Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Our Little World

Over the weekend, Seth and I spent some time exploring one of the older areas of the city.  As modernization encroaches, these quaint little neighborhoods are becoming harder and harder to find. On this particular day, the sun was shining brightly after several days of rain; clothes and bedding could be seen dancing from poles above our heads, airing out in the fresh breeze.

In a nearby shop, casks of alcohol slowly aged on their dusty shelves.

Vendors displayed their wares, hoping for a few more customers before the afternoon lull.

A group of men enjoyed a rowdy drinking game over a late lunch.

And a tailor worked nimbly on his latest commission, a solitary light-bulb illuminating his workspace. 

We wandered the crowded narrow lanes, absorbing the sights and sounds with our eyes and ears and hearts. We took a few pictures now and then, but mostly just observed: the clicking and clacking of hundreds of mahjong tiles, drifting through an open doorway; a young girl writing on the sidewalk with a piece of chalk; the hiss of steam from a pan full of dumplings; the play between sunlight and shadow down a crooked corridor; the smells from the wet market mingling in the heat of the day. So many experiences to be had, so many adventures still to come. I fell in love with China all over again that day. It was a very good day.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Easiest. Fudge. Ever

This fudge has become my kryptonite. Seriously. It's the easiest recipe I've ever made, and it tastes sooo good. Just three ingredients. Yep, you heard me - three.

One can of sweetened condensed milk, 1 tablespoon of margarine, and 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder. That's it. Dump everything into a saucepan and stir continually over medium heat until mixture thickens and comes away from the sides, about 10 minutes. You can eat it straight from the pan (careful, it's hot!), or pour it into a container to set. I like to add some crushed oreos to mine. As you can see in the top picture, it doesn't make a huge batch, but I think that's actually a good thing. For me, the hard part is not eating it all the first day - one bite just isn't enough!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Just a Little Love Note

Oh, coffee. We have a long history, you and I. We’ve had our ups and downs, a bumpy road, so to speak. In my mind, your rich aroma mingles with warm memories of rainy days at grandma’s house, the sound of the percolator a sign that all was peaceful and right in the world. But our relationship was purely platonic; I was too young to appreciate your robustness, the complexity of your charms. ‘Someday, when I’m grown,’ I thought, ‘ I’ll do adult things like read the newspaper while I drink my morning coffee – not because I’ll like it, but because it’s what grownups do, the same way they eat bran cereal and always take their medicine.’   By the time I reached college, I decided that I was the type of girl who wouldn’t do anything simply because it was expected, and thus shunned any future plans involving morning coffees and newspapers. But fate had her way, and I eventually married into a family of coffee drinkers. Oh, I held out for many years. I flirted a bit here and there, but you came on so strong, I was overwhelmed. But then – I don’t know which of us changed, or when, but bit by bit I found you more and more appealing. With a little bit of sweetness, you could be quite alluring. And with just the right amount of velvet creaminess, oh my! What began as an experimental little fling has become quite the love affair. My day doesn’t feel right without you in it. So here I sit, surfing the web while drinking my morning coffee, and I realize – I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

It's Earth Day!

Happy Earth Day, everybody! Seth and I "celebrated" by riding the new subway line that just opened in our neighborhood. Previously, we would have to take a taxi to get to the nearest station - now we're just a ten minute walk away! I can't even begin tell you how good that feels. (We don't have a car here in China, so we rely solely on public transportation.)

I also decided to make a little "Earth Day" card. The green panel? Part of a paper bag from Starbucks. Perfect sentiment for an Earth Day card, no? When I cut it out of the bag, it looked a little too pristine, so I gave it some good crumples to really convey the "reuse" idea. Oh, and the chipboard circle is actually part of an old macaroni box. See, even old packaging can be made into something beautiful! The best part is that the Starbucks bag had lots of other pretty printed areas that I'm using for other cards - I'm definitely getting lots of use out of it!

Card Supplies
Stamp: Michaels $1 (circle sentiment), Hampton Art "Artsy Edges"; Ink: Ink It Up! pigment (green), Versamark, Palette (Vintage Cream); Cuttlebug / Circle Nestabilities, rhinestones, foam dimensionals

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Spring, Where are you Hiding?

