Friday, January 22, 2016

New Markers! (A Spectrum Noir Review)




I've been enjoying working with markers so much that I was ready to try a professional grade set with a bigger range of colors that would hopefully be longer lasting. Copic seems to be the brand of choice (about $4 each), with Spectrum Noir being the less expensive option (about $1.80 each). I did a lot of research - both are refillable and have nibs that can be replaced. Both seemed to come in a wide range of colors, though Copic has more. (Copic also has two less expensive options - Sketch and Ciao - which both have brush tips instead of bullet like the Classic.)



My Bic MarkIts finally started to poop out, so I had to make a decision. In the end, I went with the Spectrum Noir, partly because of the price and partly because they were easier to find. Right away, I love the range of colors and that the many neutral and muted options compared to office store markers.


The cap color is not very accurate, making the color chart a must! The grey band on each marker makes it quick to find which end is the fine point. There's also a nice light grip strip around each marker.


Organizing trays are also a must ... how gorgeous is this set up? I ended up purchasing all twelve of the six-marker sets, plus Lights, Brights, and Pastels (144 in all ... enough to fill two sets of trays). The range of colors is good, but not perfect. I still feel like it's missing a few shades of green, yellow, and orange while including too many similar colors of Turquoise, Dark Red, Coral and Bright Pink. Still, this range will likely suit my purposes very well!



Blending ... just okay, I need more practice with that. Happily, they do work great with my favorite PaperMate black flair pens ... no bleeding at all!


Layering ... works better with some colors than others. I like that it's very subtle and also like the option of using a light grey on top of color for shading. 

Final verdict: I'd still love to try out the Copic, and would pick up a small set if I ever find them available. But the Spectrum Noir brand is perfect for my skill level - reasonably priced and very good quality. and I'm having a great time with all the new colors! 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Cultivating a New Habit


So, my job is graphic designer and illustrator, which I love. But I had gotten into a really bad habit of only working when there was work to be done. Somehow over the years, I stopped drawing for fun. Last summer, my daughter brought home a summer art challenge and thought it would be good for me, too. The first thing on the list that caught my attention was zentangle, which I just love so much! Doodling with no purpose except to have fun - it seems like such an obvious practice, but I hadn't been doing it!

That new technique warmed me up to keep going, and over the last few months, I've started drawing every day. Sometimes, I use prompts ...



Often, I'll use things that happened during the day ...



Sometimes, a special occasion ...



And when my brain is too stuffed up to think straight, zentangle is always a happy no-pressure treat.



I've been uploading artwork regularly to Instagram, and finding a little like-minded virtual community has been delightful.



Okay, truth: I still don't actually get to draw EVERY day, because, life. But, another truth: I WANT to, and that's the revelation! My current favorite routine is to sit down at my desk with tea around 2:00. It's when my office is about to get the sunniest, I've got half an hour before the big kids get home, and if something really gets me going, I can keep working until elementary school pick up.



It's been a year and a half to get to this point, and in that time I've filled a couple sketchbooks, which I haven't done since college. I used to fear sketchbooks, wanting the work that goes inside it to be amazing. I now realize that working in sketchbooks makes me more thoughtful and put a little more time into the work which, guess what? Makes it better. (What a concept, I know!!!) I've also been learning more about supplies and materials and have a new love for markers and am even planning to invest in an artist-grade set (ka-ching, but I can't wait). I now get such a thrill out of the idea that Hey! That page used to be blank, and now is filled with artwork that didn't exist in the world 30 minutes ago ... made only by my hand/mind/heart. It's ridiculously satisfying.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

No Sugar No Vember



Mr. Hotcakes was gone for a week in October, and it felt like an exceptionally long week around here. The kids and I typically do fine when he's out of town ... schedules run smoothly, we make simple dinners ... but we were really missing Dad! I also happened to have a very junky food week. There were lots of baked goods around and good nutritional choices were not being made. I've had a suspicion for awhile that too much sugar makes me a little hyper-emotional, and on the last day of single parenting, I got in a very stupid showdown with Clark at bedtime after a really great week, which left both of us feeling awful.

