Friday, January 4, 2019

First Friday - New Work, New Year - January 4th





Hello everyone!

Well, it's a new month and a new year to boot. I'm not one for resolutions but verrrrry big on plans.

Last year I shared my list of projects I wanted make progress on and I managed to do just that over the last twelve months. Not much progress on some but, in other areas, my novel, short stories, etc, I came a LONG way.

This year only have one goal thus far but I give myself the entire first week or so to come up with the list. I am planning to start an account on a social media sight and I think I've set my sights on Tumblr. Of course, I'm not doing it to promote or push my work out there any further. It's done quite well growing organically on it's own and I see no reason to think 2019 would be any different.

What I want to do is start a series of posts where I can, while removed from the work I create, talk about creativity and the way I got "here". And, I feel that by keeping it disconnected from my shops I can say some things I would not normally put out there, here on my blog for example. That includes tales from childhood, the decisions I made that led to positive or negative experiences and the way I came through it all to reach this point where I make a living from that creative work and world.

Its as if to give MORE of myself I have to offer less of myself other ways.

I am not sure when It will launch but since I am terrible at planning such things, I expect one day I will just get it in my head to make it happen and, it will come to be! :)

I'll be sure to keep you al posted when that happens. I won't be leaving the blogosphere at all, just adding another outlet for my desire to inspire that is purely the written word.

So there's that.

In other news, the novel, as I said, is coming along. I will get back to dedicating one Friday a month to that novel and showing more of the work that comprises it and how I've gone from having no idea how to write a full length novel to having a tiny bit of an idea. But I understand now that that first "tiny bit" is the hardest part. :) I have now been writing almost every single morning for 2 hrs minimum for over a year and a half and it's been wonderful. I don't feel write if I start the day any other way and those hours, from 5 to 7 am are so serene and perfect for the creative mind before any of the rest of the worlds energies can enter.

So, I am happy to be back and I look forward to visiting all of your blogs soon!

For now, just a few pieces from the last few months that I really loved creating!

May you find the magic and wonder of the world around you in everything that you see!

XO
nicolas

Wood Witch/Strega
First, a progress pic of one of the many projects I moved forward last year. I have wanted to create deck of "Fortune Cards" for ages. I once thought I t might be tarot but I love the older, Eastern European fortune cards. The wood witch is the first card image I finished using all photoshop and digital coloring/filters. 
A large statue of a winged Wadjet, the Egyptian Cobra Goddess. One of the most involved pieces I have ever attempted and it turned out better than I had imagined at the start! Best of all. . . it made it to its destination in one piece! :) 
This was one of the many custom orders I created during the holiday rush.
This hanging ornament is an N scale rendering of a Faroe Island Church.
Made with polymer clay and scale clapboard. 
The Fairy House of Brinny Longfellow was one of the first I created with these new larger bases to
allow for the inclusion of a bit more lush landscaping. 
In Shadow of the Sphinx, I've been expanding my original designs. This rendering of Seshat's headdress has been popular. Allowing for a nice sized altar icon without the cost of a full statue. 
And what December review would be complete without at least one Household elf figurine?
Schnee is on a snow covered landscaped base and has snow on his elbows, hat and shoulders! 

Friday, December 14, 2018

Holiday Baking 2018

Hey All!!

Long time no post, I know! It's been a month and I have been so caught up in holiday fun and, of course, holiday shipping. :)

OK, if anyone would like the recipe for any of these, just leave me that request in the comments below and I will post them for you. ;)

But I HAVE been baking like CRAZY and wanted to share some of the results with you...

It began in November with St Martin's Day croissants.

St. Martin's day falls on November 11th and is still well-celebrated worldwide. There are many wonderful traditions across the globe that vary from one country to the next and I won't even attempt to cover anything here except for the croissants.

