornaments with Sculpey clay.

Not my photo, it belongs to the blog Whimsy Love

I wanted to try to adapt it for making ornaments with cement.

I poured/pressed the wet cement into round metal cookie cutters that I had smeared Vaseline all over as a release agent. I also put Vaseline on the plastic under the cookie cutters, and then pressed them into it, to keep the cement from oozing out under the metal ring.

Unfortunately, I couldn't get the lace to make a good impression in the cement. So I just used a straw to make a hole for hanging and then pressed a flower stamp into it (the flower stamp was designed for making impressions in stepping stones). When they dry I hope to maybe hang them from my trees.

I also made some small stepping stones with small food storage containers.

The little butterfly shape on the left was a stepping stone stamp, and the one on the right was made using a butterfly-shaped cookie cutter. The little circle and leaf mosaic pieces came from the craft store, and the leaves came from a house plant (a false Aralia).

I used some soap molds to make cement medallions. Here's what they look like filled with cement.

You can probably tell that one in the middle is a fleur-de-lis.

Here's what it looks like on the other side. I had to call Nigel in from the other room to hold it up, I had forgotten to get a picture of it before I filled it.

Sorry it's such a bad pic, it was hard to get the light right and to get a good angle.

Close-up of the fleur-de-lis

One of the round shapes is a cameo

Another tray of soap molds

I hope some of this detail comes out in the cement.

I plan to use the medallions on cement pots, which I haven't even made yet. Wishful thinking, I guess.

And of course, my final project with this batch of cement was the inevitable lump of cement in a pizza box, with a leaf impression.

I didn't realize the cement would retain so much of its shape when patted out into a circle. I may try making more small hanging ornaments without the cookie cutters, just patting them out into small rounds.

They are now hanging out in the garage wrapped in plastic to slowly cure, along with my previous concrete projects.  I better make sure I can still fit the car in.

I've been scouring thrift stores lately, looking for good bowls to make molds/pots. Here are some that I found for quite cheaply, between $1.99 and $6.99.

I think this basket/salad bowl will make a great hypertufa succulent bowl!

This one has great vertical sides for showing off all those medallions!

This is the bottom half of a salad spinner. The spinner mechanism no longer worked, so now I have a colander for the kitchen, and this for making pots. Two for the price of one!

I couldn't pass this up -- it's a great mold for another cool succulent container!

In a couple of days my projects will be ready for unmolding. I'm feeling much happier about this bunch!


Have you heard of Pinterest, by the way? It's another way to waste time on the web. This link should take you to my Pin Boards.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Concrete Results

Yesterday I unmolded all the concrete things I made earlier this week, that I posted about here. I left everything in plastic bags for three days. The instructions say you only need two, but I decided to give things an extra 24 hours. I started with the ones that I had made with the concrete that I added more water to.

Surprisingly, they did not crumble into dust, and the molds released them quite easily. They did produce quite a lot of dust, and a few chunks did come off them as well, in spots.

This little pot with a square hole lost a chunk off the rim when I took the square bottle out that made the impression.

And two of the bricks lost chunks off their corners.

I don't really like that Swiss cheese texture. Even though these were made with the much more runny mix, they still have lots of these holes.

One of the bricks had a butterfly-shaped mold pressed into it. You can see the butterfly shape, but it's crude and rough-edged. I really want something that allows for details to show more.

And the one that I made with the drier mix that I pressed a deep glass leaf-shaped bowl into didn't come out showing much detail either.

Can you tell this is a leaf shape?

The container that I made that was a plain bowl looks like just a lump of concrete.

The edges are really rough.

There is a small void in the bottom of it. I might have avoided this if I had really shaken the container and maybe poked it with a stick, but actually I just think the mix was so dry that nothing would have helped.

I made one star with the dry mix.

And then I made five more with the wetter mix.

Here's the small birdbath. It might look better once I adorn it a bit.

Here's the picture from the book Concrete Garden Projects that I based this birdbath on.

Interestingly, the project that I like the best is the throwaway one that I made at the end when I was just trying to use up the rest of the mix -- the lump of concrete in a pizza box.

You can see the veins from the leaf that I pressed into it.

But the leaf edges aren't so hot.

There is one thing that I am confused about. Many of the items are shiny where the concrete touched the air. (They were all wrapped up in plastic bags.) I'm not sure what's going on there, but I don't like the shininess.

Thanks to everyone for your encouragement! You have no idea how very much I appreciate it. Despite my tone of unhappiness with this batch of projects, I am actually pleasantly surprised that they didn't all crumble to nothing. I'm not sure what I'll do with them when they are finished. They are all wrapped up again in black plastic bags, and I intend to mist them every day to keep them in a humid environment. According to concrete "lore" that is the best way to make sure they cure and become as hard as possible.

Next up: Portland cement. I think that might be a better medium for the detail I want in the molds. So I am off today to Lowe's with the husband to buy some. Maybe I better take advantage of him, and get two bags. I'll ply him with coffee and a cookie.