Category Archives: Just for Fun
I was given 1 pound of shelled red skin peanuts. Only problem was they were 1) raw, and 2) they had the skins on.
Searching Google, the answer was to roast them. Well, I knew they would burn quickly and I am not good at roasting small things that need to be watched constantly. So I asked my Chinese friends how they cook them. The answer was: Dry fry them in a fry pan or wok, stirring constantly to prevent burning, for 5-10 minutes, or until they are cooked. (no oil/no salt) Brilliant!
The problem came: How to get the skins off without spending a lifetime rubbing each little devil between your fingers. Tried Google to no avail. No suggestion was quicker. When cooled, I put them in a large ziplock baggie and waited for another Chinese friend in the morning, who would show me what to do.
While I waited, I pushed down on the peanuts in the bag, rubbing them against one another. That worked but I was still left with a mess of skins in the bag together with the cleaned peanuts. He told me to bring the peanuts and a flat basket and meet him outside in the courtyard.
We dumped the peanuts onto the basket, rubbed the peanuts a little more. Then we shook the basket over the plants, while blowing the skins away. More than brilliant! How perfect!
Good for the plants, no fuss/no muss cleanup for me. Voila! Skinned peanuts.
I chose to do the stitching because the connection to Judaism and wonderfully creative project appealed to me so greatly. It felt like important work and really enticed me to want to complete this.
My illumination has some deep significance for me because of my connection to China through educational consulting and Chinese food cookbook writing. I chose to depict a Chinese gold yuanbao (pronounced ‘you-an bao’) which is an ancient form of gold or silver currency used until the 19th century in China because I did the stitching while I was in China and my verses refer to the retribution that was paid in many forms, with a lot of silver and gold.
I am proud of this work – that my stitching can be part of a larger global community of people who did this project together. I feel blessed that I was able to be included and my heart was touched by the feelings that it evoked in me about my treasured religion.
My goal for the past several months has been learning about watercolours. To continue achieving my goal, I completed this colour mixing chart this month to get to know my colours. It wasn’t quick – that’s because I have 30 colours.
Over the summer I had a great art fix with a new bunch of Daniel Smith watercolour paint tubes. I actually didn’t know where to begin choosing colours so I called on my watercolour Facebook friends for advice. I already had 6 tubes of DS that I had used in a Craftsty online class I took about watercolours and really loved the way they painted. I was eager to graduate to the artist quality paints from the Winsor & Newton Cotman paint set I had received from Kelly Medford’s class in Rome last year. This set was great to start and very easy to learn to use and carry around with. But after a year of using them, it was time to move on. At the end of the discussion I had a long list of ‘must have’ colours, whittled down to 24 more.
I found out that the colours you choose for your palette really depends on the type of painting you do. I haven’t stuck to one kind of painting (flowers, landscapes, still life) and am trying them all, so I just chose the colours that appeal to me the most. Since my new palette has room for more paints and moving them around, in the long run this choice is likely to change.
Studying how to mix paints to make attractive colours, I have found out that the 3 other paint mixing charts I’ve made have been so very helpful to use in my painting. Besides being helpful, the orderly esthetic of a finished chart appeals to my senses–somewhat like a work of art in and of itself!
Writing about the making a colour chart is my way of documenting it for myself for the future, and helping others to make their own colour charts!
You Will Need
- Sharp pencil & eraser
- Permanent marker
- Your watercolours, pans and tubes
- Your choice of paper
- Water container
- Paint brushes, one large (perhaps size 8) and one fine (perhaps size 2)
- Large white ceramic plate
- Small white ceramic plates
- Squeeze bottle (optional) to activate your paints for the pans
- Paper towel or cloth to wipe down your dishes.
Measuring Is the First Step
- I like to use a quilting ruler (but of course any ruler will do) because it’s got Metric and Imperial measurements, is see-through and has lines on the ruler, all helping with accurate measuring.
- I also like the Metric measures because when you have to use a calculator to divide the size of the paper by the amount of colours to get the size of the boxes that you paint in, you get an answer that’s in metric too.
- Jenny, in her blog post describes in great detail how to measure and draw out you chart, which is also the way I draw it out. Don’t forget to take your border measurement on all 4 sides into account.
- I also add a column to the far left and the top row to write the names of the colours.
Draw Out Your Chart
- Use a sharp pencil to measure how far apart the lines will be by ticking off the lines at the left side of the page and the right side. Then repeat with the top and bottom sides of the pages.
- Draw the first line by matching up the two ticks at either end, and using the ruler’s edge as a gauge to keep the lines straight. A see-through ruler is helpful to keeping the lines straight because you can match up the lines on the ruler to the edge of the paper or another line that is straight already.
