Saturday, December 19, 2009

This program was temporarily interrupted by finals...

I was in the throws of my annual series on a Handmade Christmas when BAM! it was finals week and all other activities came to a screeching halt. I had displays to make, polishing to do and the hardest thing EVER for an artist...editing. I won't go into it right now, but one of these days we are going to have to talk about the secret hell and blessings of editing. Until recently, I never really knew it existed beyond term papers and conversations.

Before we can return to our previously scheduled programming, I have to share with you the final critique for sculpture 1. You really have to see the diversity amongst the students and their work. I learned so much this semester from both our wonderful professor Annie, and my classmates who had a variety of backgrounds and experience. There were some of us that were totally new to 3-D expression, some who had already chosen it as their specialty and some who were expanding on their successful illustration or painting backgrounds. Some were 1st year students, some were graduating seniors. It was a hybrid of experience, age, interpretations and interests. It was probably the most significant course I have taken in art school and it has definitely inspired me to become a sculpture major. There is something about the conceptual experience in 3-D that is so much more consuming than 2-D. I learned to access different parts of my creative self and while it did not come naturally, I enjoyed every sweaty, stumbling step of the journey. I am a better artist for it.

We created four pieces during the semester. The first was a clay bust of either a self portrait or a morph between two or more things. The conceptual was as much a part of the grade as the execution.

Next we made sculptures out of wax which were then cast into bronze. Once returned to us, we had to painstakingly remove the excess metal, grind down the surface to a more refined piece and use a patina to add some contrast. This is a difficult process that involves a lot of heavy machinery, patience and determination.

Our third piece was again made of clay but this time we were free to express ourselves anyway we would like. And our forth piece was a plaster carving. We made large plaster molds in a bucket, then used a chisel and other tools to carve our blocks into a masterpiece. It was very physical and tedious but most of us enjoyed it.

So get some popcorn and a drink, sit back and enjoy this slide show of our final critique....

Monday, December 7, 2009

Homemade Christmas -Scrumptious Comfort Food

There was a time was cooking was a labor of love and I spent hours shopping for and preparing delicious home made meals. But with kids and schedules and dishes...dinner has become less about the flavors and aromas and more about serving something that everyone will eat that includes at least three of the four food groups, that doesn't take too long to prepare and even less time to clean up.

But there is something about December that brings out that culinary spirit in me. I feel this urge to make yummy meals to show my family how much I love them. With all the months in the year for this impulse to surface, why in the heck does it happen in December when time, cash and effort are scarce? What can you do - there is nothing more powerful than a mother's love...

This is my solution- I make those wonderful meals with savory comfort foods but I use recipes that are quick, easy and inexpensive. Here are a few of my favorites...

Chicken Tortilla soup:
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 medium jalapeno pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 medium green pepper (I use a red or yellow bell pepper)
  • 4 small boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 cups frozen corn (I get Trader Joe's roasted corn)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine or water (I use more Chicken Broth)
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder (optional- to taste- go light if you are serving kids)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional- to taste- go light if you are serving kids)
  • 4 (14 ounce) cans chicken broth (I use the organic free range broth in cartons)
  • 2 (14 ounce) cans diced tomatoes
  • 2 (8 ounce) cans tomato sauce
  • 1 cup non-fat tortilla chips (optional)
  • 2 chopped avocados
  • 1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
  1. Sauté onion, garlic, jalapeño and green pepper with olive oil in a large pot until soft.
  2. Add all the rest of the ingredients to the large pot and bring to a boil.
  3. After about 15 minutes, remove the chicken breasts and shred. (Two forks work well to pull the chicken apart!).
  4. Return shredded chicken to the pot and simmer an additional 45 minutes.
  5. Serve, topped with crushed tortilla chips, avocado and cheese

Cioppino over Pasta
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 2/3 cup chopped parsley
  • 1 can (15 oz) tomato sauce
  • 1 can (28 oz) tomatoes
  • 1 cup dry red or white wine (or chicken broth)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp dry basil
  • ½ tsp dry oregano leaves
  • 1 package of Trader Joe's Seafood Medley
  • ½ cup butter
In 6-8 quart pan over medium heat, combine oil, onion, garlic and parsley; cook, stirring often, until onion is soft. Stir in tomato sauce, tomatoes (break up with spoon) and their liquid, wine or broth, bay leaf, basil, and oregano. Cover and simmer until slightly thickened, about 20 minutes.
To broth, add defrosted seafood. Cover and simmer gently about 10 minutes. Ladle hot broth and some of each fish over pasta. Serve with warm sourdough bread.