I found these in a book about the old traditions of the season and that led to finding out about Poznan, the Polish village known best for the croissants that they produce for this day. The town has a museum dedicated to the history of the croissants. . . and there is a legal protection on the recipe. Only croissants that fit the size, wight and ingredients can call themselves the official St Martin's croissant. Maybe most amazing of all is that the people of Poznan (with a city population of just over 500,000)  manage to eat a lot of them – as in 700,000 of them on St Martin’s Day alone!

Mine were a little less extravagant (the dough for the "official" ones requires 81 layers of dough!) and smaller to allow for us to keep them fresher.  Apricot jam and a ground almond filling are wonderful together in these.

St Martin's Day croissants

Next were Catern cakes, made for St Catherine's day, November 25th.

Again, celebrations take place the world over but this excerpt from the French description of the day there, made me smile.

On St Catherine's Day, it is customary for unmarried women to pray for husbands, and to honour women who have reached 25 years of age but have not married—called "Catherinettes". Catherinettes send postcards to each other, and friends of the Catherinettes make hats for them—traditionally using the colours yellow (faith) and green (wisdom), often outrageous—and crown them for the day. Pilgrimage is made to St Catherine's statue, and she is asked to intercede in finding husbands for the unmarried lest they "don St. Catherine's bonnet" and become spinsters. The Catherinettes are supposed to wear the hat all day long, and they are usually feted with a meal among friends. Because of this hat-wearing custom, French milliners have big parades to show off their wares on this day.

And these are Cattern cakes:






There is nothing like this cookie/cake.

First, the dough incorporates caraway seed and currants and, second, the dough, when rolled out, is so soft and crumbly that it takes patience to actually get a good roll from them, let alone slice them and get them on the tray. But they come out so well and they'll hold for a week, only getting better and stronger in flavor as they sit!

Then December came. . .


When I was a child, one of my favorite holiday events was the annual bake-good fest that my great Aunts (five of them!) and my grandmother embarked upon. Basically, for the first three weeks of December, our house was inundated in many classic Slovak, Hungarian, Russian and Polish baked goods.

Two of my great aunts, Help and Agnes, who lived together, would call my mother and say "Come pick them up Doll!" Sh'ed corral me and off we'd go, just a few blocks, but the anticipation was off the hook! Walking into their house and seeing the dining room table (which sat 8) completely covered with trays and plates filled with all the traditional goodies!

We'd pack up the few tins we brought and hand them the box of nut roll and poppyseed roll that my grandmother made.

It has been years since I tasted those treats and though, after they passed, some of their daughters and grandkids tried to keep up the traditions, many of the recipes have been lost.

Strangely enough, though I bake very regularly, I never tried finding any of them myself.

This year I decided to give it a try. Thus far I've focused on three in particular, trying to perfect them as I've gone along.

These are Kolaches (spelling varies on ALL of these over different cookbooks) Kiffle and Potitca.


First, both the Kiffle and Kolaches use the same basic dough which is equal parts cream cheese and unsalted butter, flour and salt.

These are the Kolaches



There is NO sugar in the dough but, once the dough has sat in the fridge for at least a few hours, you roll it out on the counter into a dusting of sugar. This caramelizes on the bottom when they cook and is just the right amount of sweetness. The dough which seems like puff pastry when you remove the cookies, puffed and flaky, cools to. a cookie consistency and there is nothing like it in my own recipe box.

The filling is just dried apricots, rehydrated and then cooked down with sugar and water until the reduced liquid is thick like a syrup and then it is all pureed.

And The Kiffle is just rolled instead of pinched and uses a sweetened ground walnut filling with scalded milk, butter and sugar.




These are amazing. The walnut filling almost crystalizes. Both the Kolaches and Kiffle can be made with poppyseed, apricot, nut, cherry or prune filling. These are the two I remember the best though.

And finally, today, I made the Potica. It's essentially a nut roll but with thinner flakier layers and, in many homes, instead of long rolls it was made into bundt shaped cakes, the rolls stacked on top of each other before baking! I was not brave enough to try that but maybe for the new year?