The next day I decided to take a break from the sweet habit. Of special note is the date on which this decision was made: October 30th. Yes, one day before our house was about to be loaded with candy. Not to mention the 200 pieces of candy I already had waiting for trick-or-treaters! (And I bought the good stuff this year ... all chocolate!) But I was fed up with the bad habit and decided there would be no better time to take a break.

My goal was to go two weeks. The first week was actually surprisingly easy ... every time I walked by the candy dish or came across a donut, I thought to myself "Oh, I don't eat sugar anymore." and that was that! (I am absolutely an abstainer rather than a moderator!) I didn't go crazy looking for hidden sugar ingredients, only eliminated the obvious sources: baked goods, candy, chocolate, ice cream.

By day eight, I shared my challenge with Jeff and indulged in one mini peanut butter cheesecake that I made for a dinner party. (It was awesome!) I also allowed three chocolate cookies from Clark's birthday - one an evening, with a cup of tea, after the kids were in bed. So, not a totally sugar-free month, but drastically reduced ... I went from having several sweet things a day to six very small treats total over what's now been 26 days. And oh, the sweets I passed up! Peanut butter pie! Brownie ice cream sundaes! Halloween candy! I was at MAGNOLIA and only admired the beautiful desserts! I've been drinking a LOT of tea to fill the snacky void ... and even had FRUIT for dessert on a few occasions. (Who have I become??)

My mood has definitely improved ... overall I feel more even-tempered. No guarantee I won't be back to the old habits at some point, but my hope is to be more selective about my sweet options, and make sure that the calories are totally worth it!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

It's Popcorn Time!



Remember a few years ago when I posted Girl Scout thank you tags? Well, now I have a Cub Scout selling popcorn. Clark did a jaw-droppingly great job of going house-to-house in our neighborhood with Dad to do some selling. Amazing! So we'll have lots of popcorn to deliver in a few weeks ... time to make some new tags!


Download Cub Scout thank you tag here.

And for the visually impaired ...

Download Cub Scout with glasses thank you tag here.

For personal use only, please! Hope these are helpful for your scout! 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Daily Sketch – Happy Things


Things that make me happy: rainbows - tea - pencils - peanut butter chocolate chunk ice cream - erasers - heatproof rubber scraper - double chocolate chip sandwich cookies - waffles - silver number pencil cup - permanent markers - souvenir vacation mugs - hearts - Riesen caramels - homemade muffins - brown baking wrappers - Pyrex measuring cups - Cortland apples - individual pots of eyeshadow - low rise bikini panties - sunshine - flat shoes - garden flags - popcorn - mini mouse ornaments - drawings of birds (not actual birds) - sticky circle flowers - rocks

(Check out Instagram for more daily sketches!)

Monday, August 10, 2015

Baking Monday – Black and White Cookies



Look to the cookie!!!

I've never tried a black and white cookie before, and in fact had never even heard of one before Seinfeld. Summer seemed to be a good time to make a batch and give them a try.



You might find these facts about black and white cookies interesting. The observations that were my takeaways are that these are a very soft, cake-like cookie, with a bit of lemon flavoring. This recipe is great, though I should have thinned out the icing more for that nice smooth surface. And even though I used my trusty cookie scoop for these, most turned out a little wonky (these are the best of the bunch).


They are certainly not the prettiest to look at, but they sure are good. Hopefully they will not result in any Seinfeldian symptoms over here!

Friday, August 7, 2015

Kindness Chart Printable


I was going through old files and found this chart from 2011. I must have been feeling particularly frustrated with the niceness levels around the house when this was made. (It was also January, we were likely full of winter doldrums, too.) The chart has symbols for kids and mom, each with four sections to be filled in whenever someone is showing great behavior. Rewards can be issued when all four sections are filled in. Included is a list of positive behaviors that will earn a mark on the chart:

• Use kind words
• Be respectful
• Be a good listener
• Be supportive and encouraging (still struggling with that amongst the siblings!)
• Be a helper
• Keep your hands to yourself
• Show appreciation: say please and thank you!

I honestly cannot remember if we actually used it. The act of making the chart alone was probably enough to chill me out of whatever crazy state I was in at the time. It seems like a good one to share!

Download Kindness Chart here.