Peg's Crayon Box

Join me in my journey to live a more artful and colorful life every day. Come read about my projects, things I've discovered or learned from others, and ponderings on what it means to listen to the inner muse.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Diane's Fudge Cookies with a Peppermint Twist!

In preparation for a Cookie Exchange party I dug out some of my favorite standbys.  About 30 years ago my friend Diane gave me her recipe for the BEST FUDGE COOKIES ever! I've made them over and over again, and they are always a big hit.  Super easy, with minimal cleanup due to mixing in a pan and baking on aluminum foil, and you can even safely nibble on the dough as there are no eggs. This recipe makes approximately 2 dozen:
Di's Fudge Cookies
Preheat oven to 350'. Melt 1/2 stick butter and 12 oz package of semi-sweet chocolate chips over medium heat in a heavy fry pan (don't skimp on quality here-use real butter and Ghiradelli or better chips), stirring to mix well until smooth. Turn off the heat and mix in 1 cup white flour, 1 can sweetened condensed milk and 1 tsp vanilla. Optional to add chopped nuts at this stage. Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and drop 1 heaping teaspoon of dough for each cookie. As these cookies do not spread much you can postion them closer together than other cookie doughs. Bake 7-10 minutes- do not overbake!! For Christmas this year my variation was to add a peppermint candy to the center of each cookie before baking. These are soft and chewy and oh, so good.

SUPER EASY TOFFEE:  Another fun, nostalgic recipe with just a few ingredients is this one for TOFFEE: Place approx 35 saltine crackers in a single layer on a large cookie sheet that is lightly greased. In a small saucepan melt 1 stick of buttler and 2/3 cup of brown sugar and bring to a boil. Pour over the crackers (I spooned a little over each cracker then spread this around with the back of the spoon). Bake in 350' oven for 7 minutes-watch closely to keep sugar from burning. Sprinkle on 12 oz of chocolate chips, put the cookie sheet back in oven for 1 minute to melt the chips, then spread them around to cover all of the crackers. Sprinkle on about 1 to 1.5 cups of chopped nuts-I used pecans. Chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour (no more), then break apart into serving pieces. Doesn't this sound like an old-fashion 50's style recipe- you know, from the Campbell soup era? This is real comfort food, and  great emergency recipe for when you need something easy and fast, and other than the hot sugar-butter stage, a good one to make with children.
No wonder I gain 5 lbs at the holidays!

                                       HAPPPY HOLIDAYS TO ALL!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A Spiced-Up Christmas

Between the cold weather coming in and the holidays approaching I decided to get cozy in the kitchen and make up some gifts for friends. What better way to spend a snowy Sunday afternoon! Gathering my packs of spices from Penzeys I set to mixing up some Berbere Spice Mix, a wonderful blend of 9 delicious and aromatic elements: cardamon, coriander, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, tumeric, fenugreek, paprika, nutmeg, plus a little cayenne and black pepper.                               

Four ounces of each filled my biggest mixing bowl so I'm madly searching for small jars and expanding my list of recipients! Each jar comes with a card listing the ingredients and a recipe for Ethiopian Inspired Red Lentil Soup from Susan V's Fat Free Vegan website- love her recipes!                              
I cut 6" squares of fabric to decorate the jar tops, and put then in small gift bags covered with fabric (wonderunder fused-yes you can do this on paper!).  Ribbons secured the gift card with recipe information.

My kitchen smelled sooooo good! And my friends will have a healthy holiday gift to get them started on their New Year's resolutions to eat better.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Cloth, Paper, Scissors and Me!

I'm so excited to share the news that my August submission to Cloth, paper, Scissors STUDIOS magazine has been published in the Winter 2009 edition! Elizabeth MacCrellish of Squam Art Workshops encouraged me and helped with the photos, so many thanks there. I wanted to show what could be done in a very small space (6'x12') as so many studios featured are larger than many of us can manage. Laurie Coyle's little red bird is seen in 3 photos, and one of my favorite books, a gift from Mary Aarons at Craftside is front and center on my desk. I love being surrounded by my many treasures and can't wait to get cozy in it again this winter.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Back in the Game of Blogging!

Well, I'm back! What wonderful experiences I had this past month globetrotting to see my girls. I just spent the morning catching up on my favorite blogs and decided I'd better get back to my own. I uploaded all my photos to Shutterfly so I won't overwhelm you with them, but here are just a few of my favorites from China.
On my first day in China there was a snow storm! Newspapers reported that the government had seeded the clouds to bring rain due to a bad drought, but cold temps produced several inches of snow instead.

