Saturday, January 31, 2015

February Sketch-A-Day

I've been busy doing the 2015 Sketching Challenge, where everyday I do a simple sketch which follows a monthly theme. I've continued to post my results and will be starting a new theme for February. 
One of my blog readers suggested that for the month of February, I offer the sketches in black-and-white, BEFORE, I show my daily sketch, in case some of my readers wanted to follow along and try their hand at the sketch-a-day, but were hesitant to draw. So, I sketched out all 28 bears for the month of February and created a SKETCH-A-DAY COLORING BOOK that you can download and print on your home printer. Each page has two prompts (sketches) in black and white. You can print off as many copies as you like and if you'd like for your kids too! At the end of the month, you'll have a small, completed coloring book.
Cost: Free!
# of Pages: 15
Can I view it on my phone? Yes
Can I save it to my computer? Yes
Do I have to color in all the drawings? That's up to you!

Click on the link for the Sketch-A-Day Coloring Book and save the file to your computer. Print out as many copies as you like, using plain old computer paper. All the images, except the cover are black and white simple sketches. They don't require much ink to print.
Sample of sketches for the February 2015
Then, check back during February to see my daily sketches.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Project: Bird Masks for the Blackbird Festival

Last year, I was fortunate to help in a minor part for our local Blackbird Festival based on the children's book by Tomie DePaola. I made cookies and some table decorations, and wall art for one part of the festival. This year, the lovely ladies of the Wilmot Public Library are creating a Blackbird celebration for the children of the area. They will be acting out the story from the book Days of the Blackbird, while its narrated by a favorite townsperson. I volunteered to help and was asked to help with the masks.
In brief, the story tells the tale of a king and his daughter. During the coldest days of the winter, the usually colorful and white birds take shelter in the chimneys for warmth and come out black. So, the kids were going to wear bird masks, of all colors PLUS the black bird masks.
First rendition of the Blackbird mask
I set out to create some simple masks. Since the goal was to make enough if there were an abundance of interested children, I decided to use paper plates for the white birds. As it turns out, the simple paper plates have ridges along the sides which add to the illusion of feathers. The plates are durable and have enough "body" to stand up to the elastic that holds it on the little child's face. After a couple of prototypes, I finally came up with a workable sample that was fairly simple to make and looked reasonable.
I sketched in some feathers on the actual sample and  was pleased with the outcome.
Template, click, download and print on 8.5"x11" paper
You can download the above template, print it out, cut it out and use it to make a child's mask. Just add elastic to keep it in place.
Here are the steps.
The beak requires some folding. The lines are on the underside of the beak, so it's OK if they show. I adhered tape to the top of the beak to attach it to the mask. Lastly, I wanted to make colored birds and originally was going to paint the paper plates, then cut the out. But, I came to my senses and used colored card stock to save a step.
Blackbird Mask
Green Bird Mask 
Yellow Bird Mask

Monday, January 26, 2015

Chobani Recipe: Winter Parfaits

Yogurt is a fantastic product that makes meal making easy and healthy. It can be eaten right out of the carton, doctored up to make it even more nutritious, or used as an ingredient in a recipe. Yogurt can be  sweet or savory; can be used to tenderize proteins; cool spicy foods; add a (low-fat) creaminess; or add a subtle tang to dishes.
Chobani makes single serving yogurts, in both fruit flavored, plain, Greek, nonfat, 2% and more varieties which makes for a ton of uses in foods. One recipe that I've made thousands of times for my family is a Winter Parfait. It's hardly a "recipe". It's more like a put-together dish that is perfect for wintertime in New England.
I call it the Winter Parfait for three reasons: I tend to serve them with dinner during the cold weather when I make a soup or stew. The cool parfait bursting with fruit complements a hot meal rather well. The parfait is made from ingredients that I have on hand (frozen fruit, yogurt, and some other pantry staples). I could make a light broth based soup for dinner and with the addition of the parfait, I felt we had a complete, healthy meal.
It's simple really. I use 4 layers in my parfaits, but you can omit some if you prefer. The beauty of the parfaits is that you can alter them to suit your families' tastes. We like parfaits with plain yogurt, but your family might like peach or pomegranate yogurt. Just use what you like... 
Layer yogurt, whatever flavor you like or even mix flavors. 
Then add a layer of chopped fruit. I use frozen fruit, but you can use fresh or canned.
If you want it more sweet, then add one of these: cane sugar, brown sugar, maple syrup, jam, fruit syrup, agave syrup. (In New Hampshire, we're partial to maple syrup.)
Lastly, I like to add a texture to my parfaits: Add something crunchy like chopped nuts, shredded coconut, granola, roasted pumpkin seeds, crushed graham crackers or pretzels
As a bonus, if you want to add something decadent, try a spoonful of Nutella or peanut butter. 
Building a Winter Parfait
Parfaits can be made ahead of time, covered, and stored in the fridge until ready to serve.

Sunday, January 25, 2015


I had a rough week, but have much to be grateful for.
We started out the week by returning our girls to Boston for spring semester. It's always difficult to bring them back to their dorms.
I took a tumble on the tennis court and had trouble putting weight on my leg. After a few visits to the doctor, x-ray, and specialist, I found out I fractured my ankle. The bad news is that it will take weeks until I'm back on the tennis court. The good news is that I'm able to walk again.
I was blessed with a guardian angel who oversaw my case and followed up to get me in with a specialist. Without her work, I would be struggling to be seen.
Jon and I had a long phone call with our daughters. It was great to hear their voices, even if they were under a lot of strain with assignments, classes, and life.
I was busy working every chance I got this week. I updated my website, added more products to the DM Designs Shop. created ads for the local papers that will run this week.
 I worked on some recipes using Chobani Yogurt that I will share with you on Mondays for the next few weeks. It was so much fun to create recipes again.
I had lunch with a friend this week and it was great to catch up with her.
I emailed with some long-distance friends and with family.
We had a snowstorm Friday through Saturday that left bad driving conditions, but an amazing sunset with a pink sky. What a beauty.