Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Trying to get back into drawing

I have always enjoyed doodling. I thought at one point I would like to draw. My dad and 2 of my brothers are quite good artists. I thought perhaps I would have a chance to be good too. I do have creative talent, and some artistic talent.
But something happened and I fell out of it. I was never very good at following direction (I can do this myself!), didn't have the patience to do what it took to be a good drawer.
Patterns, Lines, Zentangles...its on, I can doodle all day. But when it comes to people and faces (realistic) etc...well I never quite graduated past the childish.
I have friends who are amazing artists and I knew I would never be as good as they were, so I didnt bother to try.  My parents really helped me develop other artistic areas(like music) , and I put drawing and art on the backburner.

But, I found that once I started doing hair full time, something kind of unlocked in my brain. I started becoming better at the art thing. My kids would ask me to draw something, and to my surprise, I could actually do it.  I
My 10 year old always tells me "MOM! How did you get to be such a good artist?" I tell him with honesty, I dont know, and I am not as good as you think I am. You just dont know any better.

Now F, he really has quite a bit of natural talent, and has been wanting to better his skill.  I, of course, am the worst person to teach him, unless he wants to make cool patterns and henna designs all day. But he seems to think I am the right one to do it, so he and I are taking this voyage together.

So I have pulled out the books(Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards is a great starting point. I have had this book for 20 years, and pulled it out to go over some of the exercises) and gone on youtube and started messing around. I have discovered that if I take my time, and I really pay attention to what I am doing, I can do it.
The best tutorials I have found are on a youtube channel by markcrilley.  He is an author/illustrator.  he does a lot of manga and comic book stuff, but also has some GREAT tutorials on realistic drawing.

It is all about basic simple lines and then adding the values. Shading and light/dark.  So here are some of my first attempts at realistic faces.
The Nose.  Not great, but not altogether suck either.  Little too curved on the right, but practice practice practice.

The eye.  I actually like this. This was my second attempt, and all in all, apart from a wobbly looking iris, I'm halfway pleased with it.

The Lips.  Who knew lips and mouths and teeth could be so complex!! But I am really pretty shocked at how well that came out.

The Ear. Hmmmm, I think it is kind of difficult to make an ear look realistic, I feel like the lines are a little too heavy/illustrated.

My mishmash.  You can see the first eye attempt bottom right. I like the shape, but the iris and pupil did not turn out the way I wanted it to. I definitely like the defined shine reflection of the top one. Also ignore the profile with hair, not my art.

So I have decided to keep practicing and really taking my time and learning how to do more and more. I would like to be able to show F how to draw and help him develop his talent. And at the same time, re-develop mine and unlock more of my creative side

Is one thing drawing an eye. Its quite another to draw TWO of them on the same face and have it look symmetrical and good.

Monday, December 23, 2013

My weight Loss so far...a pictorial

Over the past 2 1/2 years I have seriously yo yo dieted. I went up and down. I was at my heaviest (ugh) and now I am at the lightest I have been in 15 years. I still have 20 pounds to go, but I am just so happy and proud of how far I have come.
As I was putting together this photo journey, I realized I don't have a lot of photos of myself.  I HATED having my picture taken. I knew I was fat and I thought if I didn't have the photo evidence, then it wasn't true.
So let us begin:

his was my heaviest: July 2011.  I was out in Spokane Washington visiting my friend.  She is so tall and svelte and gorgeous, and I am dumpy and fat with a huge fat face.  HATE this picture, which is a shame because we had such a great time together. I was a Size 22 pants and a 3x top. Fat and round.

Christmas 2011.  Co worker and I at our holiday party.  I had lost a little weight., maybe 10 pounds...then went and got the WORST haircut I have had in a very long time. That's the LAST time i agree to be a hair model.  So, That didn't help. At all.

August 2012.  Chk and I in Orlando for our nieces wedding. At the rehearsal dinner.
I thought I looked pretty good(The mirror can be deceiving) . I hadn't really gained a lot of weight back, and was kind of holding steady at a size 20 pants and 3x top.  Then I saw the pictures and was truly horrified.

Halloween 2012 at work with my two skinny co workers. Had lost a few pounds again, but still the fat one of the group, always.  Hadn't lost any size in clothing.

March 2013 with my boys. Hadn't gained or lost anything really. Still the same lump.

July 22, 2013.  We were in Capitol Reef National Park in Utah.  At this point I had lost like 12 pounds. I 
had just started my diet a few weeks previous.  I was thrilled with the jump-start and wasn't going to let it go. I was going to keep it going.