- Write the names of the colours in the left column and at the top.
Put Your Paint in Order
Having grappled with the order of the paint colours before, the best way is to arrange your paints according to the ROYGBIV order. http://acronyms.thefreedictionary.com/ROYGBIV . Unfortunately I have a few out of order but it’s okay!
Call Me Crazy
On a whim, I decided that to be neat in my painting (because I knew it would be hard to paint in such small a squares without mixing the colours), I would mask out the space between each square to keep it between white.
It was fast because I used it directly from the bottle but definitely not in perfect lines. Oh well, art isn’t perfect! Using a fine brush to draw the lines, I thought, would take much more time.
I learned after a few lines that it was best to always keep the bottle held at a 45° angle. The angle keeps the air from flooding into the tip of the bottle and making a big blob when you put the tip to the paper. And have a paper towel or cloth nearby to wipe up the tip.
As it turns out it wasn’t so crazy as I didn’t have to focus on make the boxes so neat.
Painting Your Chart – Saving Paint and Time With My Process
I diverge from Jenny’s instructions here to save paint and time once the chart is graphed out.
1) In a small dish start with the first colour (horizontal or vertical doesn’t matter) and mix a juicy pure colour mixture with your large brush. Save time by using the paint straight from your tube (if you are making your own pans).
2) Around the outside of the large dish, deposit a small drop of the colour for each of the other colours (if you have 24 colours, you need 23 drops around the outside. If you have 18 colours, you need 17 drops, if you have 12 colours, you need 11 drops. Get the idea? Then paint the colour in the box over top of the name of that colour on the left side and at the top.
NOTE: if you paint the colours down the side and across the top, you don’t have to paint the mix of the same colour which makes a white diagonal line through the chart.
Paint swatch of the name of the colour in the left column and across the top.
3) Dip your small brush into the second colour right in your paint palette and load it half the consistency of water to paint as the first colour.
4) Add a same size drop of the second colour to one of the first colour drops on the big dish, mix together and paint in the right box on the paper. This will make a 1:2 ratio of first to second colour for every mix down the side of your paper. The swatches going down in the bottom half of your chart will have a 1:2 ratio and the swatches going across the top half of your chart will have a 2:1 ratio.
NOTE: If you wish to CHANGE the ratio, change the amount of colour you put on your brush. For example if you want 1:1, use the same size drop of the second colour as the first colour. Then you only need to mix the bottom half of the chart under the diagonal.
5) Clean off the dishes and brushes. For my chart this was the most tedious part of the project. Get clean water.
6) Repeat #2, #3, #4 and #5, painting the swatch of name of the colour in the left column and at the top. Then continue until you have all the colours mixed and painted.
Once the whole thing’s dry, erase the pencil lines and remove the masking fluid. Note the difference mixes down the diagonal and across the diagonal.
Take away for me:
I have a whole lot of beautiful colours.
Some are pure; some don’t mix well because they themselves are not pure. I got a lot of mud mixes with them.
Some are great for landscapes; some are ‘bubble gum’ colours.
Some are surprising like Buff Titanium, which is a beautiful colour on its own or mixed with other pigments.
Neutral Tint is anything but neutral – it’s a very strong back shade if you use too much.
All the purples are lovely. As are all the Quinacrodones.
*****Now to get painting more often!*****
P.S.> Your comments are greatly appreciated.
To say I am overjoyed would be an understatement. Almost 2 months to the day from when I started (August 6, 2017), I have completed my stitching. On September 16, 2017 I finished the script. Today, October 4, 2017, I finished the border and my illumination too.
Because I’m in China while doing this, I stitched a “yuanbao”, which is boat-like shaped silver or gold ingot currency used in Imperial China. Since the illuminations are limited to 5 colour choices and grey or silver isn’t one of them, I decided to keep it simple and make it gold using the allowed gold thread. I found the shape I liked, used an app to graph out the shape and went to work again!
The result is something to be proud of, while being very enjoyable to do! Thanks to the www.torahstitchbystitch.org organization for sharing this opportunity with me.
My friend invited me to a synagogue to see some wonderful needlepoint and to a listen to a presentation by her sister-in-law. I was immediately drawn to photograph the huge project hanging on the walls of the huge room in the synagogue.
Being an avid crafter all of my life, embroiderer, crocheter, knitter, sewer, quilter, scrapbooker, miniaturist, sketcher, painter and artist, it would come as no surprise that I was mesmerized by the project that was before my eyes.
Having never participated in Shabbat services (even when living two short blocks from a synagogue for several years) I do not consider myself to be religious in any way. But if a Jewish holiday is coming up, I always prepare a lesson and a craft or cooking activity in class about that holiday. I do possess knowledge of the religious and historical significance of most of the holidays and avidly cook traditional food that I serve during them. To me, it’s all about bringing family together to celebrate Jewish tradition, but not in the pure religious manner.