The weather today was miserable! From the time I walked the dog first thing this morning to when I left the house at noon, the temperature had plummeted and the rain kicked in. Needless to say, I was not appropriately attired. It even started sleeting while I was in the cab! However, the redeeming factor(s) of the day was warm, tummy-filling western food and time spent with a new friend. Now I'm winding down, snuggled up with an afghan, heater blasting, channeling spring weather with this little number:

Card Supplies
Stamps: Autumn Leaves "Pretty Poppies," PTI "Friends 'Til the End" (sentiment); Ink: Brilliance Graphite Black, My Mind's Eye pigment ("Natural" palette); DCWV cardstock, K & Company patterned paper; corner rounder punch; eyelets; dimensionals; Cuttlebug / Forest Branches ef / Swiss Dots ef; scallop scissors

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Ready for Some Sunshine

I don't know about you, but I'm ready for some warmer weather! Apparently, the balmy temps we had a week or so ago were just a tease; the past several days have been overcast, drizzly, and chilly. However, in my mind I'm reliving childhood memories of summer vacations at Lake Michigan. Now those were some good times.

(Card created for the splitcoaststampers Clean and Simple Challenge #62 )

Card Supplies
Stamps: ProvoCraft Simply Chic; Ink: SU Not Quite Navy pigment; Cosmo Cricket "Early Bird" patterned paper; Cuttlebug / d'vine swirls embossing folder; typewriter; foam dimensionals

Sunday, April 11, 2010

On Creativity and Finding my Style

Lately I’ve been thinking about creativity. I’m inspired by so many things, and often feel impelled to try my hand at creating something lovely myself. Sometimes that “something” is a savory dish in the kitchen; other times it’s a vignette on our bookshelf; most often it’s a small card or other paper-craft.
When I first started card-making, there seemed to be a precise formula one was to use: colored cardstock base; a layer of cardstock in a contrasting color, most likely stamped all over in a repeating design; another layer of cardstock; top layer with focal image and sentiment. Lather, rinse, repeat. Over the years, this formula became more and more elaborate – 5 or more layers of cardstock, sponging, distressing, ribbons and baubles and rhinestones and tags…  So of course that’s how I wanted my cards to look. Things all changed, however, when we moved overseas. No longer could I afford to use layers and layers of my precious stash of cardstock on a single creation. Intricately shaped or bejeweled brads? Not gonna find those here! All of the things that had become the go-to elements of a “fabulous” card design were suddenly unavailable. And so, my designs veered away from the mainstream norm, at first out of necessity. I began striving to make big visual impact using minimal amounts of product. I started examining my personal style, and realized that in everyday life I’m drawn to clean, retro-modern design, from my home décor to my clothing. Why shouldn’t my paper-crafting reflect that, as well? What started as a change born out of necessity has actually put new life into my creativity. I’m breaking from the norm, and loving it. I’m much more selective in the rubber stamps I buy, whereas before I would buy a set because “800 other people have made cards with it, so it must be good.”  I’ve found I don’t need expensive products to express myself– I can rock a set of clear $1 stamps like there’s no tomorrow. I see it as a challenge to myself. A challenge to creatively work within my budget (I can only afford to have the occasional small package shipped over here); a challenge to find products that reflect my design aesthetic (not just whatever the masses have deemed popular this month); a challenge to find creative replacements for the things I just can’t get. And I’m having FUN. 

Card Supplies:
DCWV patterned paper; adhesive-back fun foam; Cuttlebug / Red Tag Sale alphabet; DYMO labelmaker, wood-grain label tape; foam dimensionals

Friday, April 9, 2010

I {heart} Quail Eggs

Quail eggs are fabulous. One of my favorite meals here is Chinese Hot Pot: bubbling hot, spicy broth loaded with veggies, thin-shaved lamb's meat, and hard-boiled quail eggs. The little bite-sized eggs bob around in the broth, soaking up all of the spicy flavor, and burst in your mouth with lava-hot, yolky goodness. It's heaven. So when I came across a recipe for Doro Wat that called for whole hard-boiled chicken eggs, I knew quail eggs would be an even better fit. 

Doro Wat is an Ethiopian dish utilizing a few simple ingredients and spices that result in a flavorful, aromatic stew. This particular version is made in a slow-cooker, which of course means that the mouth-watering smell will permeate your whole house, teasing you relentlessly for hours. Is it worth the wait? Absolutely! Sopped up with hunks of chewy naan, this stew is the perfect pick-me-up at the end of a long day. I'll be making this one again!

