An Award! For ME?

My lovely friend Chris over at Prism Trail! bestowed this award on me weeks ago! And I know she forgives me for the delay in passing on the award. She is a kind soul who is always, always crafting, is an enthusiastic supporter of bloggers (which has had its rewards), and she never fails to approach whatever life sends her way with a positive, upbeat attitude. Whenever I get discouraged, I remember this post! (If my oven quit - I would never have thought to go to Trader Joe's to save the day!)

And my favorite cactus and daisy artist Teri at Teri's Painted Daisies has just received this award and passed it on to all of us who read her blog! Check out this cool Photoshop technique she uses on some of her paintings. We have used it on some of our photographs and have gotten some surprising and intriguing results. Teri is quite an amazing woman and her blog is a delight.

THANK YOU BOTH! I ACCEPT! Chris and Teri have given me unwavering support and constant encouragement throughout the first few months of my blogging adventure. I hope someday I will meet both of them.

My task as recipient of this award is to name 7 things I love so here goes:

- Hanging out with my children is definitely at the TOP of my list!

- Christmas, St. Nicholas Day, Feast of Guadalupe, Santa Lucia Day, Solstice... I absolutely LOVE the winter holidays- the cooking, crafting, decorating, crafting...and THE COOKIES! To be clear - EATING the cookies. While I'm crafting!

- Crafting with tin, beads, wire and gourds

- Cooking and baking, especially when I am trying out new recipes

- Sitting on my patio first thing in the morning sipping my husband's EXCELLENT coffee (he is THE coffee God) and meditating on my garden

- Hiking in the mountains, the desert, the Olympic Forest and dreaming about the new places I haven't yet explored.

- The whole amazing process of creating

I understand the other condition of acceptance is to name three bloggers I feel deserve the Kreativ Blogger award. That is a difficult task indeed! So, I have decided to give the award to three bloggers who have enriched my crafting experience as a result of a post or tutorial.

- Lolly at Lollychops, because she is encouraging me to return to crewel embroidery with this post and because she introduced me to the cutest "stuffie" I have ever wanted to make!

- Margit at papirklip og aesker, because she has provided so many Woven Heart patterns - I have just finished making this one! Take a little time to explore her site and discover all her wonderful woven heart and folded box templates.

- Hope at Taueret posted images of her gorgeous weavings last Fall, and inspired me to reacquaint myself with weaving and...to assemble the table loom I bought for my birthday last May! It is time! I have a box stuffed full of lovely weaving yarns I bought in the 70's!

Thank you, thank you... I am so happy to have been chosen to receive this award.

Double Frosted Bourbon Brownies

Make these delicious brownies for your sweetie for Valentines, or even better for "just because".

 

A moist, rich brownie full of walnuts, sprinkled wth a little bourbon after baking and topped with two layers of frosting. Not only are they yummy, but they keep well in the refrigerator for several days. (Bring them to room temperature before serving.)

Of all the cookies I bake, these are my husband's favorite and the cookie recipe I get asked for most often.

So... lets get started. Begin with the BROWNIE LAYER.

Valentine Cookies!

Guess what I've been up to these last few days!

 

If you guessed "baking Valentine cookies" - you would be right!

Visit Diane's post from last February at CraftyPod to learn more about my annual Valentine project. Valentine's Day is, after all, the best time of year to let people know that the things they do for you all year long are appreciated.

So here is the cast of characters in this year's production, including some recipes and a few preparation tips.

Ice Crystals

 

Just LOOK at these gorgeous ice crystals we found growing on the twigs and grasses beside our favorite walking trail along Salmon Creek here in Vancouver. The crystals are attached to the twigs and grasses, but the branching formation is all ice!

Of course, we ran home, grabbed our camera and tripod and headed back to capture as many crystals as possible before they melted away. I totally loved this little frozen pond surrounded by grasses encrusted with ice crystals.

Twelfth Night - Gift #3

ROCKS!! My hubby and I share our enthusiasm for rock and mineral collecting. Actually we really enjoy each other's company in almost everything we do, from collecting agates at the beach to grocery shopping.

So... when I am not blogging, crafting, cooking or photographing weddings, we are usually looking for beautiful scenic images to photograph or we are collecting rocks! The dish above holds our most treasured agates and jaspers from Oregon and Washington beaches and riverbeds.

All children seem to love collecting rocks. I urge you to take yours to places where pebbles congregate - beaches and stream beds. The earth is full of treasure. It is waiting there to be found, and children will find it! If you live in or near Portland, take your children (or if you don't have children take your childlike heart) to Cape Meares west of Tillamook, Oregon on the Three Capes route, or the beaches south of Newport, Oregon. The beach sands and gravels are a rich hunting ground for the agates and jaspers you see in the dish above. We have polished ours in a tumbler, but they are really quite lovely just as they are found naturally - and if you store them in a quart jar full of water, their colors are as vibrant as they were polished. Right now through April is the best time to visit because the winter storms stir up the gravels and bring the agates and jaspers to the suface. For safety, search as the tide goes out.