  • 4 or 5 potatoes
  • 3 or 4 carrots
  • 1 pkg. frozen string beans (use 1/2 of package)
  • 1 pkg. frozen peas (use 1/2 of package)
  • 8 good sized mushrooms
  • 2 cans Campbell cream of chicken or cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 pkg. Pillsbury refrigerated pie crust
  1. Cook chicken breasts until tender or buy a Costco chicken and use the breast meat. Pull apart or cut into decent size chunks.
  2. Remove pie crust from wrapper to soften, while preparing other ingredients, or roll out 2 pie crusts.
  3. Peel cut up potatoes and carrots. Steam or par boil both in same pot or steamer until slightly tender. The veggies will continue to cook when baked in pie.
  4. Put crust in pan; prick with fork. Add mixture of chicken, potatoes, peas, carrots and string beans, mushrooms,; spread them around, so that everyone gets some chicken, veggies, etc.
  5. Add pepper (soup and crust has plenty of salt; don't add extra).
  6. Add can of cream of chicken or mushroom soup. Spread over top of ingredients. Add 1/3 cup milk to moisten, just pour around edges of pie (use your judgment, if you think you need more liquid, add part of other can of soup, or more milk.
  7. Put on top crust, sealing edges tightly to prevent dripping. Poke crust with fork or make design with toothpick to let steam escape.
  8. Set oven at 375 degrees. Bake approximately 30 to 40 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Put piece of tinfoil under pan to catch drippings.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Hand Made Christmas Short Cut

So the seed has been planted and you are pondering "Hand Made Christmas whoop-t-doo." It "feels" like a dandy of an idea but you are not a trend tend to wait to make sure something is here to stay, has had a couple versions so the bugs are worked out and is priced right. You don't have to follow that song and dance with this big idea, There is a short cut; a loop hole; a cheat of sorts. Do some shopping on etsy - your place to buy & sell all things handmade.

What is Etsy? Etsy's mission is to enable people to make a living making things, and to reconnect makers with buyers. their vision is to build a new economy and present a better choice.

here are 20 shops that should have something for everyone on your list:

  1. Whimsy and Spice - delicious sweets -
  2. Sidewalk Sensations -sidewalk paint for kids -
  3. Finns and Flowers - wonderful toys -
  4. Create Beauty Daily - personalized sterling silver jewelry -
  5. Jennifer Stewart's Saturday Morning Vintage - amazing jewelry creations and craft kits -
  6. Plays with Mud - stunning ceramics -
  7. Fabulous Vixen Designs - original jewelry creations and Phone Leashes -
  8. small threads - children's clothing -
  9. allie beans shop - bags and purses -
  10. August Eve - Fine Art Prints -
  11. Handwerks - hand dyed yarns -
  12. Smells and Bells - perfumes and soaps made with organic ingredients -
  13. Alma Stoller - fabric, fiber and mixed media art -
  14. Zip Artist - darling Christmas ornaments and beautiful brooches -
  15. JS Glass Art - fused glass bowls, plates and platters -
  16. Looks Good from the Front - Sophisticated veils and hair accessories -
  17. Kelly Drive - clothing and accessories -
  18. giddyspinster - WOW - How do I describe her work other than totally cool plant art - you gotta check it out! -
  19. Etta Billie - Organic Bath and Body Products -
  20. ciucco - loveys, binkie bags and blankets -

Saturday, December 5, 2009

This is how its done at Jilliene Designs

I sent off a few orders today for customers who had me ship wrapped gifts to their friends and family. I always wrap my orders in vintage book pages and include a thank you card but I like to add a little holiday flare when I am wrapping presents for my clients... free of charge of course.

I just had to share a couple photos thinking it might get others inspired to wrap with recycled materials. Or better yet, pop into one of my shops (here and here) and do a little holiday shopping!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Snap Out of IT!

