Thursday, July 31, 2014

25 Week Bump-Date

I'm 25 weeks pregnant this week, and I feel like I have made it to some sort of milestone because I am over the sickness (fingers crossed).  I also feel like I'm getting around to doing all of my projects. I'm so excited, that some how my motivation has returned. The need to clean is pretty strong but I have to really pace myself especially chasing around my little monster all day, who likes to be involved in all of my projects. I'm not sure how other mom's do it, balancing real home projects while juggling a toddler because it is tough. I can do things while she is sleeping but her nap time is still my nap time or getting something done time.  I hope she never quits napping because I'm not sure how I would get anything done at all during the day.

The 2nd trimester has been a little bit different than the first and now all this baby wants is chocolate and lemonade. In the chocolate category, I will take pretty much any form of chocolate but preferably Oreos.  Oreos are so my kryptonite this pregnancy and if I let myself, I can eat a whole box in a few days. Now I can't help in-visioning and craving frozen Oreos dipped with ice cream.  I've also never been a huge fan of lemons and can't get enough of that either. Its amazing how your taste buds change while pregnant and then go back to regular buds once baby comes.  Now I all I need for pure happiness is a lemonade and big fresh pack of Oreos for pregnancy bliss.

The baby has started kicking a lot and I can now sit back and see my shirt move, as he does his ninja moves. During Nora's pregnancy, I was extremely uncreative and I hated and dreaded going into my studio.  But for some reason this pregnancy, in typical Erika fashion, I can't keep up with my ideas and my little idea notebooks are just filling up with all of my thoughts and plans. I know it's not a bad thing but it's hard to do it all and I love making my ideas come alive.

Monday, July 28, 2014

6 insider tips on buying art

I am a huge sucker for a real-life painting. I just love going to an art show or the museum and strolling along through all of the paintings. There is something so special and magical about an an original piece of art that it's almost as if the artist was able to freeze time and capture a moment, an emotion, a movement, a feeling or even just the energy in the air. Art is something that lives within its materials and only an artist can make it come alive. It's looking at the layers of simplicity and complexity for the hidden meaning behind the layers of paint. It's watching a sculpture stare back at you almost like it's living and breathing. When it comes to sculptures, I just want to reach out and touch them.. or maybe I should say poke them!

The best thing about buying art is that I will have it forever and I can enjoy it as much as I want. I have collected a lot of art throughout the years and each one I truly still love looking at and that I could never part with.

There are so many online resources to buy art, such as Etsy, Bigcartel, and Society 6, that have made it way more accessible for artists to show their artwork on a larger scale. I know I have spent many late nights browsing the Internet just looking at art, but there are a lot and these inside tips may help you find even more incredible art that is meant for you.

Sometimes buying real art can be really intimidating and pretty expensive, but here are a few inside tips that I have discovered in buying a real art piece, and sometimes for a great price. It's a little against the rules for me to be revealing these secrets because I am an artist and it's extremely difficult for artists to make any sort of anything on their artwork, hence the phrase, "Starving artists." However, knowing these secrets makes me excited to buy artwork and want to see even more art.

1.  Art auctions. I have donated art to auctions and I know a lot of artists that will donate work to a good cause. Auctions are also a great way for an artist, especially an up and coming one, to get exposure. The best things about an auction, particularly a silent one, is that the prices start low and gradually increase. It's a great way to buy something for a good cause and typically a little less than retail price. If you are too far away for an auction, most auctions will have a online preview and then the out-of-towners can call-in before the auction or even during and make a bid.

2. Art Walks. An art-walk is usually a street that is dedicated for an evening of showing local artists and are loads of fun. We have several in my town and most big cities and little cities have them. They're often easy to find. Just, "Google," art-walk and your city's name. When I first started showing my work, I did art-walks because it was extremely inexpensive to show up and set up. This is a great way to actually meet a lot of artists and see a lot of art in a small area. There are some artists that solely make their living off of art-walks and markets. If you are looking for real artwork for your home, these are the best way to get art or get inspired for artwork in your space.

