If you like this blog, visit my cooking blog, Cooking Finland.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Encaustic art

We have had a really busy week, and I don't have any of my own work photographed for craft day, but this is a great video on encaustic art.  This reminds me of the suncatchers we made in school by ironing crayon bits between sheets of waxed paper.  This is an exciting technique, and I can't wait to try it!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Thursday is craft day! Ornaments from soda cans!

 Well, Thursday was craft day, but I'm a little behind this week.  but I have a great quick  Christmas craft to share, next year I think we will cover the tree in these and not have to worry about the dogs breaking/eating all the ornaments and candy canes.  These look like they would be sharp, but really aren't, the kids could have helped me make them, if there weren't so many Christmas specials on TV...

First, I cut a soda can in half...

Then cut slits down the sides like this:

Fold down the fringe:

If you want, put a squirt of spray adhesive in the middle and sprinkle on some glitter.  You can also trim the spikes on an angle if you want.  I used a needle and some thread to make a loop for hanging.

This craft is so simple, the kids will love making them, too!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The MSI Finnish Christmas tree, covered in yarn elves!

This is a follow up to last Thursday's craft day, yarn elves.  We visited the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago today to see the Christmas trees of the world display, and they were all beautiful!  I had to share the picture of the Finnish tree, it was covered in yarn elves, made very much like the ones from last Thursday's blog.  The only major difference is that they used wooden balls for the heads (you would have to make the body shorter to do this.  And I love the little crocheted hats, they look just like the Finnladies from the Chicago Finnish-American Society, who coincidentally decorated the tree!

Monday, December 20, 2010

A fun Christmas bird ornament

While we are waiting for the natural light to improve so that I can get satisfactory photos of my paintings, I'll share another craft.  I found this one at a bit of this & a bit of that but she didn't give any instructions.   The author of that blog is from Finland, living in Canada now.  The bird shape is very popular in Finnish crafts and glasswork.  

My six-year old helper and I first cut bird shapes out of last year's Christmas cards.  Then we made pompoms, wrapping the yarn carefully around four of his fingers.

 We tied the pompom between his fingers (he said this was the painful time we will wrap a little more loosely!).  After it was slipped off his hand and tied securely around the middle, we cut all the loops and trimmed up the pompom.

Next we cut a small hole in the bird's side and slipped the pompom through.  A paper punch hole for an eye, and a loop of string to hang it, and the bird is complete.  My helper was thrilled, I think we have found a great way to recycle and create unique ornaments!

Happy crafting

Friday, December 17, 2010

The 10 year tree skirt project and my favorite housework excuse sign...

The natural lighting is terrible again today, so I'll post a few more crafty photos.  Someone needs to remind me to take lots of photos on the next day when I have good lighting.  That may be awhile this time of year!  This is a gorgeous star/snowflake chain that my talented daughter made.  Her nimble hands can make the tiniest of crafts!  If you haven't made one yet, you can get the instructions in my Crafting for Christmas post.
We've been working on this tree skirt for almost a decade now.  I bought a big piece of felt and cut out a circle.  The gold trim is hot-glued on.  Every year we draw around the kids' hands with a marker, then trace it with gold fabric paint.  This year my oldest son's hand took almost an entire small bottle of paint!  The kids write their own names under the handprints, but I've removed the names from this photo.  I couldn't remove the chihuahua, though, she loves to lay on this tree skirt and thought I was spreading it out on the floor to make her more comfortable.  This link is to the paint I like to use, I had a different kind this year, but it didn't cover as well.  
Also, I should mention that when we first started, I tried to put the paint on the kids' hands and have them make a print.  It didn't work well at all, and was EXTREMELY messy.  The next year we just started to do outlines.  I let the kids write the year above the hands, lots of cute backward numbers!

And I will leave you with a little crafty painting that I made, it seems appropriate today, my house is a wreck with remodeling projects and the Christmas cookies we baked last night...if you would like to mess up your kitchen with some really yummy cookies, you can read about them here.

This is just a quick sign that I made up to use in case of emergencies.  It truly explains what is going on in our house right now.  Even the sign itself is painted to look a little dusty.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A flower still life for a dreary day

It is so dreary today that it is hard to get a good painting photo, but this one is acceptable.  While I've always been more of a tomboy, roses and sunsets have always been some of my favorite subject matter.  Must be a lingering bit of girlishness...  This one may be small, 8x10 inches on stretched canvas, but I really like it.  I painted it last month to demonstrate to my daughter how I painted a larger, similar painting when I was a teenager.  I'm not sure this particular bouquet ever existed, I think my painting teacher probably supplied some kind of picture, but that was decades ago.  For me, painting this small copy of my old beloved painting was like sitting in a chair at my teacher's house in a little house far away from here, feeling her hand on my shoulder.  Some days I can still hear her voice if I concentrate.  

