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Mardi Gras and King Cake

Mardi Gras and King Cake

“King Cake: A party staple from January 6 through Mardi Gras day, the cake is named for the three kings who visited the Christ Child and whose feast, the Epiphany, is celebrated on January 6, the Twelfth Night after Christmas. Traditionally, the cake is a brioche pastry baked in a circle, suggesting a crown (although for convenience, large ones are oval). They are sprinkled with gem-like sugar crystals in the official Mardi Gras colors of purple, green and gold. A plastic baby (symbol of the Christ Child), or in some cases a bean, is baked inside. By custom, the one who finds it throws the next king cake party. Lately, the brioche recipe has been supplemented by a coffee-cake ring alternative. French settlers brought the gâteau des rois to Louisiana in the 18th century. Their original round, flaky pastry pie filled with almond crème and topped by a paper crown, is now making a comeback in the French pastry shops around the city.” from New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau website

I’ve never been a big fan of Mardi Gras parades, but I love the history and lore associated with the holiday.  My particular favorite is the King Cake.  Just about every grocery store and bakery has their own special version with a variety of flavors ranging from plain (a little cinnamon) to Voodoo and Praline.  Heated discussions revolve around where to find the best King Cake in the state and everyone has a favorite flavor.  Natives lament the fact that the baby is no longer baked into the cake (liability now that they are shipped around the world, you know.)  King Cake parties are frequent so everyone can get their fill because these treats are only made from January 6 through Mardi Gras day.

Since I have celiac disease and food allergies, King Cake has not been on my menu for many years.  Each year as I run the gauntlet of brightly colored boxes stacked as high as my head and savor the rich aromas, I feel a little twinge of longing.   This is one of the few times I miss being able to eat something on my “bad” list.  I can watch dinner companions eat fresh bread, biscuits, cornbread and more without batting an eye but when it comes to King Cake, it’s another story altogether.  That all changed this year.  I learned last week that a local bakery/deli specializing in gluten-free, allergy friendly foods would be making King Cakes.  Oh Joy!!  I skated close to the deadline, picking up my special strawberry cream cheese King Cake yesterday afternoon, but I will eat King Cake this Mardi Gras season!   In honor of this momentous occasion, I decided to create a Mardi Gras/King Cake inspired Zendala.  The tangle Brayd fits my purposes perfectly as the dough of a King Cake is braided and decorated with Mardi Gras colored purple, gold and green sugar.  Add beads, a crown and masks and it’s Mardi Gras on my tile.  Now I am off to enjoy these last few hours of Fat Tuesday and my first taste of King Cake in years.  Laissez les bon temps rouler!

Heartfelt thanks to Eric at Truly Free Bakery for creating my special treat! 

Tangle A Day 2013Mardi Gras(unshaded) Rain, Socc, Print Temps

Tangle A Day 2013
Mardi Gras
(unshaded) Rain, Socc, Print Temps

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Diva Dance 100

Diva Challenge 100 – the Diva Dance

“It came without ribbons!  It came without tags!  It came without packages, boxes or bags!”… Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before!  “Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store.  Maybe Christmas… perhaps… means a little bit more!”  ~Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

How the Grinch Stole Christmas! has always been a favorite of mine.  As a child, I would begin scouring the TV Guide in the month of November for the one and only showing of my holiday favorites.  Back then, you only got one shot at seeing them and then they were gone for another year.

I’ve always been like the Who’s – loving all things Christmas. I am the head cheerleader for Christmas in my family.  Shopping for ornaments all year long, dressing my house in its holiday best and putting up the Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving. But I also had a soft spot for the Grinch with his crabbiness and sour attitude.  Even as a young child, I seemed to understand that Christmas could be a lonely, difficult time for some people. Imagine my dismay when I realized that for the first time in my life, I had much more in common with the Grinch than the Who’s.

