Saturday, December 31, 2016

Venus Songs

New Years is almost here, and I made a picture to welcome it.

Yesterday evening I changed my Venus doll into a combination of clothes (her exercise outfit combined with a Bratz skirt, necklace, and bracelets) which fit her punk like style. As she sat on my desk next to my new headphones, I liked how the colors complimented each other, so I decided to make some music themed photos of her with my headphones and the keyboard. I call the collection, "Venus Songs".

The New Year twist was an extra idea that came after I edited my chosen pictures. I like the way it looks, reminding me of a music poster for some kind of album or concert coming soon in 2017.

I did one version with warm light (left), then black light (right), the left version being the base of my New Years poster. Then I did full black light setting, a way to give it a night club atmosphere.

I blurred the backgrounds and added glowing light pollen as a way to set the  mood and emphasize the aspect of a party happening at the DJ corner.
The final close up is a little fuzzy, but I found that added a certain kind of charm. I then went through a few tweaking stages, to see if I could add a bit more life to Venus's face.

The original (left) seemed kind of spooky, and a bit lifeless, then I went in and darkened her eyes around the pupil using the burn tool (right). The reason I did this is because your pupils get larger in a dark room to let more light in, that's why Venus looked kind of lifeless in the original version. Using the burn tool also made her eyes looks shiny, like they're actually wet and reflective as real eyes are.

I found the larger pupils took some edge off of her, made her seem cuter too. Then I gave her a small smile, and drooped her eyelids slightly, to make her seem genuinely happy (left).

The final thing I tweaked was a challenge for fun, to make her left hand appear to actually hold the headphones cord. With a little PSE trickery I managed to maker her fingers appear bent (right)

The very last thing I did to increase her slight realism, was clone and smudge out her joints so she looked smooth.

A last minute idea came to mind after that, and I thought of a sentiment to add. "Unplug, unwind, and let's party!" This is a quote I find myself mentally shouting sometimes. :P

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Christmas Decor and Baking 2016

I figured a fun tour of the simple things that have past through the month was in order. Aside from crafts I'm always working on, a little bit of decorating and baking comes with the seasons, so here's an overview of the little things that have happened for this month.

(Dec. 7, 2016)

I got myself some new lights for decorating this year.

All the lights are Winter Wonder Lane brand, and I found a box of new colored ones for lining my windows all year round. I liked the rounded bulbs, finding them to have a cute, quirky appearance, and their glow is dispersed in a very interesting way.

My previous set of colored LED lights burnt out half way down the strand, these are their replacements.

So happens my blue lights which I've had for years still worked, so I attached them to the new set after I strung them up around the window.
I had my fun playing with the camera and snapping pictures from different angles of my new lights.
Even took pictures of individual bulbs.
The way the light disperses from the bulbs creates an almost aurora borealis effect on my ceiling; it's an enchanting new sight. The greens and blues are like water, and the reds and yellows with blue are like fire.
Since I plan on keeping up the new lights all year, I placed the old ones in its box and added a label to tell what they are....even wrote it in red sparkly jell pen. I haven't used the lights in years since the wiring went bad somewhere near the one end, so only one end works and the rest doesn't.
 
This doesn't necessarily mean the bulbs themselves are bad, and by keeping them I may just get to play with them someday on creating smaller light fixtures, that is if I learn to solder and understand the basics of electricity. 
 
Speaking of lights, I did get the bright white LED minis, but when we went to the other Big Lots, I found something even better.
Starry light string is just what I needed for creating mini lanterns for miniature scenery. Hopefully I can pull it off and speak about the project later. Along with those I found a different shape of LED in warm light. The bulbs look like icicles sort of, and though I was worried they'd clash with my smaller bulbs on the tree, they actually work very well.
I guess the smaller bulbs are like snow, and the larger are like ice. The two shapes compliment each other and fill in the gaps of the tree.
That night I got to work on adding my extra lights to my mini tree, and then the garland and ornaments. I started with the large ornaments first, then added in the small as filler. This made the process so much more enjoyable, and somehow oddly relaxing.
The best thing I use for decorating my mini tree is the Lazy Susan and a pizza plate. I can just swivel the tree around and add where I need.

I hope to get a better picture sometime of my mini pastel ornaments (right).
It helps to wear these gloves I've been using to handle ornaments each year for the past three. These and long sleeves are what make it easier to deal with decorating, a way to prevent the wires of the decor from scratching me and making me itch.