And speaking of beaches... does this not look like a lovely painting of a beach with waves rushing toward the rocky shore? This was a gift given to us by a dear friend who found it in a gold frame at an estate sale. It had accumulated about 2000 years worth of cigarette smoke scum on the surface, so it really did appear to be a little painting. But upon close inspection and after a good bath it revealed itself to actually be a lovely example of the jasper/agate to be found in Canada.

As our interest grew, we expanded our collection to include mineral specimens of common minerals such as Selenite:

And we've also collected not-so-common specimens like this rare form of Tourmaline nestled on a piece of quartz:

Yes, those grey hairs are really mineral crystals.

And then we discovered that, as basalt rock reached the earth's surface and cooled millions of years ago, hot gases from the earth's core would form pockets in the rock, and mineral crystals would grow in them Since we live in a part of the world that is quite literally covered in basalt, we became interested. And then infatuated. And then hooked.

This piece of basalt from eastern Oregon measures about 10" across and is just full of crystal-lined pockets. And what we love most about collecting a piece like this one is that, until we cut this piece from a larger rock and revealed the pockets you see above, no one had ever, ever, ever seen these crystals since their formation millions of years ago!

Again, if you live in the Portland area, you can find similar crystal pockets in the basalts along the coast near Oceanside, especially north of the tunnel. Just be sure to get a tide table before you venture out and collect only at low tide. Most of the pockets you will find are less an inch in diameter, but they often contain crystals.

Now for a closer look at what can be found in basalt pockets. All of the specimens below were found in Oregon and Washington.

Here is a piece of Aragonite from Washington. The cavity in this rock is about three inches wide.

More Aragonite, this one from Oregon. The crystal area is approximately 1" across.

Here's a Stilbite (a Zeolite) crystal cluster from a basalt flow in Washington. (Which is, incidentally, now under water - a dam was built in the area. A friend of ours collected this before the dam was completed.) This piece measures 3" across.

Thomsonite and Natrolite (both Zeolites) are found in pockets up to a foot or more in diameter in Southern Oregon. This one is about 3" across. Notice the beautiful little crystal of another mineral, Calcite, literally perched on the Natrolite hairs on the lower left of the pocket.

Another lovely specimen of Stilbite, a gift from a friend who found a good-sized pocket full of Stilbite along the bank of the stream he was fishing in here in Washington! This specimen measures 5" across.

I love how these Chabazite crystals form in cubes - this cube is 1" x 1" x 1", but they usually are somewhere between 1/4" to microscopic in size.

In fact, most pockets found in the Pacific Northwest contain crystals that are quite small. And so we eventually had to get microscopes to see many of the crystals we had collected! And let me tell you - the microscopic world is totally incredible! I wish I could let every one of you peer into my microscope to visit this hidden world of visual treasures.

I would love to share some of the really amazing crystal cavities we have in our collection, but I do not have the photographic skills or equipment to do this magical world justice; so I am introducing you to a man who excels in photographing the microscopic world of minerals.

Analcime is hands-down one of my most favorite Zeolites. The picture area is 9mm - that's about 3/8".

This photo shows a 1- 3/8" diameter cavity, filled with several different Zeolites. Notice the Calcite crystals perched on the Natrolite needles. Actually, the needles were already formed when the Calcite crystals grew on them.

German mineral collector and photographer Volker Betz, who has devoted his life to collecting and photographing microscopic specimens, shares the images above and many, many others equally breathtaking on his web page devoted to his explorations of collecting sites in the Canary Islands.

Check out this wonderful web site called webminerals.com. It is designed for anyone who wants to learn more about rocks and minerals, geology, or just how to actually pronounce a mineral name! And, for those of you who live in Washington or Oregon, or plan to visit, be sure to make it a priority to explore the fabulous Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks and Minerals in Hillsboro, Oregon. It is a world-class mineral museum you shouldn't miss.

So... now that the January doldrums are almost gone and we are gaining 2 minutes of light each and every day, and I am reluctantly packing away Christmas; I am pulling out my crafting stashes, writing down every crafty idea that pops into my head and making it a goal to do something crafty and creative every day this year. And of course, I am already planning for the holidays!!

Thank you one and all for your encouragement and for sharing my adventures. I have met some of the nicest people these last few months. I always look forward to your e-mails and comments and opportunities to know you a little better.

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