Beginning of October 2013. i had lost about 28 pounds at this point. starting to look and feel a lot better. 

Mid October. About 32 pounds gone. Posing with Spock. 
I am starting to not mind my picture being taken. I find I don't have to selectively edit anymore, or be the one in the back so everyone can camouflage my bulk.

The week following this picture, I joined the weight loss clinic and started really taking control.  I went on their recommended diet, I started logging everything on myfitnesspal, and I really started making myself accountable for my weight and weight loss. No more excuses.

Me and my boys on Halloween 2013.  About 40-ish pounds gone.
 People had REALLY started to notice the difference.

FINAL Picture taken December 17th.  

55 pounds GONE FOREVER!!!

Like I said I still have about 20 more pounds to go (I think. We will see. I want to drop 2 more sizes, and I am almost the next size smaller.).
I have dropped lots of sizes, most of my clothing has been donated to Goodwill  and eve my bras, and shoes are too big now!

best part??? My wedding ring fits again. And it fits perfect.  It hasnt fit since 1999, and then it was TIGHT. (Need soap and spit to get it off my finger tight)

I have been seriously motivated. I am so much happier, healthier and feel better about myself.
I have had so many sweet compliments and encouragements. I WANT to keep going. i WANT to be the best I can be, and I am getting there.

So thank you to all who have helped and encouraged me and have stuck by me and made me feel good about myself during this time. I know a huge part of my success is because of the love and support of friends and family and even strangers who drop a note of encouragement in the comments.
THANK YOU for helping me.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Sour Cream Cookie night!! (plus recipe) Happy Holidays Baking

I LOVE baking for Christmas.

I enjoy all the mixing and prepping and frosting and sprinkling that is involved. I love coming into work every day with a plate of goodies and seeing the joy and happiness and delight in my coworkers as the sugar rush kicks in.

 I have always been a goodies maker/giver and it is something I really look forward to. I believe I have been this way since I was little. Not everyone has this in them, so if you don't want to give these away, who am I to judge?? There have been times I have contemplated hoarding these under my bed and retreating to my room for "a nap".

 Now, my favorite tradition of the Christmas season  is Sour Cream Cookie Night!. I have been making these since I was old enough to help out with the decorating.  My mom has been making these for as long as I can remember. And HER mom used to make them.  Grandmas cookies used to be frosted and then sprinkled with those metal ball candy things that would almost break your teeth. Good memories.

The thing I LOVE about these cookies, is the amount of sweetness.  The cookie itself is not very sweet. It is actually quite subtle. The sour cream gives it a smooth tang, and since there is only about 2 cups of sugar for the entire batch (i can get 100 cookies out of a batch, rolled thin), the sweet level is quite low.  BUT they are so tasty by themselves as well.  They aren't quite a sugar cookie, because there really isn't enough sugar in them, but they aren't a regular cookie either. Kind of a mix, really. This is a great cookie to use a sweet vanilla frosting with, because the sweet of the icing really pairs well with the mellowness of the cookie.  Just a wonderful treat.  I have brought them into work the past 3 years and when I came in with the plate this year one of them actually clapped and said "Oh yay, I was waiting for these. They're my favorite!"  Mine too.

So every year I mix up a batch of this dough and we spend an hour rolling, cutting and baking.
This year we purchased 3 tubs of frosting. A white, a red and a green.  (you can also make a powdered sugar frosting and color it yourself, but that was just waaaaaayyy too much work involved this year for me.)
The red and green came with a small variety of holiday sprinkles. We also had a carousel jar with the various sprinkles and sugars and confetti's.   We were set.
You can get anywhere from 60 to 100 cookies out of a batch of dough, it really depends on how thick you roll it.  I roll my dough somewhat thin for a little bit thinner cookie. Sometimes I will go a little thicker to get a meatier, denser bite. I used to make them REALLY thick and they would be puffy and huge, but then you almost need to add a huge wad of frosting to swallow it, because the bigger they get the drier they seem to be. If they are too thick and puffy it's almost like trying to swallow crackers with no saliva in your mouth.

a plate full of holiday goodies!

