Saturday, October 22, 2011

Pumpkin Seeds & Cat Naps

pumpkin seeds

The best thing about carving pumpkins in October is toasting the pumpkin seeds after. (Okay, maybe it's the glowing, flame filled pumpkin-bellies, and orange hot faces and such...) The other day, after a rousing gut scraping fest, we ripped out the innards and separated the seeds. Delicious snacks. :D

Toast at 250˚ for an hour (we used this to help heat the house). Melt a little butter, toss. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar mixture. Toast for 20 mins. Seeds should be lightly browned & crispy.

As the weather turns colder, on those days when we forget to turn on the heat, Spike likes to climb in bed and shimmy his way into the sheets. His favorite spot is a hip-perch or belly curl. I had to lift up the blankets to photograph him, then we took a midday cat nap. The cuteness is quite overwhelming at times.

spike curled up in sheets

My dogs usually jump in my bed and drool on the pillows. There's something to be said for the delicate nature of felines, particularly when you're trying to sleep, too. (Drool pillows are a shock to the system.)

Now back to the regularly scheduled grad school crazy. (Hence weeks between posts.) Brief notes: grad school overloads are silly. Don't do that. Henry James is evil. Emily Dickinson's letters to Susan are amazing. Creative writing pedagogy goes some weird places, and abstract theory sometimes makes a person want to smack a scholar. Novel writing is as arduous as it is glorious, and isn't an endeavor for the "pansy assed," as my father would say.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Last Few Days of August (28)

Mya TtV
Mya: through the viewfinder (TtV).

Mya Looks Up - August 28, 2011
Mya spinning for the camera. She adores the camera, both having her photo taken, and taking her own photos.

momo's sandy nose
Momo, age 2 & 1/2.
After playing with Mya, he decided to dig in the sand.

Mya's Pink Nails - August 28, 2011
Adorable trouble.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Adventures in Botany & Caching

The storm that blew through last night was amazing. I'm sad to say I was too sleepy to try to photograph it. My pups pushed open the door to my room and climbed in bed with me around 5:30a. It's no surprise I got a late start to the plotted geocaching adventure in Spring Grove Cemetery today.

Scurvygirl (Lauren), Goodstarbuck (George), and I met up around 3 and wandered a bit. While George sussed out his GPS issues, we took a stroll toward the rose garden, though a field of mating dragonflies (wowsers), and came upon a Hummingbird Moth feeding.

hummingbird moth

We mistook him for a baby hummingbird at first, because they look quite similar until you're really close. I'd never seen on before! Lauren sniffed out some sassafras, but further adventures in botany were curtailed by the activation of the GPS.

Our target is a multi-cache with 12 clues that lead to various points in the cemetery (and they are not shy about sending you across the thing!). There's math involved, but only simple subtraction and addition. We flopped our Lat. and Lon. a few times, but that happens. There's something to see in every section of the cemetery, so if you make a wrong turn, it becomes obvious pretty fast, with a couple of exceptions along the way. There's cool stuff to see until you figure it out.

We drove past a fawn and a doe, and nearly walked up on some bucks while searching for a "shipwreck" tombstone. Luckily, they took off instead of bambi-ramboing us. Some of the clues required reading of stones to find a clue buried in a bunch of text. Occasionally, they were not obvious. "Gone Fishing" does not refer to the most excellent lakeside monument (Charles Phelps Taft II). That is a hint from me to you. So just follow the coordinates and don't be confused when there's no lake!

We only made it to clue #8 on our chain adventure, but we're confident we can knock out the rest pretty fast, now what technical difficulties have been addressed. (Why is it so hard to find a good app that allows manual entry of specific GPS coords? Gosh!)

Be sure you bring water, because it's hot hiking around up there in the summer. The roads are more bumpy than I remember. Monuments range from plain to beautiful (very few creepy between). This particular multi-cache is a combo cache/adventure & letterbox. Stamps, ahoy!