One spin off is being a part of something much bigger than just doing some cross-stitch. Imagine I’m part of a worldly group of thousands and cross-stitching the Torah in Hebrew, including: an agnostic Jewish woman, a Mormon fire chief, a Muslim immigrant from Turkey and a Mother Superior at a church in the English countryside to mention just a few.
During the presentation, I was enlightened to the Torah containing 5 books, being: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. What I had seen on the walls was only the first book. They needed more than 300 more volunteers. I was in!
Signing up to cross-stitch a portion really did surprise me though, but looking back, I thought it was inspiring, a way to go back to my Jewish roots, participate in a huge project and do my share, along with create something so meaningful and do some handwork, something that I hadn’t done for many years.
I was so eager to get into the work and dug right in. I thought it was good enough to baste the borders on the cloth! Then stitch, rip out, stitch, rip out for the first row and part of the second. Humm! So much ripping out and I was going to run out of thread. I hadn’t carefully read the instructions, helpful hints or tips and at first I thought I had failed. Well, failure is not a word in my vocabulary. So I decided that I’d better be a ‘good student’, I went to do my research.
After the first week of stitching and I have finished 2 complete rows (5.5 more rows to go)…and I think it looks pretty good!
My portion is Numbers 7:55-7:58. It is part of the story of an outsider from another country who has an affair with the wife of the Israelite leader at the time. This causes a war between the countries. The Israelites win and the punishment is that the outsider must pay retribution in the form of one silver charger of the weight of an hundred and thirty [shekels], one silver bowl of seventy shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary; both of them full of fine flour mingled with oil for a meat offering, one golden spoon of ten [shekels], full of incense, one young bullock, one ram, one lamb of the first year, for a burnt offering and one kid of the goats for a sin offering. My portion is short and leaves a large portion at the bottom of the aida cloth which is big enough for an illumination (illustration) for embroidering. Being in China while doing this stitching, I am thinking that I may embroider a yuanbao, which is ‘boat-like’ type of silver or gold ingot currency used in imperial China. Since the illuminations are limited to 5 colour choices and grey or silver isn’t one of them, I’d have to get creative!
If I don’t finish in 6 months I won’t kill myself, but I certainly will think about it…haha@!
For more information on how to sign up to stitch, or to visit the exhibit at Darchei Noam in Toronto, visit torahstitchbystitch.org (mention my name and they’ll mail you a kit).
Interesting reading about this delightful project at http://nationalpost.com/news/religion/the-stitched-torah-toronto-tapestry-project-inspires-volunteers-from-around-the-world/wcm/53889c37-86c3-40d2-91e6-1e4ae6062e83
Now here’s a recipe that sings fall! An amazing taste that can’t be better. Your house will smell like pumpkin pie.
Before getting deeply into the big project, the Chinese Tea House, I decided it would be good for me to ‘reactivate’ my rusty mini-skills such as painting, gluing, cutting, sanding and attention to details, those skills that I haven’t used for 10 years. So I made these wooden slot and tab building kits. The ancient styles include a Chinese Opera Theatre, a Chinese Tea House, a Chinese Silk Factory and a Chinese Inn or Hotel.
As good as they were when completed, they lacked a certain authenticity because of the exposed edges and the slots and tabs not being painted.
I worked to match the paint colours and painted the blue-grey and the brown exposed edges and white spots. Now I feel much better about their looking more authentic than before.
Last touch will be to paint the off white parts. Another job for another day.
The facts about my miniature 1/12th TeaHouse:
- I haven’t done a miniature project in 10 years.
- I’ve dreamt about this project or one just like it for most of those years.
- I’ve been slowly and diligently collecting small bits of tools or supplies from Toronto.
- I recently met a Canadian architect and creative soul who’s encouraged me to follow my passion – after all this time.
- In spite of the fact that there’s no Michael’s Craft Store or a hardware store like Home Depot, I have managed to begin the process of building a Chinese Tea House. The things that are underlined below are things that I have had to search high and low for because they are not sold where you would assume them to be sold.
- It all started a few weeks ago when I found a recipe for air-drying clay using cornstarch which turned out the be only moderately good for making tea cakes that are 7″ in diameter (less than 3/4″ in 1:12th). I need hundreds of them for a real tea shop and found artist’s air drying clay at an art store that I hope will turn out better. But yesterday was a water-shed day! I got my hands on (actually had to order it from Taobao.com because it’s not sold in any stores I went to) regular white craft glue and found a somewhat similar board to gator board to build the structure. That night I did a test of a small piece to see the board’s ability to accept the white glue and remain well glued together.