This year I have struggled to find my Christmas spirit.  When October came and I hadn’t bought the first ornament, I began to realize something was amiss.  My husband will be working offshore for the holidays this year.  Not having him home has always put a little damper on Christmas for me, but we  just changed the date to celebrate while he was home and all was well.  In order to do that this year, we had to move everything up by 10 days. Ongoing health problems for both daughters and me didn’t help matters.  Discussions with my family were met with protests and general disbelief.  When Thanksgiving came and went with no tree and no decorations, my family came to the realization that the orchestrator of all things Christmas at Chez Redmond was MIA.

A visit to my rheumatologist (a wonderful guy) resulted in a very strong recommendation to let go of the pressure to create the perfect Christmas.  He asked “How can you pare it down to the things you love with the strongest meaning for you and your family and let the rest go for this year?  You need to begin the process now because this will be truly unsustainable as you get older.  There will come a time when you need to pass the torch.”  He had a point.  Each year we seem to try to do more, be more and make it perfect for all those we love.  Over time, it builds to something that becomes unmanageable and burdensome.  Something I know my family doesn’t want for me.

I was a little surprised at who stepped into the void – my husband.  He pushed me to either abandon my big tree or come up with an easy, acceptable alternative.  He shopped for the entire family and did a great job I might add.  He helped with my version of a Christmas tree this year, wrapped gifts and cut and wrapped caramel without complaint.  Best of all, he took everyone out to a local restaurant for a great family dinner to celebrate the holiday after we exchanged gifts.

Over the 35 years of our marriage, there have been many times when my husband has surprised me with little gestures that show how much he loves me and others when we found our roles in the marriage reversed.  This was one of those times.  I became the Grinch and he was the Who showing me the truest meaning of Christmas.  Thanks, Babe!

Some fun with a tangelation blending Verve and IX

The human spirit needs places where nature has not been rearranged by the hand of man.  ~Author Unknown

My husband and I found a rare intersection of opportunity and availability and were able to take a quickly scheduled vacation to Big Sky, Montana.

As Southerners, we had a little trepidation about the weather so late in the year, but were pleasantly surprised when we arrived.  For the most part, a jacket and long sleeves or sweatshirt were perfect.  We noticed some differences from home over the few days we were there outside the obvious swamp vs. mountain landscape.  Many of the towns are very small and you drive a long time to get from place to place. There aren’t many restaurants in the area, nor are there many places to purchase the foods I usually eat (allergies to corn, eggs and gluten.) Though we did find some wonderful caramel made with tapioca syrup that was safe for me to eat – and I certainly enjoyed it!  I was a little disappointed that we didn’t see a big horn sheep despite many warning signs along the road that we were in a crossing area.  Oh, and cell phone coverage – forget it. This was especially frustrating since we usually rely on the GPS app on my phone.  On the positive note, no one could call and bother us for most of the time we were there.

We arrived last Saturday with the idea that we would relax a day or two and then drive over to Yellowstone National Park.  That plan got nixed quickly as we heard on the radio that Yellowstone would be closing for the season on Monday.  We were up bright and early Sunday to spend the day at the park.  Imagine our surprise when we spotted a red fox just outside our condo.  I can’t describe Yellowstone, though I will share a few photos – I only took about 400.  We saw bison, elk, and trumpeter swans.  Steam pits, paint pots, mud volcanoes, Old Faithful and the most stunning scenery you could imagine.  What you don’t see are the sounds and smells, though I wish you could. To hear the water boiling just under the ground and hot steam rising all around us was surreal. I only wish our grandchildren had been there – they would have loved it all.

We ended up cutting our trip short as the weather we had worried over was slated to arrive on our last couple of days there.  They were expecting 2-3 feet of snow between Thursday and Saturday with highs in the low teens. The innkeeper warned that the mountain road would be closed to all traffic, so we decided to leave just before the storm hit. There was light snow as we drove down the mountain Thursday morning and about 12” on the ground by the time we boarded our 10 am flight.  The plane had to be de-iced a couple of times, but we made it home safe and sound late Thursday afternoon.