Thursday is craft day! Yarn Elves (lankatonttu)

Thursdays are a difficult day around our house, the weekend is almost here, but not quite, and the kids have a lot of homework.  We all need a little break, so I'm declaring Thursday to be our official craft day, and I'll be posting instructions here every week.  Check back often, and craft along with us!

As many of you who read my other blog, Cooking Finland, know, my husband is from Finland, and I have been an exchange student there.  So a lot of our crafts will be following instructions from Finnish websites and other traditional Finnish crafts.  The Finnish school system really values handicrafts and practical arts, and there are a lot of really great ideas in blogs coming from Finland.  Also, I like for my kids to learn about their cultural heritage through experimentation.  Hope you enjoy this series, too!

Today's craft is yarn elves.  These are really cute and would make great tree ornaments or package toppers.  If you have ever made a corn husk doll, the instructions are very similar.  For anyone who can read Finnish or is motivated enough to figure out what Google Translate really means, these are the blogs that I looked at to find instructions, and

These are my supplies:  two colors of yarn, a DVD case (if you don't have a Finnish war movie like in this picture, I'm sure any other case would work...), and a pair of scissors.  You can use regular scissors, mine have all disappeared and I had to use kids school scissors.

Wrap the yarn for the arms around the short side of the DVD case (loosely!).  I wrapped about 15 times, you can do more or less depending on how thick you want the arms and how thick your yarn is.

Pull the yarn off carefully and tie one end a little from the end.  This makes the hand.  

It is REALLY IMPORTANT to tie the knots tightly, so I wrapped the yarn around about 5 times and tied again.  We don't want any little elves falling apart on us.

Now lay the arms on the DVD case as in this picture and wrap the contrasting yarn around the DVD long-ways.  This time I wrapped about 16 times.  I left the end of the yarn toward the bottom so that when I trimmed the feet it would disappear, but you could also glue it into the hat later if you start from the other end.

This time I just cut the yarn off at the bottom.  Very Carefully.

To make the head, tie, then wrap and tie again as for the arms.  Then I criss-crossed the yarn to make the torso, and tied and wrapped again for the waist.  All of this should be done with the same piece of yarn, don't cut it after you tie off the head.

Now it is time for the little elf to spread 'um.  I separated half of the yarn for each leg and tied off feet and wrapped and tied again, as with the arms.

After he is all tied off, you can trim his feet and hands carefully.  Don't cut any of the strings too short, he might unravel...

I cut a pie-shaped piece of felt, then hot glued it in back and to his head to make a hat.  Online, I found a picture that I want to try next, she crocheted the hat on, and they are adorable!!  Click here to look at it.

Happy Crafting!!!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Portrait of the reluctant Child

I love this painting!  A couple of years ago, we were at the Field Museum members' nights, and my daughter, quite a girly-girl, stepped right up to the scientists and ASKED to hold a hissing cockroach!  We were so surprised that we almost forgot to take a photo.  Fortunately, we did, and I painted this later to better preserve the memory.  I am very sure she regretted asking after she got the bug in her hand.  By the way, my daughter said that I should sell this painting cheap!  She would like it out of the house.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Posting a spring landscape to try to forget that it is freezing outside!

This may be the ultimate act of denial, but I just had to post a spring landscape today, still trying to catch up on blogging about paintings from previous months.  It is freezing here, 4 degrees Farenheit, (-16 C) but hopefully this picture will remind us that spring will eventually come again.  This is the view out my living room window, minus one neighbor house!  Right now I really miss my beautiful daffodils, and the service berry tree is bare, but soon they will bloom again, and the service berry will be full of beautiful birds eating the ripe red fruit.  This painting is acrylic on stretched 18x20 inch canvas (the painting wraps around the sides).  Do you think I should just hang this in the window and pretend not to see the snow?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Vibrant dog portraits, Bennie and Ella


These are a couple of pet portraits that I painted a couple of months ago.  I absolutely love the vibrant colors for these two characters, it suits their personalities perfectly.  Bennie is such a stinker, the most loyal dog ever and a great hunter, but his hunting skills continuously get him into trouble while in the house.  Ella is a 5 pound little princess whose sweet personality more than makes up for her chihuahua looks.  These are small acrylic paintings, Bennie is on stretched canvas, 8x10 inches, Ella is on canvas board, 6x8 inches.  

If you have a pet of your own whose personality you would like captured on canvas, I gladly do commissioned portraits.  For pets, I prefer to paint from a photo!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Christmas Cookie exchange -- Finnish Pulla

Busy weekend, I haven't had time to post any new artwork.  Getting good photos of canvas is harder than it looks!  We went to an awesome cookie exchange today, and a lot of people were asking for the recipe for some Finnish pastries that we brought.  I'll post it here, happy baking!