Sprinkle-y goodness!
 So get your table  set up with strategically placed tubs of frosting and sprinkles (works well with kids.)  Make sure you have plenty of napkins handy because temptation to lick your fingers will be unbearable!! If these are for your own personal pleasure, then lick away. However, I try and keep my spit to myself when making these cookies for others...(LOL Winky face)

Now on to the nitty gritty.  How much "STUFF" do you slather on??
You can add as much or as little frosting as you like. These cookies are all about personal preference.  we use a decent amount. Nothing crazy. Just enough to keep the cookie to frosting ratio equal. You can do less if you are trying to watch your sugar intake, or more if you are trying to induce a sugar coma.

You can use premade from a can(guilty), or you can make your own with powdered sugar. i don't know if you can use other flavors, I would think that a strawberry frosting would be quite tasty, and perhaps even chocolate. But traditionally we use just the white/vanilla frosting.
Keep cookies in a Tupperware or in gallon Ziploc baggies after the frosting has set. They will dry out if you leave them out in the open too long.
I am the first to admit, my kids don't have mad decorating skills, (or patience) so they aren't the prettiest. But they are still so tasty.

I ALWAYS get asked for the recipe whenever i make them for any function or goodies plate. So here it is.... THIS RECIPE IS ALL ABOUT PERSONAL PREFERENCE.  So use the smallest amount for the minimum and can tweak to a larger amount depending on what you like. remember, the thinner you roll, the more cookies you get. I use the basic christmas cookie cutter set from walmart. It has like 6 different cookie shapes, comes in a nylon mesh sac and was only 2 dollars or so.

                                                                    THE RECIPE:

2 sticks BUTTER (you can use margarine,, but butter bakes and tastes better IMO)
1 1/2 - 2 cups granulated sugar (I use about 1 2/3 cup, but that is a personal taste preference)
3 eggs
1 cup sour cream (full fat, not the fat free, it doesn't bake the same, I don't know why. I haven't had success with fat free sour cream in this recipe)
1 - 2 tsp vanilla (I use 1 1/2 tsp)

Cream all these ingredients together.

In a separate bowl combine
5 1/2  to 6 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

gradually add this flour mixture into the creamed butter/sugar. Dough will become thick, and will be slightly sticky. You can add flour a little at a time to each batch of dough you will be rolling to make it manageable if it is too sticky.
consistently flour your  rolling surface and rolling pin really well to keep dough from sticking.
Roll dough to desired thickness. I roll between 1/8 and 1/4" for thinner consistency cookies. The thicker you roll the puffier and bigger your cookies will be.

Place on greased baking sheets.
Bake at 400 degrees for 8-10 minutes, or until Bottoms and edges are a nice golden brown.

Cool and then frost/decorate and eat!!
(or don't wait and try one warm from the oven. yuuummmmmmm)

Monday, December 2, 2013

Adventures in Christmas Tree-ing

This weekend we went out and purchased a beautiful Christmas tree for our Holiday season.  It started on saturday.  We headed over to the Tree Farm tent at the local home improvement store and headed into a delightful arena of heavenly smell of pine tree and wood chips. (Breathe deep and take it all in).

Starting at the 8-9 foot trees, we quickly decided they would be a little too big for our needs. We Headed to the 5-6 foot trees, and again made the decision it was not going to meet our needs.  So splitting the difference we went to the 6-7 foot trees. PERFECT! ( We were like the 3 little bears.  Too big!  Too small! Just Right!)

After having the poor woman pull and twirl trees, and try and shape limbs, cut more trees free from their binding we found one that I really liked.  But I wasnt IN LOVE with it.  It was great, but not GREAT.  So I asked if we could set it aside as the "I really like this one, so keep it aside in case we cant find anything bettter".
So as this sweet woman cut a few more trees and twirled, I was getting frustrated.  I knew EXACTLY what I wanted.  Tall (but not too tall), Full (I mean FULL), no bare spots ,and  a straight upper stem to put the topper on.
As soon as she cut the binds on our tree, I KNEW it was THE ONE.  It was like the scene in Lampoons Christmas Vacation.

It was PERFECT.  Tall, but not too tall. Full. No weird spots to face towards the wall, perfect straight branch at the top.  And as she was twirling and fluffing, it was falling into place perfectly.

So we paid, had them cut the end, trim a few bottom branches, wrap it up and pop it on the roof of the car.
So here is our 7' North Carolina Mountain Grown Fraser Fir.  I am in heaven.




UNBOUND, IN FULL GLORY, but not completely dropped yet.





can I just say that MY HOUSE SMELLS SO GOOD!!!
So glad to have my tree up this year already.  With Thanksgiving being so late in the year, I had limited time to get this done. I am so glad we did it this long Holiday Weekend.

Merry Christmas to all this beautiful Holiday Season.