This is Potica: Mine was more like traditional nut roll than I was hoping for  and came up a little short in the layer department and I'll try again but, hey, it was DELICIOUS! :)




So, that is where I am in my holiday bake-fest. When we made the Kolaches and Kiffle, we decided there was no need to look any further this year. We are making a few dozen every other day and giving them away and eating wayyyyy too many ourselves!

I hope you are enjoying the season wherever you are. I'll be around to drop in soon again!

Thank you and happy solstice/holidays until the next time!

XO
nicolas

Saturday, November 10, 2018

New Work - "First" Friday - November 9th

Soooooo. . .  Yes, I did it. I forgot that the 2nd was the first Friday and when I sat down yesterday to post some new work. . . I felt so silly! :) 

So with FIVE Fridays this month I decided to go ahead and start the month today and count it as first Friday! 

Here is a selection of work from the last month! I hope this finds you all well and preparing for the holiday season ahead. 

I am going to try and post pics of my holiday baking as we go too. First up is Sunday the 11th, that's St Martin's Day and in the Polish town of PoznaƄ, the village bakes and sells  hundreds of thousands of the crescent shaped sweet rolls on Novemebr 11th. I'll post more about it with the images later next week. 

For now, hoping your weekend is wonderful!

XO
nicolas

I had not made Burano houses or a Gondola for years and never at this tiny N scale size! I love them!! 




A Fairy House with the door on the second floor

A All Hallow's Eve scene with Dracula on the crypt's balcony

A Carnelian Shen amulet

A tiny, blue Anubis Statue

A custom request for a miniature scene of Hagrid's Hut! I loved making this but it will be OOAK for sure. :) 

Monday, October 29, 2018

Ghost Stories - Go Play Elsewhere - The Apartment #3

Go Play Elsewhere


My mother, in her eighties, does not have a very good memory of late but the things she recalls from the past are crystal clear and, by my own experience as a reference point for them, very accurate.

So, when I told her I was writing about the myriad of odd occurrences I've had in my life, and those of the apartment we lived in until I was 11, she raised an occurrence that I had completely forgotten about but, upon hearing it, it had come rushing back to me so clearly.

It wasn't going to be one of the tales I told but may truly be one of the oddest.

The apartment was complex of 8 buildings lettered A through H. Our building, F, formed a corner, a perfect right angle, with building E and the resulting square yard they created was the only flat, grassy area around the complex. It was perfect size for waffle ball and so it became our field by default.  Hitting the wall above the first story was a home run and I can still, with clarity, recall the three times someone hit a plastic ball on top of the third story roof.  I remember these more for the fact that it was out only ball on two of the occasions and ended our game. . .

As you might expect, we were kids and we were loud. The result, with the noise bouncing off the brick facades of the large buildings was, I am sure, rattling to those who's windows faced the grassy diamond.

The management of the complex, due I am sure to the complaints of the noise,  eventually built a play area on a grassy lot behind the buildings but it was habit to play on this field and we returned to it often. I mean, the buildings DID make for the perfect diamond shade and the height of the walls made for a true "stadium feel".  And some summer nights people actually watched us from itheir windows.

Eventually we took to the new play area but it was an adjustment.

So I must have been eight or nine at most at the time this happened.

Very few people complained to us when we played or shooed us away but there was an elderly woman who lived in the very first apartment in F building on the ground floor.  I never knew her name nor can I or my mother recall it now but I will refer to her as Mrs. Smith for the purpose of the story.

Mrs. Smith's living room window overlooked the outfield, left field to be precise, and in the summer, when the heat set in, the window was usually open. These were the old wind-out windows, not the sliding kind with a screen.

Once we had been given the new play area and were not supposed to disturb the neighbors by playing on our old field, she made a habit of yelling at us out her window. Aways the same three words and nothing more:

"Go play elsewhere."

She wouldn't come outside or to the front door ( as I believe she used a walker), but instead would just wait for one of us to be close enough to the window to shout it at us as loud as she was able which was, not very loud. That lucky kid then had to relay the message to the rest of the group and we would, of course, pick up and go around the back.