It is easy to talk about giving and holiday cheer when you are feeling good and life is cruising along. And it is also easy to lose you perspective...super easy...especially in the month of December when it is cold out, the days are short, the nights are long, most TV series take a break, schedules are busy with parties, pageants and plays, semesters end with finals and due dates, and there is that whole new year thing at the end of the month. One or two bumps in the road can throw your life into chaos. And it seems there are more opportunities for bumps too because the weather can be disagreeable, its the heart of flu season, people tend to rush and be more tense, there are more demands on your pocket book and less business days to make money. So I thought I'd put together a list of 20 ways to "snap out of it!" as I try to do that very thing this morning...
  1. Stretch
  2. prioritize and skim the fat from your schedule for the day
  3. breath in 5 deep breaths holding them for a 4 count and release.
  4. overwhelmed? just do what is right in front of you
  5. work a few of your fat clothes into your wardrobe so you won't have one of those morning where nothing fits.
  6. try going to bed earlier and getting up earlier
  7. take your laundry to a service that washes and folds for you.
  8. make time to meet a friend for coffee in the middle of the day
  9. order a salad instead
  10. buy a box of those yummy tangerines to eat in place of all the holiday junk food surrounding you
  11. purge your closet - its like shedding your skin and you can donate all the clothes to a charity.
  12. don't drink caffeine after 3:00 pm - nothing good can come of it.
  13. give others a break when they mess up or fall short; your more likely to do the same for yourself if you have done it for someone else.
  14. jog in place while you brush your teeth - for some of us, it will be the only exercise we get all month
  15. meditate (or just sit still and focus on your breathing for 3 minutes)
  16. clean yourself up - pluck your brows, shave, style your hair - sometimes a little grooming goes a long way
  17. make your bed
  18. clean out your purse and/ or car...
  19. listen to some music
  20. remind yourself that the world will not explode if you don't get it all done.
OK - I think I'll start with 16... have a great day!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Collage Placemats Tutorial

Ok - enough of the philosophical. Time to move on to the fun stuff. I am starting out with a simple but thoughtful craft that you can do on your own or have your kids participate. It is inexpensive and it might just be the kind of project that gets you into the Creative Zone so that you will be willing to try some others.

Collage place mats can be simple or you can get elaborate. Totally up to you. You can make a set of generic looking ones or personalize them for a specific person.

Here is how you do it:
  1. Collect materials for your collage, and find inspiration in them.
    • Traditional collage materials include scraps of paper and other flat materials: newspaper and magazine clippings, shopping bags, photographs (or photocopies of photographs), wallpaper, and foil.
    • Objects such as string, beads, feathers, and fabric are OK but you don't want your collage to be bumpy so try to stick with items that lay flat..
    • Collage may encompass images, text, solid colors, or a mixture of these. You may want a recognizable image or word, or simply a suggestion, feel, color, or texture.
    • Use what you have. Start from available materials and work out from there.
    • Create what you don't have. Since collage is an assemblage or blend of elements, it lends itself well to mixed media. You could paint, draw, stamp, or stencil in between the elements you find, or cover over them.
    • Don't rule out unusual materials, like sandpaper, blurry photographs, etc. The place mat below is made from fabric scraps.