Group geocaching is much more fun then solo caching. Plus, you have an excuse to go get pizza or Indian food after.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


Cheshire Grin

This one went a bit lopsided, but it's amusing just the same. It was too hot to hang out making too many small marshmallow fondant decorations. If I had it to do over again, I'd go with a 1/4 size black and white checkerboard with green cake pops decorated with tiny red flowers... a Red Queen's garden on the chess board.

This is only my 3rd attempt at playing with this homemade fondant. Things I've learned: rolling it too thin = bad, so be sure you have enough, otherwise every flaw in the icing job underneath shows. Don't get too complicated. Simple shapes can build the look just as well as complicated ones. Don't make too many colors to start. It's exhausting. Be sure you frost the cakes before your fondant is ready to go, or it could stiffen up and crack on the edges while you wait. Be prepared for a giant mess of powdered sugar everywhere. I can't make a cake without looking I fell face first into a giant tub of cocaine.

Me and Freud, baby. Ok, it's really more like this: I MADE A CAKE.

The Cheshire Cat's grin came out exactly how my drawing did. Edible markers = win.

Happy 31st bday, Georgie.

Cheshire Grin

Monday, July 25, 2011

Lazy Days

I do not see you, demon dog.

Though I was meant to bake a few cakes for a bunch of Leos in my life, it's been too hot to cook. Instead, the animals and I have been working hard on writing and revising, and hanging out in the AC (not that it works very well). Spike, pictured above, has been known to sneak into my room with one or both of the dogs. That works out ok as long as Momo doesn't get too amorous. Paco usually squishes himself onto the floor for a nap. Lively bunch, yes. Yes, we are.


Sunday, July 10, 2011

Bianca's Birthday Cake

Bianca's Bday Cake

There's nothing quite as delicious and adorable as tiny marshmallow fondant flowers.

Bianca's birthday is tomorrow, but she came over with her kidlet for a cook out today. I will say that constructing a cake made of sugar, sugar, and sugar is not as easy as it looks... in 92 degree heat. I had to retreat to a small room with an AC unit to finish it before it melted.

I took these (about 6 hours worth of hand sculpted marshmallow fondant flowers):

fondant flowers

... and used butter cream icing to adhere them to a two tiered cake—an 8 inch round topped by a 6 inch round. These flowers were left to set overnight, which would have been fine except that the temperature softens them a bit. They didn't flatten, but did have a little give.

side of B's cake

The cake itself is strawberry. And glaringly pink.

strawberry cake, strawberry ice cream

It turns out the heat, while it made some things difficult, softened the flowers to the point that they were quite pleasant to chew. Delicious.


Saturday, July 09, 2011

Film to the Rescue!

old log, new log

Geocaching in a walking park is amusing. Little kids are the most inquisitive, but rather than ask what we were up to, one kid rode by on his bike 3 times in four minutes. He missed us digging up a misplaced log (no container) that was likely tossed by some teens. (The park's a well known spot for shenanigans. Mmhm.)

We wrapped the tattered old log in a little baggie, then included a fresh log for future signers to use. The old one was falling apart under light handling. Sad! It had a lot of sigs in it.

Since film is not dead!! (That's right!) I had some film containers hanging around in my studio. We read on the page that the thing needed a new container, so we gave it one. There's a pin-back button tucked into the new cache should anyone in (or passing through!) the Cincy area wish to go hunting for it.

geocache replacement container

Geocaching & Fondant Sculpting

(Also known as milling about looking suspicious & making a mess in the kitchen, respectively.)

adorable geocache tube

We set off on a quest for a UPS drop spot, determined to return some defective merch (geek sadness), but were waylaid by delicious dumplings at P.F. Changs. After appetizer-y goodness, and a massive detour (thankyew Cincinnati construction), we found the UPS place. And it was closed.

Did we despair? No.

We drove through Westchester to find Target and search out some shorts, as the summer has insisted on being deliciously sweat-inducing in recent days. I took off to The Evil Craft Store That Shall Not Be Named, in search of specific fondant tools, & found most of said tools. Of all the ECSTSNBN, the one in Westchester is certainly the most well supplied I've ever seen. Sundry shopping adventures followed, along with a gigantic and disturbing swarm of gnats, dead gnats, and more gnats (I suspect zombies and foul magics). Seriously. What is with the gnats, people? I walked 200 feet of sidewalk covered in gnats and gnat corpses, with little dive-bomber gnats pelting me the whole way. I did not photograph this for you.