There were times when she wasn't home for weeks at a time though. Maybe visiting family or in the hospital. Those times we fell back into the habit of playing on the diamond again. We did this because one of the kids had a parent who worked in the office of the complex and she had been told it was mostly Mrs Adams who had done the complaining about us being there. So if she wasn't home, we went right back.

So,  it must have been a few months since we had played on the old diamond field at all and, for some reason,  perhaps the new field had too many small kids on the new swingset, we decided to play a quick game on the diamond between buildings.

It was getting dark earlier then, nearer to Autumn, and as the game was winding down, I was put out in left field. . .Nearest to Mrs Smiths windows.

Later in the inning, as it was almost too dark to see anymore, I had my back to the window but heard Mrs Smith, as usual, calling out to me. . .

"Go Play Elsewhere."

We must have woken her, I thought, because she had not said a word for the hour or so that we had been there up to this point.

Well the game was ending anyway and I told everyone we needed to go. With that, I went inside the building and into our apartment. Soon after, when I was having dinner, mom asked about the game and I told her it had been fine but how mean old Mrs Smith had told us to go play elsewhere as always.

"What?" she asked, her face puzzled.

"She told us to go play elsewhere." I repeated, probably doing a bad impression of her voice.

"Nicolas."

I looked up mid bite and met her eyes.

"Who told you to go away?"

"Mrs Smith — out of her window like she always does. I was the one who was out there and heard her." I said, the last of my Spaghetti O's heaped on my spoon.

She sat down across from me, seeming confused.

"Honey," she said, "Don't lie to me."

"I'm not mom!" I protested unable to understand why she thought I was.

"Look," she said, " you all know that you're not supposed to play there anymore, so don't. And I don't know who yelled at you to be quiet but it wasn't Mrs. Smith.  Honey, the poor soul passed away a week ago. There's no one in her apartment."

I do not remember what my reaction to that was. I don't think I had any notion of it being odd or strange and I wasn't going to push it with my mother, to whom lying was the worst offense I could commit.  I DO recall now that, though we barely played on the grass diamond afterwards, I refused to play left field when we did. :)

Was it Mrs. Smith? Was it my own self consciousness about us playing there when we were not supposed to? ( I always protested it, knowing it was against the rules, but was often overruled by the Lord of the Flies majority)  was it someone else a floor above who probably heard Mrs Smith call out a dozen times or more over the previous summers?

I cannot say. I am amazed that my mother remembered after all these years and though it had slipped my own set of memories, it came back as soon as she mentioned Mrs. Smith.

Eventually an old man moved into Mrs Smith's old apartment and I had a year long battle with him which I will tell you about some other time. It wasn't supernatural in any way,  but it was a war of stubborn pre teen and old man attrition. . . lol


Friday, October 12, 2018

Inspirations and Oddities - Second Friday Post - October 12th

Hello everyone!

I'll have the next ghost story up later this weekend but I am really trying to maintain my every Friday posts again. So, second Fridays are meant to be for inspirations and oddities and I've decided to try and format the post to include one book recommendation, one podcast link, one Kickstarter project and one oddity link.

So without a moment's delay, here are October's links!

Book

Three Dark Crowns
Fantasy / Young Adult

Add caption

Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake is a wonderful story. First of a trilogy.

My favorite aspects of this book are the three main characters, triplets. . . .and all three are queens (first,  I LOVE that they are already queens, not just princesses hoping to become queen one day.) The are born as queens and the only problem is, after the age of 16, only one may rule so, in their 16th year, there is a competition in which they will try to kill each other until just one is left to wear the crown.

One is a poisoner, one an elemental and one a naturalist, each with their own special abilities. . . .except two of them are rather inept/weak at their supposed "gifts". The story has many twists and turns and having read the book AND listened to the audio book, I''d say either is a fine choice. : )

This is NOT your typical royalty competition.