Cardamon Buns (Pulla)

50g cake yeast = 1 packet dry yeast
150 g butter =1 and a half sticks
5 dl milk =2 cups
half tsp salt
1 dl sugar = quarter cup
2 tsp fresh ground cardamom
about 1 and a half liters flour = 6 cups

Melt butter and warm milk (98 F).  Add yeast and stir.  Add salt, sugar and cardamom.  Stir in flour until dough pulls away from bowl.  Let rise covered in a warm place until about double (30-40 minutes).  Knead in rest of flour.  Divide dough (64 small pieces, divide in half, in half again, in half again …) Shape each piece into a rope and tie in a knot.  Let rise again, covered (about 20 minutes).  Brush with egg and sprinkle with sugar.  Bake at 450F for 5-10 minutes (Do not overbake).

The sugar I use to sprinkle on top is pearl sugar, looks a lot like pretzel salt, and is available in the food section at Ikea.

This recipe is adapted from the book Parhaat Leivonnaiset, OTAVA 1993 ISBN 951-1-1804-8, my absolute favorite baking book!

After posting this, I realized that I have many more cooking posts like this one.  I'm starting another blog for all of them,  It will be interesting for people interested in the cuisine of Finland, or just cooking and baking in general.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Children in portraits

Here is a portrait of my little fairy mostly grown up.  She will absolutely hate that I posted that, but maybe she will forgive me after I start making the Christmas cookies tonight.  This is also 11x14, acrylic paint.  It is hard to paint children of a certain age--they are quite critical.  She didn't like that I painted a black shirt instead of the one she was actually wearing at the time.  I'm just thinking that in a few years purple stripes with silver thread might get a little dated.  I added her favorite Kalevala ( necklace, instead.

I Wonder if Fairies Dream of being Little Girls?

This is the first in a series of fairly small paintings of little girls playing dress-up.  It is based on my daughter when she was about 2, when she wore a princess or fairy dress and carried a baby doll most places.  When my oldest son was little, we saw girls in their princess dresses at the grocery, and I wondered why on earth their moms let them go out in public like that.  It didn't take long for my daughter to educate me.  You develop a lot of understanding as a mother as the kids grow.  

The dress-up series is vibrant and has a dream-like quality.  This one has copper metallic highlights.  It is back-stapled canvas, 11x14, painted with acrylic paint.  Couldn't resist adding some copper metallic accents with my new tube of Golden copper...a new tube of paint sometimes makes me giddy!  

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Box

This box has such a funny story, and I'm still procrastinating about finishing the weatherproofing in my studio, I just have to share even though this is from a couple of months ago when cleaning out garages was actually enjoyable and would not have given me frostbite.

This is not actually my box.  It came from my friend's garage, her husband did not want to part with it.  For the sake of anonymity, I'll call him "Brighton."  I wish I had had the foresight to take a picture of the box when I first acquired it--it was horrible and Brighton's wife wanted it out of her garage.  I am allowed to keep it only on the condition that Brighton never sees it in its improved state.

The box was nasty, full of old tools and mouse droppings.  My kids, who usually love to find a good trash pick, turned up their noses and said, "what are you going to do with that?"  Throwing "antiques" out would be wrong, even though I'm pretty sure it had little value because of its condition.  And I absolutely love the fact that the Atlas beer company felt the need to advertise that they have "TEN PHONES."

It had a lot of dried epoxy paint splatters which I couldn't remove without taking out some of the writing, so I sanded off what I could with my orbital sander and then painted a simple sunset over the rest.  Stain over the top completed its aged appearance.  I like the triptych appearance of the sunset, the painting looks like it has rubbed off over time.  I actually painted the sunset to match the wet bar in our I just have to remember to hide it whenever "Brighton" comes over for a drink...

Crafting for Christmas

This blog will be about my paintings, but other crafts will have to sneak in now and then, and today the room where I usually paint is too cold to stay in I'll start out with a quick but impressive holiday craft.  Then I'll go and finish weatherproofing the painting studio...

My husband is from Finland, and the kids and I have been making these gorgeous paper snowflakes (or stars) for holiday decorations.  They are very sculptural, and actually quite easy to make.  This video that I found explains the process quite well.  I used a low temp hot glue gun instead of the tape, and stacked up the six sheets of paper to cut them.  

Wish I had some thick, double-sided gold paper, wouldn't that be gorgeous?!

In case you are interested, I found this project on another beautiful blog which is in Finnish, but Piia does a wonderful job of translating most of the text if you look closely.