  2. Choose a base for your collage. The base is usually flat paper or poster board because these are easiest to work with.
    • The background does not have to be white, and it does not have to be plain. The background could include a page from a magazine or book, a large photograph, or a page of text. Paint or draw on it, or cover over it with anything that glue will stick to.
  3. Prepare the base by cutting the base to the desired size and shape. I usually go with 16x12" Add any decorations or embellishments you want to the background.
  4. Use scissors or an X-acto knife to cut out pieces for your collage. Try cutting your scraps into unusual shapes, cutting out words or letters from a variety of sources to make phrases on your collage, or cutting different pieces so that they fit together.
    • Pick images that reflect the recipients or make a set that are tied together with a theme. I make 4 for our family and each one has our name and a photo of us. I add silly hats, hair and animal bodies to our faces. I also include things that interest us. This year, Tim has a surf theme but last year it was all about mountain biking.
    • A cutting mat helps protect your table and helps make smooth cuts, or cut on top of a scrap of cardboard or an old magazine.
    • Cut out a whole picture, an identifiable part, or just enough to evoke texture, color, or feeling.
    • Cut different shapes for both words and images. Experiment with round and straight edges, regular and irregular shapes.
  5. Try tearing materials too. The rough, random edges give parts of your collage a different character than cutouts.
  6. Arrange the items on your background. You can arrange the whole thing, then glue, or you can arrange as you go if you prefer a more spontaneous approach.
    • Play with the juxtaposition of different elements and don't be afraid to make this part a messy process. Serendipity may hand you something interesting that you hadn't thought of.
  7. Apply glue to each item and carefully but firmly press it down. Then, use your finger to rub it flat from the inside to the edges. Continue this process with each piece, overlapping pieces if you wish, until you are finished.
    • Glue underneath pieces before pieces on top.
    • You don’t have to cover the whole surface if you don’t want to, You can fold or crumple pieces of paper to get interesting textures and reliefs.
  8. Let the finished collage dry completely. Depending on the glue(s) you used, you may need to let the collage dry for a few hours or more than a day.
  9. Add any finishing touches. Do you want to apply a thin layer of paint or write or stamp over parts of it? Do you want to add textures, such as scratches?
  10. Laminate the collage -I bring it to Kinkos. The do a great job and it only costs a couple bucks. I have an old Xyron with laminate that I bought solely for this purpose but it isn't firm enough and it peels over time. Kinko's laminate can be wipes with a sponge again and again without it affecting the laminate.
  11. Ta-Dah! - you are all done. Ok now for the wrapping because these are shaped weird. Wrap it in the funny papers, go to the thrift store and buy a couple old record albums, then use the 2 sleeves as a "box" Tape them together and give as is or wrap them up with newspaper, magazines, or tuck them in a reuseable grocery bag...

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Obstacles and Objections to a Homemade Christmas

Lets face it...we live in America, a society of get it done, keep up with the Jones' and mega-consumption. It is hard enough to limit our kids sugar intake, monitor their television exposure and teach them how to be kind, productive, tolerant members of society. Even with the best of intentions, we find ourselves detoured into the Taco Bell drive-through instead of preparing a home cooked meal. We can't get away from the temptation to turn on Cartoon Network for just a few minutes of quiet time. A parent would have to make it a full time job to prevent their children from getting exposed to all kinds of unproductive behavior whether it be through the media, at school or on the playground. So, to try to impose yet another "healthier choice" can be a difficult undertaking. Especially when the media is showing all the cool STUFF you HAVE to get for Christmas. I imagine many a parent has been tempted to combat the commercialism but decided that it was too big of a fight to win. I get it. I'm right there with you. (Between you and me -sometimes I don't even bother serving vegetables because I know it will end up a battle of wills and I don't have the energy for it.

"And now you propose a Handmade Christmas?? Are you mad?" Oh please...let me clarify. What I suggest is that we do our part to counterbalance the insanity we call the holidays. Instead of giving into this emphasis of "buying", lets look at this season as a time to be kind to one another and to ourselves. To be generous without filling our closets and cupboards and landfill with unnecessary stuff. To be thoughtful in our shopping, to repurpose when possible and to keep our kids out of the chasm of want. That dark abyss that distracts us from being good people and that is destroying our planet. It can be a lot of work, but if you think strategically, you can make an impact.

The trick is to recognize that if our attitudes toward consumption don't change, they will be changed for us in the not-to-distant-future.

Now our family does not subscribe to an exclusively hand made Christmas. We do a hybrid. For example, I never buy new gift bags, but I do recycle the ones I have from last year. My kids like toys and I am not a toy maker so those items are store bought. Sometimes they are brand spankin new-straight from China and other times they are items I bought on Etsy, ebay or at the thrift store. If it is from Etsy it is usually something handmade but I always confirm that it has been tested for lead. If it is from ebay, I am careful that the seller has a good reputation and do my due diligence to make sure the item is in tact and clean (i.e. wooden train tracks and trains) and if its from the thrift store, it is usually something like kid videos or a cool chess set. I feel good about looking to ebay and the thrift store because it is recycling but I also have little kids who don't notice if something isn't brand new.

For those of you with teenagers, you face a much more difficult situation when you try to push handmade or recycled items onto your teen. Their entire culture is built upon their stuff... brand In this case, the best you may be able to do is wrap your gifts in recycled newspaper, magazines and grocery bags, skip sending store bought Christmas cards, do away with envelopes and give gift certificates. Maybe, if your lucky, you'll even make your own wreath? You are doing something and that is so much better than not doing something.