Podcast

In The Dark 
Investigative journalism

A 27 year old case of child abduction. One I remember from my own teen years.  One that changed the way America handles investigations and sexual offenders.

This podcast had begun hoping to help solve this cold case in St. Joseph, Minnesota. Just weeks before the podcast aired, the perpetrator was caught on an unrelated charge and accepted a plea deal to admit his part in the kidnapping and murder of an 11 year old boy.

That alone is remarkable and riveting but what the podcast became was a remarkable expose of shoddy police work, the repercussions of wanting to have someone to pin it on and the way it tore a community apart. It's a long, well structured look at the false sense of security many of us had then that these sort of crimes are rare and the changes in our laws that were meant to help protect children and solve crimes such as these.

In the Dark Episode 1

This stayed with me for weeks after we completed our listen of it.

 There is a second season dealing with another case that is also worth a listen but very dark and every bit as heartbreaking as this one.


Kickstarter

The Oxford Trollomicus by Spike Greenwood


I am a huge fan of the art of Brian and Wendy Froud. This Kickstarter is for a hardcover professionally bound book that I find to be every bit as magical as any of the Froud collections I have in my possession.

Spike Greenwood hails from Oxford England and is a wonderful illustrator and witty writer as well! A fine combination for this sort of volume! I am so excited to support this Kickstarter and I will be so giddy to receive my package from the UK with the book and art print!

I ADORE Trolls and these are truly top-notch. Take a peek if you know anyone who also is a fan of fantasy art and trolls in particular. :)


Oddity Link

Princess Leia's Stolen Death Star Plans

I may have mentioned this last year but it is worth the repeat!!

 If you love Star Wars: A New Hope (original film) and/or the Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band album from the Beatles, this may tickle your fancy. These brilliant kids redid the entire album, music, vocals and all, to tell the story of Star Wars in 11 songs. The tracks are in order s the appeared on the original album but all changed to reflect the movies themes and situations as it goes along. The video is a great addition so check it out! ;)

Faves for me that keep me laughing time and again are the opening piece and Luke is in the Desert and Whining (set to Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds)

Well, that's it for this month! I hope you'll enjoy these and I look forward to sharing more each month!

See you all soon with another ghostly personal tale!
XO

Nicolas

Friday, October 5, 2018

New Work - First Friday - October 5th

Hey all!

Another month. . . I am hoping to get back to regular weekly posts but this month I cannot promise any more than this new work post AND two more of my ghost story series! It's my birthday month and we are headed into the holiday rush already! I cannot believe it!!

I'll also reposting several baking posts in the next few months to show off some of the traditional baking we do for the season. :) Some of it is family inspired and some is old world traditional treats for. the many celebrated days of the season. So keep an eye out for those too! :)

I hope you are enjoying the first few weeks of Autumn. It's my season so I am loving it!

Here are some new creations from the past month. Thank you for dropping by!


 XO
nicolas



Let's start with the season! In honor f All Hallow's Eve I have been making a few graveyard themed scenes!
This one features a ghostly turn of the century lad there in the back. 

And larger tombstones for those who like a little graveyard decor! 


A new Adobe Fairy House

This is the second face of Hathor that I have made and I love them!

Thoth as a baboon. He is also known as Djehuty and represented as an Ibis. 

Bes is a multi-faceted protector and I thought a bell, shaped as the face of Bes, might be a great dispelling tool for an altar/ 

A Wenut / Hare statue

A "Wee Skosh" Fairy House
And a Fairy Tower on a Stump!

Friday, September 28, 2018

Ghost Stories - There is a Light - The Apartment #2

The room itself wasn't especially anything. Just a small, square bedroom with a closet and a little alcove for a toy chest, a clanky hissing radiator for winter heat and the one window in the room overlooked the front lawn of the apartment building so there were no creepy trees or dark woods beyond.

When I was older I remember having friends who lived across the street from the graveyard where they filmed the original 'Night of the Living Dead' and I would think, How bad would my childhood nightmares have been if we lived there?! 