Nature is really “in your face” there and I have great admiration for the people who live in that part of America.  I’m too Southern-fried to manage the winter weather.  Visiting Yellowstone was an unforgettable experience and being unplugged is something everyone should do more often – not just when we can’t get cell phone coverage.

Set of three tangled pumpkins

“Your talent is God’s gift to you. What you do with it is your gift back to God.”  Leo Buscaglia 

Life has been a whirlwind for our family over the last month.  This is a busy time of year at Chez Redmond as we celebrate birthdays for Maggie, Katrina and Kim.  Getting through the second anniversary of the accident was much better this year.  Court dates – delayed yet again.

There has been lots of work travel for me with a big dollop of extra responsibilities.  Travel bonus: A 2.5 hour flight delay offered the perfect time to teach a colleague Zentangle.  She was a great student and is now a tangler. I taught my first Zentangle class as part of the LSU Leisure Class Series, with a second on Zendalas set for next Saturday.  My deadline for next semester’s classes is tomorrow, so I’m working on a few extra ideas.  Suggestions are welcome, I just need them quickly.

All of this has fostered the perfect environment for me to tangle away and de-stress.  And that is exactly what I have been doing.  I hope you enjoy my various gifts …

Link for paper ball ornament instructions and templates

Reflecting on 9/11 and remembering those we lost, I decided to share my thoughts and Zentangle on this day last year. Never forget…

Tangled Tranquility

Hope around the edges“Time is passing. Yet, for the United States of America, there will be no forgetting September the 11th. We will remember every rescuer who died in honor. We will remember every family that lives in grief. We will remember the fire and ash, the last phone calls, the funerals of the children.” –President George W. Bush, November 11, 2001

Each year, on this date, I relive those awful moments in time.  Even though so many years have passed, I cry each time even though I am not one to cry easily.  I never watch news footage of that day, it is just too much for me.  I feel the same way about Hurricane Katrina.  This year, I broke with that and watched the interview President Bush gave to National Geographic about his thoughts and actions that day.  It was an interesting insight into the transformation of our…

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ZIA Baby Name gift

Ten fingers, Ten toes
She’s laughter and teardrops
So small and brand new
And amazingly angelic
She’s sent to bless you
She’s one special Baby
The best of life’s treasure
And will grant and bless you
Many hours of great pleasure.
Author Unknown

Today is a special celebration for us as our first grandchild, Maggie, passes a milestone and becomes a teenager.  She has had a challenging couple of years, surviving what should have been a fatal head injury just a few days after her eleventh birthday two years ago.  If you are unfamiliar, the story is here.  There has been a lot of healing for all of us this year, but especially for Maggie.  I began speaking on behalf of victim families for a local program called Sudden Impact sponsored by Our Lady of the Lake Hospital and the LA State Police.  Maggie agreed to an interview for the Children’s Hospital magazine as part of a much smaller article on the Sudden Impact program and is featured in the Spring 2012 edition of Wee Believe Magazine.  She was then invited to dance at a Children’s Hospital Fundraiser where she met one of our local legends, Coach Les Miles of the LSU Fighting Tigers football team.  The two hit it off when she challenged him to a “split off” and she recently met up with him at the season opener radio program.  The next thing we knew, she was invited to practice with the LSU Golden Girls (her goal is to make that elite team in college) and the Tiger Band before the Washington game – all this on the weekend of her 13th birthday.  They surprised her with a birthday card, signed poster, and a special Golden Girl shirt they had made for her.  The Girls then took her over to the Pep Rally at the P-Mac where Mike the Tiger bowed and gave her a kiss on the hand.  Her day wasn’t over yet, they surprised her with an invitation to march down the Indian Mound on campus in the pre-game parade to the stadium with them.  Can I just say, this little girl was over the moon happy as she shared every second with me late last night.  Once again, she was touched by angels – this time wearing purple and gold.  I can’t thank Coach Miles, the LSU Golden Girls, the Tiger Band, the LSU Cheerleaders, and Mike enough for giving Maggie the gift of new and happy memories for a time of year that can be challenging.  They truly do Love Purple, LIVE Gold!