You are welcome.

I was beginning to expect 9 other plagues on the horizon, and texted the bestie. He picked me up, lest I brave the hordes again, and we decided what better day to geocache than a day suspiciously rife with tiny locust-gnat activity.

We'd hit home depot and picked up $1.18 carabiners for our keys, and were feeling saucy!

geocache log - north bend kroger

Score. We located this little cache with a minimum of effort, thanks to it being eye level to one of us. The log was a big damp, but signing it wasn't a problem. Our marks made, we looked for awesome treasures to stow inside the tube, but had none, alas. Dead and partially smooshed gnat corpses notwithstanding. (Some of them tagged along for the ride home. Ew.)

Bolstered by our successes and triumphs, modest as they were, we motored home with high hopes. Upon homecoming, I gathered my tools. The bestie gathered his tools. He delved deeply into the guts of his android phone, and I met marshmallow fondant, (homemade), on the field of battle.

tools & star  trek...

9 flowers and 2 episodes of Star Trek later, this design won out. Do you know how much red food gel it takes to make this color? You don't want to know. Let's just say a lot a move on. These flowers take a lot longer to make than you'd think. I imagine folks get faster with experience (I hope).

Many thanks to the bestie for making a last minute run to the Krog for some cupcake gem "edible pearl" thingies. They finish the little flowers nicely.

small flowers

I'm not sure how long it's going to take these babies to harden up. It was so hot here, they started to melt. I shoved them in the fridge for later use. A certain niece's birthday is coming up on Monday, so she'll have to eat them and like it. Rar.

If you're jealous, and wish to find this Cincinnati geocache, clickie this linkie: gimme the clues!

marshmallow fondant flowergeocache - north bend kroger

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Radha Workshop, 25 June 2011


Radha Chandrashekaran is an artist of contemplation. She mixes media and works pieces with whatever items she needs to make them come alive, and continually explores the role of art in everyday life. In a workshop with NKU's Print Club, Radha shared some of her techniques and philosophy.

You can find her art, artist statement, and workshop information on her website:

detail - radha's piece - wip

Along with works in progress, Radha brought with her a technique she'd picked up from Japanese artists. This method of transferring images to paper uses water, ink, and a sort of handmade dauber. For more images, and plates in use, click any of these images. Below is a detail photograph of a wooden plate:

radha's wooden plate

The kalam, or pen, is another tool Radha brought with her. She taught us to construct these pens, which are really quite simple to make. The yarn serves as a reservoir for the ink, and a gentle squeeze sends more ink drips down the bamboo "nib" to produce a constant flow. Traditionally, kalamkari are made with this sort of tool (with a finer fiber) on silk with plant dyes.

nicci's kalam

The quality of the line is variable, depending on the width of the kalam used. The bamboo is wrapped snugly with cloth, then thread or yarn, and secured. After a brief soak in water, the kalam is ready to use. Among the inks explored was a simple, fragrant yellow made with turmeric (spice pictured at the top of this post). Below is a detail of a large piece of silk decorated with an intricate drawing.

kalamkari - detail of radha's silk

One of the best things about NKU, and the Print Club in particular, is that it promotes diversity in its artists and image-making. Alongside ancient tradition, and sometimes aged equipment, rest more modern reminders of who and where we are.

It's always a good time hanging out with NKU printmakers, and guest artists.

nku print room - ink in progress

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Blue Skies

Originally uploaded by nicciwashere

Last weekend's attempt to make it up to Cleveland for the Burning River Roller Girls semi-finals was pretty much epic fail. I wasn't feeling well, but we trekked up to Columbus to have lunch at Schmidt's Sausage Haus anyway. I didn't even make it through five bites of creme puff. If you've ever had their creme puffs, you know that's a travesty.