Anyway, the room was fine, as long as it was day time and I was awake. It was in my dreams tha the room came to life. The thick orange curtains, more specifically, or, perhaps, what lay behind them in that realm.

But those were dreams, so I won't count them as a "ghost story". Still, at some point, I realized they were connected to the waking world somehow. There was a portal. Had to be, right? As long as the two worlds stayed separated I was fine.

That's when it started.

I can remember a dozen or so of my favorite things from, this period in my life. The old red Playskool record player (45s only!), my original Star Wars toys, my giant me-sized teddy bear, the wood rocking chair that had a music box attached to it's rail, my collection of plastic batting helmets from the ballpark.

Now any of these seem ripe for the telling of a ghost story right? In such story, perhaps the record player would play on it's own or the rocking chair might start rocking just enough to elicit one or two tones from the music box beneath it. . . but those sorts of made for movie things never happened.

But there was my night-light.

Oh I loved that light.

It was actually a light box that hung on the wall between the alcove and the closet door and I could see it clearly from my bed which faced it. It was the size of a sheet of paper but a bit longer. On it was an image of a little boy sitting up in his bed with striped walls behind hi, and a nightstand that had an old bell-on-top style alarm clock sitting on it. the clock was larger in proportion to the rest of the scene and the face of that little clock was actually a working clock.  The light itself came from the clock face. At night, when mom turned out the lights, the clock cast a pale glow that lit up the room just enough to see the end of my bed and the few feet around the night light in every direction. Of course, that tends to make everything else a little darker in the room so I made the effort to look only at the light when I felt a little frightened. ( Could not avoid those old black and white monster movies as a boy!)

The clock hands were silhouetted by the light and I would stare at that light until I fell asleep. It never took long as I have always been a go-til-you-drop kind of kid, high metabolism, crash and burn sleeper. Still am.

I'd wake from those occasional nightmares to find comfort in the light being there on the wall. I knew I was back in my room and safe.

Then, one night, not sure when or at what age but definitely single-digit young as I think I outgrew that clock by 9 or 10 years old, something changed. By then I was feeling a little more threatened by the nightmares as they had worsened and so there were nights that went to bed and did not want to fall asleep. So I would stare at the clock, at the light, and tell myself that I was safe.

That's when it happened. One night, as I was staring at the clock, probably repeating one of the many mantras I had made-up to keep me safe, the light began to. . . fade.

As I stared at the clock, it was becoming dimmer the longer I focused on it. Less of the room seemed to be lit by it and I felt an ominous feeling as it progressed, moving closer towards black.

Let's keep in mind this was NOT a battery operated clock. It plugged into the wall and the bulb was not a dimmer bulb but the standard 15 watt nightlight bulb of our youth.

So it shouldn't have been able to dim. Yet it did.

And my eyes, as all of our eyes do in the dark, should have adjusted in the opposite direction. By nature, it gets easier to see the longer we are in the dark but in this case, the room itself, like the light, grew darker, disappearing as I watched.

At some point I'd close my eyes and bury my head under the pillow and, eventually, I would fall asleep.

It did not happen every night. even nights where I stared at the light like any other, it would sometimes stay bright.  There was no rhyme or reason to it but one thing that was consistent was, when it happened, I'd always have a nightmare that night. In them, the heavy rusty orange drapes would move, billowing out and a deep voice, un intelligible, would speak to me from beyond the window.

I've written here before about how that all ended. A dream where the roof above my bed opened and thousands upon thousands of tiny gold, spinning "snowflakes" fell over me as I sat up in bed. I woke, still able to feel them falling on my skin, like tiny pine needles pinching at my entire upper body. I never had another nightmare in that room again afterwards.  Not one.

To this day, when I think of that dream, or of the gold snowflakes in particular, I can conjure one right in front of my face. Spinning and hovering about six inches away. I have, since those days, taken it as a sign I was "protected" somehow.

I still do.

Next time: The nosebleeds . . .  and the apartment building and it's darkest corners