The ZIA (Zentangle Inspired Art) I have posted today is for another special little girl, the baby of a friend of our youngest daughter and his wife.  She got a tough start, but has proven to be a strong little fighter from the beginning and a blessing for her parents and family.  I have held back on posting as I wanted her parents to be the first to see it.  The piece was framed and delivered to the proud parents today.  I love doing these as few decisions get more thought or are more meaningful than choosing the perfect name for a new baby.  Best wishes to little Jensen and her very lucky parents.

“A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.” ~ Albert Einstein

A few days ago, I got a note from Kelley at TangleUntangled telling me she had nominated my blog for the One Lovely Blog Award.  What a lovely thing to do!  Kelley is a newly minted CZT and has a very lovely blog herself.  A part of being nominated is to share 7 facts about myself and nominate 10 other blogs.  Ten is a big number, but once I reflected on it, kind of small too.  I don’t follow a ton of blogs though my list is much longer than ten.  It was like choosing one child over another since I really love the blogs I do follow.  So, here we go:

7 Facts about Kathy:

  1. I am left handed but have a thinking style that is a blend of both right and left brain.  That makes me unique in the world of interior design.  I have no patience for “dithering” over miniscule nuances – pick one already and move on!
  2. I skipped a grade in school and finished high-school at age sixteen.
  3. I waited until I was 32 years old to go to college for the first time because I was afraid I couldn’t do it.  I earned both degrees with Summa Cum Laude honors.
  4. My English professor at LSU tried to get me change my major to English, but writing was pure torture for me.  Getting beat up in design critiques was much easier.
  5. I love writing my blog because I get to choose the subject and ramble at will.
  6. My black Cairn terrier was my “dream dog.”  He is named Howie Long, for obvious reasons.  He’s a good looking hunk of a dog.

    Howie Long, my handsome hunk of a dog

  7. I am an introvert working in the world of sales and cannot remember names, faces or numbers.  Really.

Now for my 10 Lovely Blog nominees in alphabetical order:

  1. Beez in the Belfry – Sandy is the author of my favorite Zentangle book, Yoga for the Brain.  Sandy writes and I read/buy.  I love that her latest effort, The Tangles of Kells, is an ebook that can live on my iPad.
  2. Enthusiastic Artist – Margaret Bremner has a wonderful way of outlining process and helping her readers to understand how she achieves such amazing art.  Her interview explaining Zentangle is a must read and I share it often.
  3. I am the diva – Certified Zentangle Teacher – Laura invites you into her life and manages to make sure all the tanglers out there get their weekly Diva Challenge fix.  She is a truly amazing young woman and an inspiration to me every time I read her blog whether I get to the challenge or not.
  4. Life Imitates Doodles – Sandy Strait may not be a CZT, but believe me, she is a powerhouse for the art form.  There’s always something good on her blog ranging from new tangles to meticulous product reviews.
  5. Open Seed Arts – I was introduced to Carole’s amazing talent when my friend, Karen, gave me her 2011 calendar as a Christmas gift.  I absolutely love her drawing style – and according to Karen, she’s a rock star beader too!
  6. Sue’s Tangle Trips – Sue Jacobs is so inspiring and shares her knowledge freely.  I have learned and grown as an artist from Sue and her blog.
  7. Tangled Ink Art – Sue Clark’s blog is another feast for the eyes and mind.
  8. TangleUntangled – Kelley’s blog is new, but I have enjoyed every post so far, plus she honored me with one of her ten nominations.  Thanks Kelley.
  9. The Bright Owl – Erin has been rolling out Zendala Dares for quite a while.  She does an amazing job of coming up with Zendala templates and shares them with her readers.  Erin takes the mystery out of working in the round and offers those who struggle with strings a little break every week.