The day was pretty, though. That was a nice counterpoint to feeling icky and missing out on some really great German cuisine.

The candy shop next door to Schmidt's had Savannah Candy Company praline mix. Sometimes things just show up where you least expect them. One of the most memorable things about Sav is that shop on River Street and those pralines. Reminders of my time there are everywhere.

little black nose
Paco was happy to give me kisses when we got home. What's better than snuggling a puppy in bed while you're recovering from illness? Not a whole lot.

The summer class is progressing beautifully. It's an amusing, educational, and only rarely facepalm inducing experience. Good crits on novel excerpts, and entertaining writing from some fellow grad students.

I'll be editing the Licking River Review in the upcoming academic year, so get those submissions ready, peeps. It's blue skies from here.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Mya & Nate's 4th Birthday Party : June 5

Icing Face
Icing Face
Originally uploaded by nicciwashere

The focus on this isn't the greatest, but I couldn't pass up this photo of Nate's very serious icing face. Birthday cake is srs business, just like hunting Easter eggs (as you can see from several blog posts back).

I don't know how he managed it, but there's icing in his ear. The combo of colors on his face indicates he partook of his own cake (blue Batman), and his cousin's cake (pink princess). He's a cake man for sure.

While Nate and Mya were playing in the yard, Tony was crawling like a madmad (miniature) for parts unknown (aka the fence's edge). He paused to have his portrait made, because that's what badass babies do. I can say, "I knew him when..."

Tony the Speed Crawler

Not to be outdone, this little girl dropped by the fruit bowl every two and a half minutes to stealthily clean out all the blueberries. She had absolutely no interest in the many other fruit. I respect a girl who knows what she wants, and goes right for it!

Blueberry Eater

I baked a cake for the party, with the decorating help of my lovely assistant Farmboy. We used a homemade marshmallow fondant, which is a pretty simple recipe. It's also easy to make if you don't mind kneading powdered sugar into stiff, sticky icing for about 20 minutes. I'm sure it would be more of a joy to work with given a few cutters, punches, and proper tools. (As everything usually is. The right tools go a long way.) At about 1:30 in the morning, we called it quits on making icing grass.

I hope the cake was delicious, because it was definitely made with love... and some frustration/joy that comes of trying something for the first time on a deadline. I would say the 4th birthday was a success. Sugar highs and giggles all around.

Waterfall CakeNate & Cake

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Mya, Nate, & Paco

Mya & Nate with a Leash

I'm not really sure what's going on here, but I think Mya and Nate decided someone should be on a leash since neither of the dogs was. Paco's in the background completely ignoring them. Too much ground to run around on, not enough time for pestering little kids!

Memorial Day Weekend

Kids in the Sand
Kids in the Sand, a photo by nicciwashere on Flickr.

Memorial Day, for my fam, was a day all about hanging out by the newly filled above ground pool (which ended up being uneven), watching the pups run around, since we just got the gate in (also uneven!), eating delicious grilled and baked ribs (BBQ and teriyaki everywhere), and swimmin'! Some genius also gave the kids squirt guns, and there was the inevitable result.

Here you see Mya, Dylan, and Nate (my great niece and nephews!) and my niece Brittani coming over to chat with her kids, or confiscate a squirt gun, or something like that.

Later in the day, Dylan built a most excellent mountain of sand with a tunnel through the bottom, but Paco (one of the pups) decided he would play the part of a demolition crew. He walked over and crushed it with the swipe of a paw... with the inevitable result.

Our fence is complete, after a few issues with the construction. Tracy, my sister's fiance, came over to redo the posts that the first crew botched. George & I took over slatting, and we finished the fence in record time, with just a little sunburn to show for it. The painting has yet to be completed (it's a delicious espresso bean brown by Behr), but it looks pretty good aside.

Mom planted some wisteria bushes, which are just lovely. They'll take a while to grow to their full glory, but there's nothing like sitting under the fall of those beautiful purple flowers in the summer. I can't wait!