3. Open Studios or Studio Sales. What I love most about walking into an artist studio is getting a peek into their mind and their creative process. The amount of energy one feels in a studio or workspace is exhilarating. If you haven't been, I highly recommend it. If you are any sort of creative, I promise that by going to an open studio you will leave being inspired. Most cities have open studio tours, where the artist has to apply to get into and then on a certain weekend out of the year, there is a big group of artists opening their studios. I have discovered the most fun open studios are the ones that are hosted in artists buildings and have annual art shows were you go from room to room visiting artists. This is a great chance to buy smaller scale work like drawings, sketches and experimental work.  

4. Layaway/make payments. Have you ever truly fallen in love with something that was too expensive?  I certainly have, like all the time! Or have you seen a really large painting that you just had to have for your living room and it was totally outside of your budget? Well, guess what? Most artists accept payments, especially for large work. Not everyone can afford to drop $1,000 dollars on a piece of art, but what artists do to make their work more accessible is to work out a payment plan. It's really up to the artist if they do accept payments, but most work something out and most of the time they will let you know if they are doing a studio sale.  

5. Christmas Group Shows. My personal favorite is Christmas Art Shows. There are lots of art galleries that gear-up for the holiday season and they want to provide affordable artwork or smaller reasonably priced work for special holiday gifts.  Most galleries will do sneak-peeks, previews and post teasers on Facebook to get art lovers ready for the show. Some galleries even will do a special online gallery that you can buy the off the website that you can avoid the big holiday crowds.

6. Commissioned Art Work. If you love an artist's (cough-cough, like me?) artwork, and want something, it can be just as easy as contacting them directly for the price of commissioned artwork.   Most artists charge per square inch or have set prices on sizes and you can get something that is unique that is meant just for you. You can also figure out what's in your budget and what you can afford because even if you can't buy that 3-foot-by-3 foot painting maybe you can afford a smaller work.

PS This print in the photo above is now available in my etsy shop!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Easy & Crunchy Refrigerator Dill Pickles Recipe Plus Pickling Spice Recipe.

I have been totally craving pickles, maybe it's my pregnancy talking or maybe it's the fact it's summer, but we've been going through about a jar a week. I thought to myself, could it possible, could I make my own pickles? I'll be honest, making my own pickles has made me love eating them even more! They are after all, the greatest sandwich and burger accessory of all time.  Lately, my favorite is on the side of a grilled cheese sandwich. They add that extra special, crunch, acid and zing to every bite.

Pickles are such a easy and quick snack, and I don't have to feel guilty about eating as many as I want or giving them to Nora. She always requests, pickles at breakfast time.  I don't know about you, but oatmeal with a side of pickles sounds like an amazing combination to me.  hehe. Refrigerator pickles are so incredibly easy and fast to make,  it makes me wonder why didn't I discover making them sooner.

Want to know the secret to good pickle? Other than fresh cucumbers, it's the pickling spice.  It's pretty easy to go pick up a pre-made pickling spice but in doing my own pickling it's just as easy to make my own and it adds major flavor. Trust me, you will taste the difference.  
Pickling Spice Recipe:
2 tablespoons of whole peppercorns
2 tablespoons of whole all spice
2 tablespoons of whole mustard seeds
2 tablespoons of coriander
1 table spoon of red chili flakes- want more heat? make it 2 tablespoons.
6-8  bay leaves- tear up into small pieces.

**Note: I used fresh dill weed for making refrigerator pickles but if you don't have fresh dill weed then use 2 tablespoons of whole dill seed.  If you are pickling something else besides pickles then add the 2 tablespoons of dill seed and 2 tablespoons of celery seeds.

Take a bowl and combine all of the dry ingredients, and do not combine the fresh dill.  The best way to buy all of these spices with out it costing a lot and taking up a ton of space, is by going to a grocery store that has a bulk spice section.  I only spent around 3 dollars and only bought exactly what I needed. 

Ingredients and Supplies:
Pickling Spice
2 lbs of kirby cucumbers or you can use regular cucumbers. Put them in the refrigerator prior to use. When picking out the perfect cucumber make sure they are nice and firm because that indicates how fresh it is.
2 cups of white vinegar
2 cups of cold water
3 tablespoons of salt
1 tablespoon of sugar or 2 tablespoons of honey.
fresh dill weed

Makes 5 pint jars or 2 quart jars and 1 pint jar.  Since these are going straight into the fridge you can also use leftover jars but just give them a good cleaning with hot water and soap.