10. WeaveABead – My friend Karen is an amazing bead artist and I love seeing what she’s working on now that I don’t get to see her every day.

Now on to the one big OOPS!  I was really impresses with Margaret’s post Mo’Auraknot.  My wheels were turning when I saw what she did with Sandy Strait’s tangle Exinside and mixing it up with Auraknot.  What I ended up with bears little resemblance to the inspiration, what I had in my head or Sandy’s tangle.  I thought it was time to work on black and plunged in without ever drawing Exinside at all.  First, I find drawing on black with white a real challenge, but hey, I’m pushing my limits.  It was clear by step 3 that I had made a serious misjudgment on scale here.  So, practicing what I preach to all my students, I kept on going.  No mistakes –  make the best of what you have at the moment – just like life.  No do-overs.  So I am sharing this OOPS that really isn’t at all.  I’m pleased with the end result.  Some of my best work has begun with something that went awry and I just kept on fixing it.  That’s one of the most profound aspects of Zentangle.  Think about it the next time you have a tile, or a life event, that you think is an OOPS!

Cleanliness is next to impossible.  ~Author Unknown

Most of the people of Louisiana have begun the process of putting homes, businesses and lives back together.  Hurricane Isaac really seemed to take his own sweet time passing through, creating torrential rains, flash floods and general misery as he inched across the state.  I say misery because there are still homes without electricity and that’s not pleasant with 100% humidity.  Many have generators for just such an eventuality (one of those lessons we learn) but the price of fuel these days make it expensive to keep the fridge, freezer and a fan or two operating.

Road closures, cancelled flights and flash floods caused me some aggravation as I was scheduled to attend a CZT Retreat in Dallas this Labor Day weekend.  After more than three hours on the road to travel a grand total of ten miles (with more than sixty left) I admitted defeat and began the long process of trying to go back home.  Flash floods had closed several roads on the way back home along with the only open route to the airport.  I was looking forward to meeting so many of the CZT’s in other certification classes and feeding off the collective creativity of these talented ladies.  They did some amazing stuff.  Here’s hoping there is another retreat in the near future – maybe after hurricane season?  On the positive side, I did get to enjoy watching my LSU Tigers win their first game of the season.  Coach Miles had invited my granddaughter to attend his radio show and I got to share her excitement on Thursday night.  The two seem to have developed a mutual admiration society after he heard her story and saw her dance at a fundraiser for the OLOL Children’s Hospital.

We were quite lucky with no real damage and only intermittent loss of electricity thanks to the fact that our power lines are underground.  My house was a total mess from all the extra people and I am still trying to figure out how my floors got so filthy.  I spent all day Sunday putting things in order and cleaning floors so I could relax on Labor Day and enjoy some tangle time.  I have been following a new blog, The Bright Owl.  Erin has been posting some really nice challenges using Zendalas though I haven’t taken up the challenge till this week.  She even shares the templates – how nice is that?  I took some time today to play with her latest challenge template.  I had a couple of ideas, so why not do two?  One was completed on a regular tile (with very subtle watercolor background) and the other on a Zendala tile.  If you are looking for some inspiration, scoot on over to The Bright Owl and take a look at some of the amazing work there.

This is a page from my sketchbook when I was practicing the tangle “Mooka” Notice the difference in line quality when I changed from an very old to new pen.

“I like pens. My writing is so amazing there’s never a need to erase.” Todd Barry

One of the things I hold sacred when practicing Zentangle is the use of the very best tools possible.  High quality paper or Zentangle tiles and particularly my Sakura Micron pen.  You are worth it and so is your art.

To be fair, I have been a fan of Sakura pens for many years. I learned about these pens when I took a class from watercolorist, Judi Betts.  As many of my followers are aware, I like to add a little watercolor to my tiles from time to time. This may be done before or after I have done all my tangling.  Since the ink in my Sakuras is waterproof, I have the freedom and flexibility to follow my watercolor whim whenever it strikes.  As with most high quality pens, these are not the least expensive on the market but I can attest that they last for a very, very long time.