The icky orange (back of the house) paint will be replaced with a colorful mural as soon as I finish a design, between work for a glorious summer writing workshop, and my own novel's progression. Just the step of putting up this privacy fence seems to have opened up a whole world of possibilities for our home. I think we're all intent on making it a much more beautiful place to live.

The kids sure seem to be enjoying it!

Oh, wait. It looks like the adults were enjoying it too. Ribface.
Some of our guests were messier than others, but all enthusiastically showed their ribface pride, even Dylan's friend!

bbq ribs go over pretty well

Monday, May 23, 2011

Slatted Fence

fence progress
fence progress, a photo by nicciwashere on Flickr.

The fence progresses, as you can see from the photo. We're doing an inside-outside alternating slat pattern thing. Mostly.

There are a couple of sections that are wonky. I think the late-in-the-day drilling got to a couple of the guys who helped out on this thing.

Here's hoping it survives its first thunderstorm (now), and the high wind we had a few minutes ago. Fingers crossed!

We put up our drills for the day when the tornado warning sirens sounded. (That's always a good time to take a little break.)

Green Eyebrows

lucy in process
lucy in process, a photo by nicciwashere on Flickr.

Back in the studio today prepping some ATC bases for art. Ang West is hosting a Broken Hearted swap over on iATCs. Deadline date is June 15, 2011. I smell some watercolor and layering of text/handwriting coming on.

Gotta get over to the art supply store and pick up some Golden acrylic medium for some transfers. I'm a little worried about walking into that store, because there's so much cool stuff to browse. At least the selection is relatively small... it could be a huge DB store and then I'd be in trouble.

In the mean time, editing chapters of a novel written at odd hours during the night is an experience. The mass of text seems to get out of hand pretty fast, like a squid wriggling around intent on escape. The only thing we agree on today is that shrimp are delicious.

Some mail is headed out to the PO ASAP: Toy Camera Zine to Heather in Scotland, FAV 2011 to: Jenn in Iowa, Lucy in Florida, Maralena in Michigan, Carla in California, Pat in Nebraska, and Clara in Missouri.

Summer Adventure

Dandelion, a photo by nicciwashere on Flickr.

When I was a kid, my favorite thing about the beginning of Summer was always the dandelion explosion all over the street. Though I was never into princesses and wedding fantasies, I did dig on making wishes on shooting stars and clouds of fluffy seeds.

I walked out of the house one day last month and noticed this little guy glowing in a shaft of light that split through the boughs of a pine in the front yard. I picked it after the photo was taken, and you bet your ass I made a wish.

The most important thing, that I think it's too easy to lose as we grow older, is a sense of wonder and play. With that in mind, I signed up for a workshop next month with Radha Chandrashekaran, a (currently) local printmaker (from Southern India) who uses various methods to make beautifully colorful, layered prints. She uses things like relief printing on fabric, medium transfers, silk screen, painting over, hand altering, and basically the "whatever it takes" or "whatever works" approach to art making. It seems very intuitive, which is how I love to work, and the results are lovely.

If you're local, and you'd like to take the workshop, message me and I'll give you the details. I think there are still a few spots open, and the price is good for a good block of hours of studio time. June 25.

It's lovely to hear her speak about her process and ideas, and she seems to collect techniques with as much abandon as I do. You'd enjoy the workshop, I'm sure! I can't wait to see how my more exacting and disciplined printmaker friends take to the very loose processes. (Particularly the etchers...)

Check out her work:

In other news, the fence is progressing, albeit slowly. We may actually have a fenced in yard, after years of talking about it, and room for the puppies to frolic and play. Not to mention a small above ground pool. And a grill. Can you say work hard, play hard?

Maybe I'll institute a "float in the pool for an hour" after each chapter revised or finished in the novel...

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Momo's Usual Expression

Momo's Usual Expression
Momo's Usual Expression, a photo by nicciwashere on Flickr.

The pups aren't amused by all the activity in the back yard, and the strangers walking around with concrete and shovels and chainsaws and wood bits. The fence is in progress, and a day will soon come when we're all out there with cordless drills setting planks. Momo, in particular, wants to know what the eff is going on, yo. He'll be pleasantly surprised by the result, and all the free running around time he'll have in the fenced yard. He is going to love it to bits.