In case you're interested, here's the recipe I followed:

Doro Wat
30ml/2T vegetable oil
2 large onions, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2.5cm/1in piece peeled and finely chopped fresh root ginger
175ml/¾ c. chicken or vegetable stock
400g/14oz. can chopped tomatoes (I used fresh chopped tomatoes)
1T tomato paste
seeds from 5 cardamom pods
2.5ml/½ tsp. ground turmeric
large pinch of ground cinnamon
large pinch of ground cloves
large pinch of grated nutmeg
4 chicken breasts
4 hard-boiled eggs (I used 2 dozen hard-boiled quail eggs)
cayenne pepper or hot paprika, to taste
salt and ground black pepper
roughly chopped fresh coriander (cilantro) and onion rings, to garnish
flatbread or rice to serve

1)      Heat oil in large skillet; brown chicken. Remove chicken and place in slow cooker.
2)      Add onions to skillet and cook for 10 minutes or until softened, adding more oil if necessary. Add garlic and ginger and cook for 1-2 minutes.
3)      Add stock , chopped tomatoes and tomato paste to onion mixture. Bring to the boil and cook, stirring frequently, 10 minutes or until mixture has thickened. Season with salt and pepper.
4)      Stir in cardamom, turmeric, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. Pour onion mixture over chicken in slow cooker.
5)      Cover with lid and cook on high 3 hours. Peel eggs; pierce a few times with fork or fine skewer. Add to sauce and cook 30-45 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Season to taste with cayenne pepper or hot paprika. Garnish with coriander and onion rings; serve with flatbread or rice.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Very Mush

I don't know what it is, but this card has had me chuckling to myself from the moment I started putting it together. I've had this little mushroom stamped on a chipboard (actually, cereal-box) circle for a few months, just waiting for the right project. And then, the other night I had my Dymo labelmaker out for another card, and it hit me: mushroom + woodgrain + sticker letters + clean white background = fabulousness! The punny saying was just icing on the cake. I think this would be a perfect little card to slip into hubby's bag on his next business trip, don't you? Man, I'm still chuckling. "Very mush." I crack myself up!

Card Supplies:
Hampton Art stamp; ColorBox pigment ink; clear embossing powder; Dymo label-maker / wood-grain label tape; Cuttlebug / circle die; cereal box; foam dimensionals; corner rounder punch

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Happy Easter!


Card Supplies:
Stamps: Hobby Lobby, Studio G (sentiment); Ink: Ink It Up! pigment (moss), My Mind's Eye pigment (coral); K & Company patterned paper; Cuttlebug / Circle Nestabilities; rhinestones; foam dimensionals

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Moxie Fab Tuesday Trigger

This week's Moxie Fab Tuesday Trigger was too fun to pass up; love the Easter theme and the bright colors. Don't those eggs look like a bunch of fancy Skittles? Now, as soon as I saw them, I knew I had to use this stamp set from Studio G. It mirrors the designs perfectly! So, here's my interpretation of the Trigger:

I kept things pretty simple: a white 4 1/4" square, with a circle punched out of the front using a circle Nestabilities die. The egg is popped up on dimensionals (adhered to the inside of the card). I love how fresh and cheery this turned out! I can totally see a set of these made, each with an egg stamped in a different bright color. Hmm... Just may have to go do that!

Card Supplies
Studio G stamps; Brilliance Graphite Black ink, ColorBox pigment ink ("Surf"); Cuttlebug / Circle Nestabilities; foam dimensionals

Thursday, April 1, 2010

A Little Fabulousness to Brighten Your Day

I made this card for last week's CAS (Clean And Simple) challenge on Splitcoaststampers. It was so easy to make, but I have to say it's one of my favorite cards. Just heat embossing on a one-layer card, with a little ribbon ruffle on the side (I knew the ribbon handles from that Victoria's Secret bag would come in handy someday!), finished up with a few rhinestones for extra bling. I  have to add, that Zing! embossing powder is FAB!

I've been in a contemplative / "must make pretty things" mood lately. (I know, it's a strange combination.) The creative juices have slowly started to flow again, and I've been brainstorming color schemes and card layouts. I'm so glad my subscription to Paper Crafts magazine finally kicked in last month! That Mar/Apr issue has been the springboard for so many ideas. Now, to just actually translate them to cardstock...

Of course, with the surge of craftiness comes the slightest tinge of homesickness. I see a new color-combo I'd love to try - but I realize I don't have any ink or cardstock in those colors, and no place here to buy them. I see a fabulous new stamp set, but the overseas shipping either costs as much as the set itself, or isn't even available. So, I do my best to make do with what I have. Which, in turn, forces me to be more creative, which of course is a good thing. But that doesn't stop me from doing a little online window-shopping now and then. Hey, a girl can dream, can't she?

Card Supplies:
Versamark ink, Inkadinkado "Chandeliers" stamp set, American Crafts Zing! embossing powder (white), ribbon, adhesive rhinestones