I felt very brave venturing out on my own, taking the very-easy-to-use subway to the Forbidden City and Tiannemen Square. I visited a beautiful and tranquil garden just before entering with the masses.

A side trip from Shanghai took us to a beautiful canal town of TongLi. We wandered the alleyways, stopping in at lovely gardens, watching people go about their day. It was cold and rainy, so lunch at a small noodle shop was a warm respite.
Now it's back to the piles of mail, suitcase to unpack, errands to run as I re-enter life back home.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Follow My Adventures !

FYI: I'm posting photos and short logs of my travels in Turkey and China at open access
Visit me there for more news and views. Photo here is Galata Tower built by the Genoese in the mid-14th century.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

4,000 Miles for a Hug

It's been over a year since our daughter Sarah left for the Peace Corps in Central Asia. This week we were able to pull off our one and only visit during her 27-month commitment with a rendezvous in Istanbul, Turkey. How wonderful to be able to hug her again! And what a treat to be in this city for 8 days. All the adjectives are true- exotic, colorful, bustling, crowded, and a shoppers paradise.
We've mixed little adventures with lots of down time to just sit and visit. Rick Steve's Istanbul book has been an invaluable help in getting around and feeling comfortable. We rented an apartment from Istanbul Holiday Apartments in a perfect location on a small alleyway filled with little shops, cafes and local color. We are a short tram ride away from the Blue Mosque (see photo above), Hagia Sophia and other sites in the Old Town across the Golden Horn. Our 1885 building is next door to a small mosque so we awake every morning to the call to prayer.
Trip Highlight: Sarah's host family planned a business trip here at the same time so they could meet us. What an honor to meet Chary (Dad), Towshun (Mom, and Kemal (little brother).

Friday, October 16, 2009

Just What I Needed!

The Universe knows just what I need-how can I doubt it? On a trip to Borders, after I picked up the gifts I was after, I was aimlessly wandering around. One part of my brain said, "Get a coffee or leave" and the other asked "What am I looking for?" I turned, and there right by me was Gretchen, a cabin-mate from Squam! We had a mini-reunion, caught up on our lives, gave hugs, and both were cheered by the chance (oh, yeah?) meeting. Gretchen, a fabulous photographer, took this shot. Great picture of both of us, and what a great example of vanishing point! And this meeting sparked a whole re-connecting with the other Eldorado Eleven online. Gotta love the internet for keeping friends together. FYI-check out Gretchen's artwork at Her paintings are like stories without words. Each time I look at one I see a new treasure.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Finding Solace in Everday Beauty

Heart aching, feeling overwhelmed trying to make decisions for an ill and aging parent. Feeling so alone and missing the loving, capable mother, the artistic soul who took up quilting at age 80, still pushing herself to have something in her hands to work on even though it is so hard now. And then I recalled Jenny Doh's talk at Squam about making something from nothing and using creativity to help yourself through hard times. But, no time to start a project even if I had one in my heart. What to do?
I decided to give myself one hour to walk around my home and really look at the beauty in the everyday, what I was too busy to see as I rushed here and there. And what beauty I found!
I never noticed the extra - ordinary fungus growing on a tree stump just off my driveway.

And the fall leaves came in so many shades and variations of red and yellow. I decided to gather some glorious red ones and make a heart to send my love to my mom so far away right now.

One Hour, just looking around me, just being present.

Friday, October 2, 2009

I'm So Lucky!

The last morning at Squam a few of us woke up early just before sunrise, ran out onto the dock in our socks and jammies and stood in awe of the sight around us- mist rising off the water, clouds above the distant hills, the glow of the rising sun expanding. There was a reverent silence as we watched the day begin.
I am so lucky to live in this beautiful place where I can have these moments often. I need to remember this when life gets busy, I'm feeling stressed about getting things done, hurrying on to the next task. Stop, breathe, look around, be present, say "thank you" for my life.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The After Glow-Life after Squam

A week's gone by since I returned from Squam Art Workshops-September edition. My classes exceeded my expectations. Eventhough I've made lots of books the Book a Day class with Christine Mason Miller and Marisa Haedike gave me some new tricks (including the new "MM" -Mason Miller-way to easily bind multiple sections). My memory book about my grandmother is a new treasure. I felt her great love all the while I worked on it.