You can get better performance and longer life from these pens by ALWAYS storing the pen flat.  The pen has a sort of sponge inside and the ink is gravity fed to the tip.  Storing the pen vertically can pull the ink down quickly and you may find a capful (or handful) of ink when you open your pen.  There is nothing wrong with the pen; the problem is in the storage.  This can sometimes happen when tangling on a plane.  The pen will “drop” ink.  I think it must be the change in pressure.  To be sure, this doesn’t happen very often.  I tangle a lot when flying and have only had this happen once in about three years.  (See if you can find where this happened to me while working on one of the tiles for this 9-tile ensemble set.  Remember, no mistakes, we work from where we are.)

The other is to take care of the tip.  The finer the tip of the pen, the easier it is to damage if you have a heavy hand.  A close look into the end of the tip reveals it is a very fine tube.  This makes perfect sense when you remember the gravity fed ink.  Try to remember to hold your pen more upright and use a very light, deliberate touch when making your strokes – almost tickling the paper.  This helps enhance the “Zen” of Zentangle as well as extending the life of your pen.

Even if you follow all this advice, there will come a time when your pen really does run out of ink.  You will notice scratchy lines and some skipping – sometimes I like the look, but not always.  There is a way to get a little more mileage out of your Sakura pen.  Rick shared this tip with us in my first CZT training and I recently found myself in desperate need of just a little more purple ink for my Sakura Identi-Pen to finish a pair of Tangled Toms.  It works with both the microns and the Identi-Pen.  Below are step-by-step instructions.  I hope these tips and tricks prove useful and long live YOUR Sakura pens too!

 

Something new from CZT IX

It is only when we silent the blaring sounds of our daily existence that we can finally hear the whispers of truth that life reveals to us, as it stands knocking on the doorsteps of our hearts.  ~K.T. Jong

So…the shoulder injury didn’t respond to those less aggressive treatments and surgery was in order.  I could have opted for doing nothing and settled for extremely limited movement of my left arm, but since my left hand is my dominant (drawing) hand, surgery it was about four weeks ago.  I am pleased to say, my surgery was a complete success.  Physical therapy is ongoing, but the 3 weeks of 6-8 hours a day in a CPM machine are now over.  For those unfamiliar (as I was before) your arm is strapped into this machine and is automatically stretched up and out to increasing degrees.  Kind of like exaggerated waving.  Not much drawing going on, lots of reading and thinking and waayy too much TV.  Luckily, I was sprung about 4 days before the CZT Retreat in Providence, RI!!

There was no obvious reason for me to attend a seminar to be certified to teach Zentangle, I already have that certification.  It was a question I was asked many times by the “newbies” attending the seminar.  For me it was about touching base with what drew me to Zentangle.  Rick, Maria and Molly are such positive and enthusiastic presenters/teachers.  It was nice to be the student again.  I also got to meet so many wonderful new friends (now CZT’s) from all over the world.  I can’t begin to explain the energy and sense of renewal that comes with spending three full days with a group like ours.  I took some moments to “pick” Rick’s brain about how he draws Assunta.  I like the tangle, but I struggle with it.  He shared a few subtleties that really helped – maybe I’ll use it more often than just for Diva Challenges or Maria’s birthday.  Since our last day was her birthday, we gifted her with tiles using Assunta and celebrated with cupcakes.

Now that I’m back home, I have been taking time to finish all those tiles started at the seminar.  There were so many with the beginnings of tangles to learn techniques, tangle combinations a little outside the box and just half completed because we were moving on to something else.  Maria taught a cute little frame that I will definitely use over and over.  I’m showing the tile and a digital version with my wedding pic in it.  You will likely recognize a “new” friend in these tiles.  Be looking for the instructions in an upcoming Zentangle newsletter or if you can’t wait, find a CZT IX and take a class.  While I didn’t take very many pictures, my tiles serve as my memories for this wonderful time in Providence.  I hope you enjoy…

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