In other news, the Fine Art Valentines 2011 are about to go into the mail. There were the usual delays. Something about the mail art community today seems to be running on laid back time, where people sign up but don't send, or send, but not for weeks after the deadline. Luckily, this time, I was too busy to have to bounce back packages unopened. My grad classes took my entire attention span, but it worked out ok. I have a few pieces fit for publication, and I'm still rockin' the 4.0. Now if only I knew what I wanted to do after the MA. MFA or PhD?

In terms of art, I've been playing with some spray paint and stencils. I carved a few stencils for a 2D class in high school, and I find it at once meditative and trying, depending on the intricacy of the lines. It's certainly not the kind of thing I'd be into for any extended period of time, because I'm more of a broad strokes person. Sometimes I just want to paint a big canvas. Luckily, I have one of those waiting for me in the studio right now.

Today is a day for grilling out, and going to visit a friend in the hospital. T is doing a lot better, thanks to her care, and strength of will. Jess and T are still my favorite couple, and seeing them go through this has only strengthened their position as awesome women.

Momo says stay off my lawn, and he loves you. xox

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

To Fence or Not to Fence

Back Yard in Spring
Back Yard in Spring
Originally uploaded by nicciwashere

The back yard is looking pretty lush after the month of rains and a little trimming up of old, dead trees. It could use a bit of a mow, like the neighbor's yards. Our hill is very steep compared to their lots. It's a pain in the booty to push a mower up and down. Not so bad if you go side to side...

We hope to put in a fence for the puppies this summer, so they can run around without having to worry about leashes or leads. Paco bounds around like a 55 pound bunny, and Momo streaks around at a gallop. They're pretty hilarious when they chase each other.

Now to gather friends who have fence building experience...

Monday, May 09, 2011

Toy Camera minizine

toy camera minizine - revamp
toy camera minizine - revamp
Originally uploaded by nicciwashere

Toy Camera is a 1/4 size (minizine) dedicated to the toy camera, specifically the Holga. Toy cameras are gloriously imperfect things. I own several kinds, but the Holga is by far my favorite. (Plus, it's medium format!)

This little zine is photocopied on cardstock (multiple color covers), and white linen text weight paper. Each copy is hand sewn with varying thread colors.

Inside are 30 pages of information on the Holga, color cast, film types, focus, aperture, keeping a photo sketchbook, various Holga modifications, and 24 photo prompts and projects to keep photographers inspired and making images.

The zine is available for $6 on etsy (, and makes a great gift for a photographer, particularly when paired with a Holga (can be found online for about $20 from various websites). All of the photo projects will work for non-Holga cameras as well. <3

Before a Storm

front yard before the storm
front yard before the storm
Originally uploaded by nicciwashere

April was a giant string of storms and rain here in Southern Ohio. I'm not sure if we hit a record number of inches of rain fall (ever, including Aprils past), but I wouldn't be surprised. I don't remember it raining for that many days in a row... not even when I lived in Savannah.

The edges of this photo are a little extra dark, thanks to the pinhole setting of the camera, but the sky really looked like that, and the light was much dimmer than usual at 4:15(ish) on a Spring weekday.

The yard is beautiful, and though the lilacs have bloomed and gone already, they were fragrant and lovely for a couple of weeks. The tigerlily in the back yard is about to blossom, and the the dogwoods have been going strong for weeks.

I look forward to this every year.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Easter Sunday

Nater Tater

My sister hosted Easter dinner this year. The kids were too busy zooming around in the mud to have their photos taken. Plastic eggs with change and candy are way more important. Way.

Nate took a 20 second breather (pictured above), and his cousin Mya showed me her spoils (she had the most eggs until she started winging them back into the grass). She doesn't dig on sweet tarts, you see. She has a good arm, though. I think Mya was in it for the cash and chocolate.

Mya's blue egg
Very proud of her eggy gains.

hunting eggs is very serious business
Hunting eggs is very serious business.