And Mary Beth Shaw's class was just the right activity for the last class when we were all a little tired- kind of like finger painting in kindergarten. Again, I've done lots of paste painting but her take on it was entirely new and I came home with a stack of paper to use for book covers and face pages.

Sarah Ahearn's class Text and Image was so good for me as she encouraged us to use a wide variety of materials and techniques. She had a terrific class activity that took us out of our comfort zones. My "P" piece was the class activity- chalk pastels are my new find! The One True Love piece uses another photo of my grandparents on their honeymoon in 1927-sigh....

And my cabin mates? The best! We laughed, shared our lives, drank wine well into the night, then met up in front of the fire for early morning coffee to gear up for the day. It was show-and-tell at night as the eleven of us took a wide variety of classes. Mary Beth was a fabulous roommate in Eldorado- the little sister I always wanted!
And can I just say that having Jenny Doh as a cabin-mate was a true pleasure and honor. She IS the person behind the welcoming letters in Somerset magazines, a champion for all of us trying to live more creative lives.

Here's me with little sis MB :)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Countdown to Squam Art Workshops!

Just 13 days to go until the fall Squam Art Workshops. I feel so blessed to be going AGAIN! June classes were terrific, my cabin-mates were the best.
This time I'm in a larger cabin with 12 other soon-to-be new friends. We are right on the water with a wonderful porch looking off across the lake. I'm already imagining early morning coffee on the dock, late nights on the porch listening to the loons calling out to each other.
And oh my, my classes! I start off with A BOOK A DAY with Marisa Haedike and Christine Mason Miller, using long cherished photos of my beloved grandmother as inspiration. I met both teachers in June and am really looking forward to this class. Then on Thursday it's TEXT & IMAGE with Sarah Ahearn-I love her work!! Saturday morning I'm working with Helene Finizio in CONNECTING WITH YOUR ESSENCE-I'm so ready for this one! In the afternoon I'll be with Marybeth Shaw in NOT YO' MAMA'S PASTE PAPER. I've done paste paper before (self-taught) but know I'll learn new techniques and approaches, plus it is so much fun, like finger painting in kinderarten. And on Saturday night I'll be at the ART FAIR with my handmade books and journals.
I live nearby Rockywold-Deephaven Camps and have been there several times this summer already visiting friends so I can tell you that SAW has a glowing reputation there. They are ready and waiting for our return!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Postcards from New York

I've just finished making these postcard journals for a friend - a great project to use all those postcards from trips and collected at art fairs. These pocket-sized journals make terrific gifts. I reinforced the spine edges with cardstock, then bound the covers and page sections together using a coptic style stitch. I love the look of chain stitches across the spine.
I couldn't resist snapping a photo of these fun sock toys at FAO Scwartz in NYC. They were the best thing I saw there. To be honest, I was a little disappointed in the displays- too much of the same style of media-driven toys from movies, games, or TV. Even the books all looked the same- same style illustrations, binding, size, content. I didn't see much to inspire imagination in children.
I just had to take this photo in Central Park! The pidgeons were quite at ease eating out the feedbucket with the carriage horse.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Back from NYC-what a time!

I'm back from my NYC adventure and just getting back into online connections. I have to admit it was nice to be away from email, blogging, and other electronic demands. But I thought often of what I'd like to share here.
Each day I started out with "What part of Manhattan shall I visit today?" as my non-plan. I gorged myself on art every day! I decided to take out memberships to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the MOMA so I could visit each at my leisure- took the stress out of my multiple days in each. Twice I had lunch on the 5th floor of the MET overlooking Central Park.
The incredible metal tree and roots sculpture was fun to walk around and through, but as the afternoon lightening storm approached we scooted down below to safety!
One day I took the subway to Battery Park to ride the free Staten Island Ferry past the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island (too crowded to visit). Afterwards I enjoyed some very talented street performers. There's much to do in NYC for little or no $$$.

Monday, July 20, 2009

More Books!

I've expanded my collection with some 3-section samples. I love the possibilties for more complex designs as I increase the number of sections. I'm using plain cardstock covers so I can showcase the stitches. To corral and protect my growing collection I covered a box with my pastepaper, but they didn't all fit in! Next book projects will be star books-great options for mixed media.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Days in the Big Apple-What fun!

