Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Trip to Colorado. First stop: Boulder

Earlier this winter we took a long weekend and visited Colorado, a state that none of have been to before (I've laid over there a few times, but that doesn't count). We first went to Boulder and stayed with friends Joel and Erin who have a daughter Aven, who is Eloise's age.

We first headed to Pearl Street, walked around and had lunch at a local brewery called The Mountain Sun Pub and Brewery.

Later we met up with Joel, Erin and Aven at their home and consumed the world's largest slices of pizza. 

The next day we headed to Rocky Mountain National Park, but first we stopped in Estes Park and visited the hotel from The Shining, the Stanley Hotel. Very beautiful and old.

Joel lent us all of their snowshoes and kid-carrying pack so we got to the park and tried to get ready to go. Eloise threw her first of many, many fits and cried for 30 mins plus while sitting in the trunk of the car. Eventually she was only happy when I was the one who was carrying the pack, which was very uncomfortable since it had been sized for Steve, but we just had to roll or else we were never going to do anything.
Harriet really liked snowshoeing, we did a loop around a frozen lake.

Eloise in happier times.

Views from the road.

While Eloise (thankfully) napped in the car, Steve and Harriet went to the extremely windy and snowy Bear Lake to check it out.

As we were heading out, we came across these elk who were blocking the road.

On the way home we stopped and ate at Oskar blues, which is a microbrewery that lead the craft brewery crazy 20 years ago. After this, we stopped at Left Hand brewery on the way home.

The next morning the dads took the girls to swim at the community center pool, Erin had to working and I spent an hour going on a hike alone. After a really long day with the girls the day before and a terrible night of sleeping for Eloise, I really enjoyed the peace and quiet and the beautiful scenery.

After some lunch, we went for a hike up in the mountains.

Right by the hike, the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), had an interpretive center and they had a lot of interactive exhibits about weather. It was a bizarre building designed by I.M. Pei.

Tornado creator. 

The girls just loved Aven so much. So much so that it was almost annoying because every place we went without Aven (Rocky Mountain), all they did was complain about missing her and wanting her there. She'll be in MN in April so we will reunite with her then.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Art shanties

This winter we headed out to the Art Shanties on White Bear Lake. It has been many years since we have visited and we are excited that it was just announced that the art shanties will be at Lake Harriet for the next couple years. An easy commute next year!
It was very slushy out there, but the day we went it was nice that it wasn't cold and windy. Some of these "shanties" were more sculpture than shanty.

Video surveillance shanty

Taking a ride in a seal! 

 I liked the Arterium shanty the best.

The ceiling inside. I bet it was even better on a sunny day.

This was one was a lot of fun. When you went inside the "river" was moving (see the woman on the right cranking to make the paper in the river move).

Tropical paradise.

Draw on the walls shanty. 

Birdhouse shanty. A bit hard to get in and out of.

In this van-turned-shanty-turned-theater they had hourly plays.

Fun for puzzlers.

Not quite sure what the point of this one was, but it was eye catching.

There were giant puddles of water everywhere and of course Eloise fell in one, luckily it was at the very end. We had to improvise to keep her feet warm.

Friday, February 03, 2017

Handmade lip balm and whipped shea butter

For Christmas this year, Harriet and I made lavender-scented whipped shea butter lotion and peppermint lip balm. It was a fun project to do today and not too hard. We had another recipe to use bee's wax, but opted for one that didn't, but you can see the bag of it at the bottom here.

For the lip balm, we heated everything up on the stove in a double burner, took it off, added honey and then gently poured it into these containers we got at the co-op. We let it cool and that was it!

 Here is the recipe we used. Pretty easy.

Harriet did package design.

Next we made Whipped Shea Butter. It was even easier since it doesn't involved the stove and you just use a mixer.

Mix it up for a while and then scoop it into the containers!

Friday, January 13, 2017

Norman Rockwell holiday card behind the scenes

This year's holiday card was quite last minute, but ended up being a crowd pleaser for all ages (unlike last year that seemed to generally perplex the older generation). It started with an idea I had of  recreating a famous piece of art and ended up being an obscure piece of artwork from an well-known artist.

This is the original image, a Hallmark card from 1954 called Christmas Surprise. This artwork lent itself well to copying because our staircase is almost a perfect match. We it would be easy to add another kid to the picture. They couldn't be looking through the spindles though, because the space wouldn't allow you to see their faces. The walls weren't white, but I could either paint them temporarily or put up paper.

Here is the photo from which it was based.
So we had to quickly gather a few items – a Santa suit, a vintage dress, an apron and some lights because this area of the house is a bit dark. Neighbors really came to the rescue and helped us with all of these things.

This was our first attempt at it. Our next door neighbor helped us figure out placement and took the pictures, but after looking at it I knew thought we could do better. I got the dress from a coworker and it just wasn't quite right. Also, my vintage apron was too distracting. You can't see the menorah that we decided to add in as the Christmas surprise, Santa's belt isn't quite right and I am not quite looking in the right place. Eloise is a bit obscured too. Also I realized that the floor needed to be white.

By the next day, our neighbor Sarina had brought over the perfect vintage dress from her collection. Could not have been better. Our other neighbor Jonathan Chapman, who is a professional photographer, came over and took the pictures as a big favor. I told him to just send me the images untouched because I was going to work with them in photoshop to make them look like a painting.

I first used this tutorial. But it wasn't quite as helpful as this tutorial since this one has images to go along with it. It took me two nights to finally get it right. Without getting too shop talky, part of the tutorial is unable to be executed because of an update to Photoshop (figured this out after many perplexing hours plus internet research) and so I devised a workaround. When I finally got it to happen, I was euphoric.  

I created this overlay and then put it back into the file.

I finished it up by doing some work with a number of different Photoshop effects and brushes and voila!

Then I added an image of his signature that I found online. I deleted the woodwork at the top since it was too distracting, faded out the edges a bit and it was finished! It was very satisfying to do a lot of problem solving and have a finished product that looked exactly as I had envisioned.

The backside of the postcard was supposed to looked similar to a Saturday Evening Post front page.

Another holiday card complete, but next year's is always looming.