Wash and then cut the cucumbers into desired fancy shape.  In a sauce pan, on medium heat combine vinegar, water, salt, and sugar.  Bring to a boil for 10 minutes.  While your brine is heating up, take jars and add a couple of springs of dill weed. Then stuff the jars full of cut up cucumbers. Take a tablespoon and add your pickling spice, 2 scoops for quarts and 1 scoop for pints. Once your brine is ready, then pour into jars. (I used a measuring cup for easy pouring.)  Leave about 1/4 of an inch of breathing room on the top of the jar but make sure the cucumbers are covered with liquid.  Screw on jar lids on tightly and give them a little shake and swirl.  

There will be extra pickling spice but just throw it into a ziplock bag and use it for your next pickling project.  Wait until the jars are cool before putting into the fridge.  Now you have to wait until the next day before are ready, boo!  But, I promise it is worth the wait. These pickles come out, crunchy, zesty, and fresh. The whole process took me about 20 minutes with toddler help. You can't really beat that.   

Friday, July 18, 2014

My Kitchen Table Redo & Tips for Stripping and Staining Furniture

I am totally 100 percent embarrassed about my old kitchen table.  I have had this table for maybe 8 years now and I have not been nice to it, like at all.  I have done so many projects on this table and it completely shows. There are a ton of water marks, scratches, burns and who knows what else it has been tortured with.  I even convinced myself that there was some level of character rather than a crazy mess.  Maybe me being 5 months pregnant might have something to do with me feeling like I need to complete all of my projects and clean every nook and cranny of my house, but I knew it was time to tackle the table.  Tim wanted to just get a new table but I of course convinced him to give me a chance to try and salvage it, and if he liked it then I got new kitchen chairs. Completely fair deal, right?

Before starting on this project, the main thing I was worried about was seeing what was underneath all of the damage.  I thought I should strip it and try to save the wood and if it was too damaged then I would paint it but I didn't really want to paint it.

 1 Can of Spray Paint- I used an outdoor acrylic paint in matte black.  - for the legs.
Chemical Gloves
Chemical Goggles
Paint Mask- for the fumes!
1 gallon of paint thinner
Paint scrapper- one that has a dull blade.
Metal pan- like an old pie pan or metal paint tray (they are about $3 bucks at the local hardware store)
Wood conditioner.
Oil stain
Oil varnish
Some old rags
Oil paint brushes
Crappy old or cheap paint brush
Steel Wool
low grade sand paper

The first thing that I did was spray paint the legs black.  Before they were this two toned metal color and I wanted a more wrought iron look.   Time to put on our safety gear! Put on your chemical gloves, goggles, and face mask. It is really important to use chemical gloves because they will protect you from the paint thinner because it is crazy toxic and chemical burns are not fun.

I poured the paint thinner onto the table and you want to take the crappy old paint brush and spread the goop all over the table, but thick.  You will see the chemicals start to work and bubble and want to leave it on for maybe 10 minutes, but once it starts to bubble it's ready to be pulled up and you don't want the goop to dry.   Take your scrapper and press firmly down at a 45 degree angle and scrap away.  You want to be firm with the wood but not pushing the blade to hard because it will scratch and damage the wood. Put the leftover goop and scrapings into the metal tray.

Since this table has a rounded edge I needed to be more patient and I did the removal in sections.  Once all of the gunk is removed, take a damp rag and wipe the table clean.  Use a bit of steel wool and go over the table and the edges.  Let the table sit for at least 8 hours, so the wood has time to dry out and rest.

Take a low grade sand paper and do a light sand on the table.  When you run your hand over the table and edges it should be smooth.  Wipe away the dust with your old rag. Apply the wood conditioner and you will see immediately how much healthier and prettier the wood is.  It's actually kinda amazing!

According to the instructions on the wood conditioner, I just needed to wait an hour before applying the oil stain.  You can either use an oil brush or an old rag when applying oil stain.  I prefer using a rag because when the stain is applied it is more evenly and thinner.  I ended up doing about 3 coats because I didn't want it to look too dark and wanted the natural wood color to come out. Then I have to wait a good 8 hours to apply the varnish.  I applied 3 coats of varnish and doing a light sand between each coat.  Let table rest for 24 hours before using.