I've just spent 5 glorious days in New York City- never thought this country girl could be comfortable there, but I was! Transportation is great and relatively easy to navigate so I ventured all over. I confess I stopped dead in my tracks when I came across this street near Times Square- patchwork quilting in NYC! Best morning was spent with new friend Jessica walking around the outer streets of the Garment District. We discovered some fabulous shops containing whole rooms of buttons, lace, ribbon and other great finds. My favorite was M&J Trimming on Sixth Avenue where I found beautiful silk covered buttons from Japan and metal charms with African and Egyptian themes. These will be great on book covers. Then on to the Tinsel Trading Company which has MOVED to new location on 37th Street. This shop is loaded with vintage ribbons, cloth, thread, and some new stuff, too. Don't forget to open all the drawers in the antique cabinets as treasures abound here. Metallaferous on 46th Street is a must for the jewelry maker. Go up the stairs to a crowded but fun room jam-packed with tools, findings, all things metal, plus some beads. I got quite a few copper pieces for book covers and worked hard to resist all the tempting chains, clasps, and other doodads. Lee's Art Shop on 57th Street was our last stop for art supplies. We only hit the first floor (there are four!) so a return trip is required. Jessica also gave me a quick tour of the New York Public Library and the Trump Towers (oh my!). I'm so excited about my little treasures from NYC.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Botanical Print Pillow-at last!

I finally acted on an idea I had after taking Maya's Botanical Printing class at Squam Art Workshops- I used one of my flower prints as the center of a pieced and quilted pillow. Love the results! Can't wait to make another one. Abby Normal is also pleased to have a kindred spirit sharing the rocking chair with her. She came from one of my favorite stores, Tessuti Zoo, in California, made by Emily.
To keep hands busy while watching TV (can't just watch, can you??) I knit beanies for the next project for CraftHope. These are for project #3 and heading to 3 orphanages in India later in July. What a great idea to link crafters with charities!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

My Studio, My Friends

This is where I work, at least for the paper, paint, and paste projects. Small but great- you're looking at 6' by 12' including the sitting area. I can say that everything I need is practically at my fingertips here! And the view is fabulous as I look down into the woods where I've seen bear, owls, and other critters go about their day (yes, I saw the owl in later afternoon, not night!).

And keeping me company is artwork by friends and admired artists, like my little red bird made by Laurie May Coyle. She's keeping watch over my growing collection of books I'm making in preparation for a bookbinding class I'll be teaching this fall.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

I've got Sunshine on a Rainy Day!

Last week when we had 2 (yes, 2!) days in a row of sunshine I took some photos of my garden so I could enjoy them on a rainy day- we are now on day 4 I think, so I decided to share my sunshine here. Although my deck in only 14 ft by 7 ft I have a full range of plants from flowers to veggies.

Above you see my beans, lettuce, argula, and cucumber plants, with herbs in the background; below are pots of more veggies and flowers.

I'm the only deck with any pots so it's a real show-stopper for those passing by. The hummingbirds love it-they even sit awhile on my tomato cages just a few feet from my chair-what a thrill to see them up close and still!

Monday, June 15, 2009

My first Art Fair

Here I am at the Squam Art Fair with some of my quilts and fabric items. My favorite is City Dogs hanging over my right shoulder, but I do love all my "children." Inspired by the style in Collaborative Quilting by Freddy Moran and Gwen Marston I've started making small quilts with lots of parts. I love their colors and mix-and-match qualities. When I'm feeling in the mood for really small I make patchwork journal covers. My aprons are reversible and really brighten up the kitchen!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Life after SAW-Squam Art Workshops

Just a week ago I returned from my second Squam Art Workshops retreat on Squam Lake in New Hampshire. Another divine experience that I am still processing. This is not just about the workshops (fabulous as they are), but about connecting with other creative souls in a nurturing and nourishing community. Although we have now all gone our separate ways we are truly connected through the universal energy we all share.
I had the great pleasure of working with Maya of maya*made for 2 days, learning how to make buckets out of burlap coffee sacks and how to print on fabric using freezer paper and textile paints. Photos coming soon! The last day I spent with Betz White making all sorts of bags out of re-purposed materials like t-shirts and old pillow cases-really cool stuff!
Evenings (after wonderful programs like listening to Jonatha Brooke sing around a campfire and viewing "Who Does She Think She Is", a documentary about women artists balancing family life and art) were spent on the porch of Shingle Blessedness talking about great "life" things with Tracie Lyn Huskamp, Laurie Coyle, Kathy, and Sarah as we drank wine and listened to the loons call to each other. It can't get much better than that!