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Banana oat muffins and sundry

Just a quick note for those of you waiting to see our new dolls finished…They are still in progress and I will be sure to post a note here and on our Ruffing’s blog when we’ve got them finished and photographed. I was under the weather for a couple of weeks, and I’ve been in slo-mo. They’ll be posted in our doll gallery too. Just so you know you haven’t missed them.

I decided today was going to be muffin day. I’ve been saying I’m going to make muffins while watching my ingredients expire. I was going to go all out and make two kinds today, but I just made these Banana Oat Muffins from Deborah Madison‘s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. I didn’t do her muffin recipe justice last time. So, this time, mid-recipe, when I saw my ingredients were, once again, over-the-hill, I just drove to the store and bought new ones. I found some King Arthur Unbleached White Whole Wheat Flour, which I’d never tried before, and used that. It seemed to give them a lighter taste and a finer texture than when I tried them with regular whole wheat flour. The recipe recommended whole wheat pastry flour, which I haven’t seen. I also used less nutmeg and added a little cinnamon, but only because I don’t go for nutmeg in a big way.

They came out nicely, not so sweet, more like a muffin to have with eggs, or another breakfast food. I keep feeling that there isn’t any reason I’m not making more home-cooked foods, except that I’ve gotten lazy about it. And muffins are easy!

I’ve been trying to add more vegetables to my diet too, and trying to have a mixed plate of vegetables for lunch each day. A friend sent me an interesting video from Mark Bittman on what’s wrong with what we eat. It’s about twenty minutes, but I felt it was worth watching. He talks about how we need to eat less meat, more plants, less fast food, and more home cooking, not only for the sake of our own personal health, but for the sake of our environment. He makes a case for becoming at least a partial vegetarian, but he keeps his focus more on our health and our world, for anyone worried about being upset by watching a video on that subject. Anyway, I’m trying to do better in those areas.

And thanks, Lisa, for giving me the the “Kreativ Blogger” award! Thanks just as much for saying I am an “awesomely fabulous person” You know I like that just as much 😉 Now I need to think of seven things I love and seven artists to pass the award along to. I’ll have to give this some thought…

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When I got up this morning, I was saddened to hear of the passing of Andrew Wyeth. My mom read a quote to me from an article about his life, and it was spooky because his was one of the portraits I’d been looking at just last Sunday, when I felt like the paintings were communicating with me:

But his granddaughter, Victoria Wyeth, told The Associated Press in 2008 that he no longer gave interviews. “He says, ‘Vic, everything I have to say is on the walls,'” she said.

We went to look again at his paintings at the NC Museum of Art today, partly because I had the thought that they might be requested some day soon for a retrospective, and partly, to pay our respects. I know we both admired him, not just for his great talent and skill, but for his independence from the trends within the art world. He really did his own thing, which, I think, is one of the biggest and best things anyone can strive for.

This morning also, a Christmas card marked “return to sender” was in with our mail. I had meant to call our friend Dottie to wish her a happy birthday on December 21st, but had a sad and worried feeling about it. I knew she hadn’t been well, but I now know that she was no longer with us at that time. She was a truly good and honest person. I liked her and trusted her completely, from the first time I talked to her. I never had one doubt about her. I often dreamed of walking to her house to visit her, only to wake up to realize I lived many hours away. I’m sorry I didn’t get back to NY to see her again, but she will remain, for me, a barometer by which I measure the goodness and the honesty in other people.

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I picked up a pencil because I had something to say

This is a preliminary outline for a self portrait I’ve have been planning in my head since I don’t know how many months ago. It looks more elegant in person. The distortion in this photo of it makes it look a bit compressed and uncomfortable, but you get a rough idea of it. I’ll draw out a background design on an overlay, and then trace it onto one outline to be transferred.

I went to brunch at the NC Museum of Art this weekend, and wandered around for a while. I was still getting over a cold, and was feeling rundown, and later light-headed, which might or might not explain this weird sensation I had that the paintings were communicating with me, especially the portraits. No, I don’t mean I heard voices or anything like that. Perhaps it was just that I was uncomfortable, but it struck me that I felt a kinship with them.

It occurred to me that painting is a language that people who sensitively observe things use to communicate with other people who sensitively observe things, about what they see and experience. Later, I realized it wasn’t the people in the portraits, or the paintings themselves, I felt a kinship toward…It was the artists who painted them. I remembered Oscar Wilde had a good quote about all portraits being self-portraits. It’s from The Picture of Dorian Gray: “Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter.”

I keep thinking that painting is the answer to my feeling better in general. It seems very important. I’ve been doing all these things to feel better, watching my diet, exercising, trying to keep a decent sleeping schedule, but I need to do this too, just as much as I need to do those other things.

On the way home from the museum, at a used book store, I found and purchased this very nice book on Gustav Klimt, one of my favorite painters, one who always inspires me. It’s called Gustav Klimt Modernism in the Making. It was a good find.

I’m particularly drawn to this Portrait of Eugenia Primavesi, above. I left my book opened to this page for a couple of days, while I thought about how I wanted to do my own self portrait. I did a series of Klimt-inspired self portraits back in college, and I’ve been wanting to explore that again.

I bought a 12 x 16 piece of Claybord Textured, also known as Aquabord, so I could use both watercolor and acrylic paint together. I really prefer watercolor for painting faces and skin tones.

I also picked up a new journal, which oddly enough, has a lot of the same colors as the portrait I like. I think my own self portrait will be blue, blue-green, and lavender. I think I will have to try yellow at some point. First, I need to get my feet wet. Or my brushes wet, I guess.

Oh, a cool thing for today…one of my videos reached 1001 views! I don’t think I will try to paint my self portrait while filming myself though. One self portrait at a time is enough!

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Doll dress in progress, cutting out the pieces

I selected a red plaid, a black-on-black print, a gold-on-gold print, and an off-white cotton sateen for my doll dress. I knew I’d be adding some decorative stitching, and so I stayed modest in my print selection, choosing nothing too busy-looking. I didn’t have a piece of red plaid wide enough for my skirt, and so I had to piece it. I divided my pattern in half for the front panel, and in quarters for the two back panels, adding 1/4 inch seam allowances.

Matching a plaid is a bit tricky. I find the easiest way to do it is to center my front panel on the plaid, cut it out, and then fold under my side seam allowances. Then I place the front panel on another section of plaid, right sides up, and move it around until the pattern is aligned. Being careful to note where the seam line is, I gently flip the fabric over, right sides together, and pin along the seam line. I then hand baste along the seam line, open it up to double check I have it in the right place, and then I sew it by machine. I also find it is easiest to choose a line in the plaid design to use as a guide for each seam line and cutting line, whenever possible.

Instead of trying to machine stitch a decorative stitch directly on these tiny dress pieces, I cut my fabric out in a larger-than-necessary size first, a square or a rectangle, and did my decorative work on those. I did this for my decorative stitches and for the two pin tucks I made in the front of my bodice. I made see-through plastic templates from a plastic quilter’s template sheet for the pattern pieces that needed decorative work, and marked my seam lines with a permanent marker on the plastic. Then, after I did my decorative stitching and my pin tucks, I positioned my templates over my work, until I liked their placement, and then drew around them with a marking pencil. Then I cut out my fabric in the final dress pattern shape.

I got to try out my mirror stitch function on my new sewing machine too. On the vest, I flipped my leaf design so the two sides of the vest would mirror each other. Pretty cool. I used tear-away stabilizer under my fabric and Fusi-Knit interfacing, where necessary, for the decorative stitching to avoid puckering. I used rayon thread on top for the decorative stitching, with regular cotton sewing thread in my bobbin.