Much to my surprise, this year seemed easier than all the ones before. Somehow I've succeeded in taking the responsibility of decorating into my own hands for my own enjoyment. The fireplace mantel, my mini tree, my bedroom windows, all of it was done by me.

I found that if I keep my cool and not feel like I need to rush myself, the process of every project is even more enjoyable, and seems to get done faster with less fuss.
(Dec. 20, 2016)

 The glow is practically all you see with the extra lights on the mini tree, but it's still cute (left). 

(Dec. 28, 2016) I noticed a candy cane hiding among the ornaments on my tree. It then occurred to me that someone must have put it on my tree during Christmas, hence why the snowflake topper was slightly crooked.
I'm charmed to find candy on my tree, hanging next to the cupcake of all things.
Here's an update of my tree ornament collection. I found these deer ornaments at A.C. Moore.
They were 75% off, so only around 2 dollars instead of 9 for solid acrylic deer that seemed fitting in color for filling in the gaps of my mini tree.

I hope to get more artistic pictures of these ornaments at a later time, but for now here they are on the tree.

When these ornament were being rung up, I got the cashier to chuckle when I started making puns. She said she'd wrap the ornaments, since you wouldn't want them to lose an ear or something. I said, "That would be a *loss of hearing*. Oh *deer*". The cashier thought it was funny.
 
Only thing I discovered about these ornaments is that they're a bit heavy for the spindly branches of my tree, and may be better suited for a larger branched tree one day. There's a possibility of me switching to a mini white tree in the future, some feel it would compliment my ornament colors better.
And look who found a place near the very top of the tree this year, my springy crab, who was bought at World Market.
Also, check out the front room, I'm glad I managed to get it decorated. It's like stepping into a starry jungle. I did unfortunately break a bulb on one of the light strands....that was a set back.
The green ball ornaments always strike ideas involving fruit in my mind (right).
Here's a view of the mantel I decorated, hence why the garland ends are curled up into a whimsical swirl. The colors of the mantel items with the Christmas decorations are oddly complimentary, and I find that charming.
I tried getting some better close up pictures of the flowers.
 
( Nov. 26, 2016 -Dec. 22, 2016)

Aside from my decorating spree, for the first time ever, someone finally decorated their home with lights right across the street from us. 
They started their decorating on Nov. 26, and continued adding to the house throughout December. The four pictures above are stages of each week.

Baking
 
(Dec. 24, 2016)

I can say for a fact that baking cookies this year felt so successful. I baked cookies for days, and in one night I made a batch of 4 dozen Swedish butter cookies, and also another batch of biscotti. Even more warming is the fact I did the dough for both on my own, and most of the baking too. 
I managed to make a batch of blackberry, and also raspberry jelly filled Swedish butter cookies. Raspberry of course is my favorite because of the tang.
Also, the chocolate tempering for the biscotti didn't go over as poorly as I thought it did. It still hardened and had a shine to it, so it appears we got lucky. I also learned that we baked the biscotti better, taking it out just before it seemed done, and keeping a close eye on the toasting halves so they stayed lightly golden.
That's not all of course, here's the gingersnaps I was supervised in making. I did the mixing and measuring and all that jazz. They're so pretty. :) Now we just need to coat some in white chocolate.

The baking adventures weren't over yet though. We made up a couple plates as gifts for a few neighbors, then melted the rest of our leftover chocolate from biscotti, did our best to temper it, and made our own chocolate stars and kisses for making peanut butter blossoms later.
(Dec. 29, 2016)

I did all the baking for the peanut butter blossoms, on my own. Making them started out stressful, but I pushed forward. I started them a little late, which caused a few dinner delays, but I made the cookies at my own relaxed pace, with success.

Our chocolate tempering turned out great. The kisses and stars were shiny and had a fairly good snap to them. They even melted at a slower rate when added to a hot cookie.

I got about four and half dozen cookies from the recipe, and was glad to see I've been grasping the baking aspect of things.
These cookies, next to the ginger snaps, I would say were the easiest. Swedish butter cookies are one level below biscotti in difficulty, and after making those two difficult cookies, it was relaxing to work on something simple.
 

(Dec. 8, 2016)

I took some strange photography on the eighth. I was asked to make some hot chocolate during the evening, so I did. I made enough for three people, with added homemade chocolate peppermint syrup.
I found the way the whisk cast a shadow on the shiny milk surface to be interesting, like an advertisement for a cooking magazine. I imagined it being like a whisk held up to an image of the moon, something about cooking under the stars maybe.