So here is a list of 20 ways you can change your Christmas/ Holiday practices without making your kids mad or adding more stress to your life:
  1. Give gift cards
  2. give experiences instead of stuff - dinner for two, tickets to the theater, tuition for an online class...
  3. Shop on Etsy - support artists and avoid wasting gas, time and releasing harmful ommissions by driving to the mall and hunting for a parking spot.
  4. Give a health package with vitamins, a colon cleanser, green food, medicinal teas and/ or immune system boosters
  5. wrap your gifts in paper bags turned inside out. Use rubber stamps and paint to decorate with holiday cheer.
  6. stop using ribbon and bows to decorate your packages. Instead, top your packages with useful items like mints, a spatula or socks
  7. ask for and give gifts that are practical - scratch the candy cane boxers and knick knacks - give them their favorite face mousterizer, hair conditioner or a new tool.
  8. buy American
  9. don't send store bought Christmas cards. Americans buy about 7 billion greeting cards each holiday season and most of these cards are made from paper from virgin forests and end up in landfills shortly after arriving at their destination. Instead send ecards or make your own from last years cards and supplies you have in your home.
  10. ask people if they have a big ticket item that you can contribute to and get one lined up for yourself. I have a sewing machine on lay away and when asked what I want for Christmas I suggust putting a little money down on it. I give them the store name and tel # so they can take care of it without actually handing over cash.
  11. give an herb garden or fruit tree. Its the gift that keeps on giving!
  12. give your time. What are you good at? computers, photography, organizing?? create a gift certificate on your computer and put it under the tree.
  13. replace your current Christmas lights with the new energy efficient ones.
  14. one word - itunes
  15. give a subscription to a vegetable co-op.
  16. don't stock up on extra gifts just in case you need one last minute. Buy a few starbucks cards if you must, but it is OK to downsize on your gift giving.
  17. give re-usable grocery bags instead of gift bags to wrap up presents. I do this every year and I feel really good that my friends and family may save a few trees because of it.
  18. give a photograph in a frame. That is an awesome gift!
  19. don't buy your stocking stuffers at the dollar store. We are all tempted to take advantage of those inexpensive, colorful goodies but most of it ends up in the land fill. Instead fill their stockings with fruit, nuts, lip balm, hand lotion, an eco-friendly water bottle, hand sanatizer and of course candy!
  20. give privledges -this is bound to be a hit with your teens! an afternoon off of school, a 1-hour extension on bedtime, pass on a chore for a week or movies on a school night.

10 sure fire ways to ignite the spirit of giving...

Many people struggle with getting into the Christmas spirit. The days are shorter; it is cold outside; and if you watch the news, one could easily conclude that the world is going to hell in a handbasket. For many of us, the holidays remind us of people we have lost or represent a lot of "to-do's" in a very short period of time.

The best way to combat the holiday blues and whip up some holiday spirit is to be in service to others. Yes, even if your well is dry, you feel you have nothing to give or you just don't have the time. There is always a way to bring light to another person. Always. And by doing so, you get a little light too. So here is a short list of ten sure-fire ways to get into the holiday spirit!
  1. make and send Christmas cards for our troops
  2. make and drop off cookies to the local fire dept.
  3. Buy extra food at the grocery store and drop it in the food donation can or better yet, start a can food drive at your work, school and/or association by contacting youror rescue organization.
  4. find out how you can be in service for a local shelter - whether it is donating, time, money or services. Every little bit helps make this world a better place.
  5. donate new toys to the Marine Corps Toys for Tots program. To find your local chapter, click here
  6. Organize a group to sing Christmas Carols at a local retirement home
  7. Buy the person behind you in line at Starbucks a coffee
  8. Vow to change one behavior for the good of the planet
  9. Make and give your neighbors, postal worker, hair stylist, and other support people a homemade card and/or gift like hot coco in a recycled jar with marshmellows on top or gingerbread cookies. You can always include a gift card if you have the money to give.
  10. Resist the urge to buy useless gifts just to cross someone off of your shopping list. You end up supporting a disposable economy and contributing to global warming. This is especially hard when you have a tight budget because we never want to be caught empty handed. Instead have a tree planted in this person's name. It only costs $4 and they will receive an e-certificate and GPS coordinates so you can visit the tree.
To find more ideas visit:

Let me know if you try any of these ideas or if you have another to add.