This was quite a project but I really love how it turned out.  It looks like a whole new table and it makes me wish I would have tackled it sooner.  There are a few scratches in the wood but I actually think it adds charm to the table. Stripping and staining was actually a pretty easy but time consuming process because of letting all of the layers dry. I am so glad I did it. Tim also let me get the new chairs I wanted. eek!

Monday, July 14, 2014

View Master

If you follow me on Instagram you might have noticed I have been doing a little painting.  In my first trimester it was pretty hard to do any sort of art work but I am slowly finding time and solutions to paint. Let me tell you, I really missed it, like a lot! I have been mainly working in my sketchbook and have been painting in bed.  I know in bed isn't the best place to do any sort of art work but there is nothing more comfortable than wearing a good pair of pajamas, in my favorite pair of fuzzy bunny socks, laying on a big pile of pillows and making art. And, why not? Art can happen anywhere can't it? 

Did you have a view master as a kid? I sure did! It's a little device that you look through with circular cardboard filled with color photographic film.   They have been around a long time and the one that I had when I was kid was filled with disney cartoons.  The view master is a place that once you look inside it puts you into this little viewing tunnel and literally transports you through time and place. I used to turn on my rainbow bright record player and flick through my view master for hours.  Can you tell I was a child of the 80's?   

I really like this one a lot and think Im going to put a print of this in the kiddos room. I am about to start a total make over on that room since Nora and her new baby brother will be sharing a room. I'm still on the fence about a theme but I love the idea incorporating art that makes me think of adventure and wonder, which everyone needs now and again.  

PS. OH and this print is available in my etsy shop

Monday, July 7, 2014

You're a firework!

Hello! Did you have a good weekend? We escaped to the coast for the holiday weekend and it was pretty amazing weather. When I say ah-mazing I mean it was so sunny, warm and I could run and dip my toes into the cool crisp ocean water. Getting to be in the ocean is a pretty rare occurrence in the Pacific Northwest because it's always so cold and the sub zero wind blows extremely hard (even in the summer), so it's such a luxury when you can really enjoy the beach and play in the water. 

This is my first 4th of July celebrating on the coast in Washington and here you can buy the fancy fireworks.  These are the fireworks that my husband gets really excited about and as soon as we go in to firework tent, he immediately grabs his own basket and gets into this frenzy of needing to get his hands on the biggest and loudest fireworks possible. Now if only he could be so passionate about shoe shopping. 

In the end we went to 3 different firework stands to make sure we weren't missing out on anything. Silly husbands- I think lighting up fireworks make them feel like a kid again.  Thank goodness the last firework stand had a snow cone and kettle corn hut next to it because it made this pregnant lady extremely happy and made the hour long venture totally worth it.  That evening we set up our beach blanket and watched the fireworks light up the sky up and down the coast till the wee hours of the morning.   

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

20 weeks- Pregnant and it's a ....!

Gosh! I can't believe that I am already halfway into my pregnancy and I am relieved that I am starting to get over my morning sickness. Yay! It's been nice because I have actually managed to do a little laundry, get out of the house beyond the corner store, and even do a few projects around the house. I love being productive but I am realizing I have to really take care of myself and take lots of snack breaks, and Nora loves snack breaks because they usually involve cookies or ice cream. The baby wants these things, so why deprive myself?  

I pinky-promised myself that I would try to take more maternity photos the second time around. I think I have all of two photos of my pregnancy with Nora and I am feeling the need to document my journey. Nora is now asking me if there is a baby inside and then walks over to Tim and points at his tummy and asks if there is a baby inside. I think she knows something is going on and I love seeing her think and figure things out. 

Big smooches from Nora and, oh yeah, I am having a boy! Crazy huh? We went to the ultrasound appointment and was pretty excited because I thought it was going to be a boy and Tim thought it would be a girl. The ultrasound tech was so great and funny. In the appointment, they take a ton of photos for me to take home and when she did the gender reveal, she drew a small dot with an arrow to indicate the male parts. Too funny! :)
I hope you're having a wonderful week!