- It worked after I tried again using a combo of white craft glue and super glue. I finally found a tough cutting knife and a large set square or whatever that long ruler that grabs onto the end of the board at right angles is called. So I’m on the way!
- Now the box is built because I finally found a box of straight pins (also from Taobao.com to use to nail in all the pieces of gator board to make the room box shell very strong), and I’m making the window for a partition in the back of the tea house and the rest will slowly materialize.
- August, 2015 – This week I finally got some knock-off Creative PaperClay to make the bricks for inside and outside.
- Today I had time to make a sample of this knock-off air drying clay.
I’ll have to wait a day to see the results of the test. Does the clay adhere to the gatorboard? Will the clay crack when it dries? Is it really paintable?
My craving goes back a long time, but my hankering for Kasha & Bows began with my friend Jerry Katzman telling me in an email that he bought a container at a Kosher deli to take home for dinner. I commented, “Oh yum!” We agreed that it was one of our favourite side dishes. I vowed to find both the kasha (AKA buckwheat) and the bow tie pasta. Quite a while ago I found the bow ties and today I bought buckwheat from Metro Wholesalers, a German big box warehouse store in my city in China.
In the Jewish community Kasha & Bows has gone out of favour, mainly because of frying the onions in oil. So I’m going to call it sautéing to make it sound less oily. Then we can bring this wonderful recipe back, in loving memory of our parents and grandparents who probably survived any number of deadly diseases because of a steady diet of buckwheat, with it’s extremely healthy and high nutrient content…iron, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, zinc, to name only a few.
I just knew Kasha would be available here and that I would bump into it sometime, somewhere, since I’ve eaten buckwheat pancakes in China before. Unfortunately without maple syrup, I think they are kinda gross. My mother, may she rest in peace, loved the buckwheat pancakes at the Golden Griddle Restaurant on Finch Avenue West in Toronto, but I’m digressing so I’ll leave that story for another time.
The buckwheat you buy in Toronto comes in a box called Kasha, or is it Buckwheat? But it’s probably Streit’s or Manischewitz brand. Look, it’s been 10 years or more since I’ve bought it, so I could be wrong. And digging back deep into my memory bank, I figured out from some internet research that the one I bought here in China looked somewhat different, somewhat the same — and the reason is mine wasn’t roasted.
Today was the day to have Kasha & Bows for dinner, so off I went into my little cubicle of a kitchen in the 28°C heat to make my desired meal, salivating all the while. I had to turn on my “Easy Bake Oven” (I call it that because it’s as small as one, and not built in, like the ones back home), and I roasted the buckwheat. This is the point where I knew I was on the right track. The roasted buckwheat smell coming from the oven was the wonderful smell that was in my memory bank. It all came home in a flash!
The recipes I read online might be tasty but definitely not cooked the way ‘we’ do it – ‘we’ meaning those of us cooks being of Jewish/Polish descent (smooth and politically correct, right?). Cooking the kasha dry with a raw egg first was the secret missing ingredient and the important step to making it right. Of course it would have helped to have a regular white cooking onion, but no, don’t expect everything in Yunnan except on rare occasions! Red onions are the only ones available here.
Unfortunately for me, because I try to reduce my workload at every turn, it takes 3 steps and dirties 2 pots to put the dish together. But the results are simply sublime.
Makes 3 servings
1 cup dry buckwheat
1 cup dry bow tie pasta
1/4 cup oil
1 large onion, diced finely
Salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder to taste
1 raw egg
3/4 teaspoon more salt
1 3/4 to 2 cups water
Preheat the oven to 400°C and place the buckwheat on a foil-lined baking sheet. Roast for 5 to 10 minutes or until the grains turn brown. Stir twice to move and turn the buckwheat.
While the buckwheat is roasting, bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil and add the bow ties, cooking until slightly more than al dente. Remove from the water into a strainer.
Heat a frying pan to medium high. Add the oil and allow it to get hot. Sauté the onions until translucent and not burnt or overcooked. Remove from the heat. Add the cooked bow ties and seasonings to the frying pan and mix carefully. Set aside.
Pour the uncooked buckwheat into the pot that you used to cook the bow ties. Turn the heat to medium high and add the raw egg and salt. Stir constantly over the heat until the egg and buckwheat mixture gets a bit drier. Add the water, break up the clumps with the back of the spoon and cover. When it comes to a boil, turn the heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes or until the buckwheat is cooked and the water is absorbed. You may need to add more water.
Add the buckwheat to the frying pan and mix thoroughly over medium heat to dry out the mixture a little more and blend all the flavours. Serve hot.