Monday, November 28, 2011

(Belated) Creation Sunday - The best Mac and Cheese Ever!

Yesterday, Hillary was recovering from a week long vvacation so she didn't get a post up. Today Hillary wanted to share with you her favorite mac&cheese recipe that she says has been a staple at every holiday meal for several years now.

The best mac&cheese I have ever made, and hands down my favorite mac&cheese to eat is made on the stove top.  Seriously.  When alton brown made it on his show, he said "you will never eat the stuff from the blue box again once you have this." And he was right.  Me and my husband swear by this recipe.

Of course, me being me, I make a few modifications, but these are simply a matter of personal preference and don't change anything major about the recipe:
I use 8 oz macaroni, a normal sized block of SHARP cheddar (orange or white both work fine), one egg, about 1/2 a can of evaporated milk, 2-4 tbl of butter (not margarine) and for spices/flavorings I only use salt, pepper and red pepper (cayenne or chili powder will do in a pinch).

If I want to make it healthier, I will use 2% evaporated milk, 1/2 a block of lowfat sharp cheddar cheese (I like Cabot's) and 1/2 a block of regular sharp cheddar of the same color.  It does change the taste a little, but not so much that it tastes like skim milk and plastic (if my husband will still eat it, it has to be good... he hates anything that tastes "lowfat" or "reduced calorie".

I have tried the original version with whole wheat pasta and it tasted good as well, but I haven't tried the lowfat with whole wheat.  Maybe I'll have to try that soon and let you know.

Thanks for visiting!  Tune in next week for another awesome "Creation Sunday", and look for the inevitable "after christmas" awesomeness because Hillary says she is creating some amazing things but can't talk about them until after the gifts have been given.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Child's Play 2011. Buy Hand Made Jewelry and help out Children's Hospitals at the same time!

Like every year, we will be donating 20% of all sales from our etsy shop to, a charity that helps out children's hospitals throughout the world. They have already raised over half a million dollars in the last month and hope we can help give them some more. I started keeping track on thanksgiving and will turn the final donation in on Dec 30th. All sales count including sale items, custom items, and in person sales (if you know me in real life). These guys rock; help them out!

Why do they rock? Because it's a couple of passionate gamers, who write a webcomic, who got tired of the negative light that the media painted gamers in and decided to start a charity for Children's hospitals. So far this year they have raised over $700,000 and it all goes to help kids in hospitals.

Hillary continues to be avid gamer and humanitarian. She loves that there is a way that her jewelry businesses can help out and she really loves that there is a charity that promotes a positive image of an amazing group of people that she is proud to belong to.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Creation Sunday

Today Hillary Wanted to share with you some thoughts on planning a quick "gourmet style" dinner.

A large part of my childhood was spent on the couch with a thermometer in my mouth when I should have been at many parties, holiday celebrations and other awesome things.  So, I am no stranger to the idea of changing plans.  As an adult, my immunities are better but my husband and I both have migraines, so the same attitude that got me through a fourth of July spent on the couch sipping peppermint milkshakes instead of eating grilled food and hanging out with my friends, has gotten me through many special days as an adult that got "altered" due to someone having a migraine or being ill.  While the accepting attitude is helpful, The thing that gets me through valentines days with someone having stomach aches or anniversaries with someone having a migraine, is being able to come up with a way to make it special even though we end up staying home.  One of the ways I do that is to come up with a nice meal.  It's actually really simple, I take something I know my husband likes and try to make an awesome but easy version of it. 
To do this for yourself you have to know a few things:
- what does my loved one like?
- how would I make such a thing?
- How can I make it awesome?
-What can I do to make the awesomeness simple?
The first two are easy. 
The third one just involves figuring out what would "kick it up a notch."  If they really like grilled cheese, what about using artisan bread and aged, smoked cheddar?  If they like chicken, what about using a marinade and then serving it on top of herb pasta?
The fourth one involves figuring out if there are any shortcuts you can use.  Keep in mind we are trying to get to the optimum combination of "awesome" and "convenient".  Some of the shortcuts I like to use are buying pre-made herb butter, using the refrigerated pasta (much better than the dried stuff without the hassle of homemade), using mixes or doughs, when applicable and using pre-cooked chicken when appropriate.
Today I'm going to share with you a meal plan/menu I recently came up with on about two hours notice when we were supposed to go out to a celebratory dinner but my husband got a migraine instead.  When he has headaches, he usually just wants soup and sandwiches. I was at work when I was conjuring up the idea for this meal and didn't get off until late, so convenience and speed were a big factor in "planning" this one.  We had Turkey and Provolone Sandwiches on pretzel bread, chicken noodle soup, sparkling grape juice to drink and Mookie Sundaes for dessert (I'll explain later).

The sandwiches were the easiest and best part.  I used Black Forest Deli Turkey from my local grocery store deli, provolone from the same, and Sister Schubert's Pretzel rolls.  Make the rolls, slice 'em open, put meat and cheese inside, put back in oven until cheese melts.  it's super simple and Hubby and I agree this may be the best sandwich we have ever had.

The soup used enough short cuts to be ready quickly, but not so many as to taste bland or processed.  I brought one container of storehouse chicken stock to a boil, added some fancy egg noodles, added a few dried herbs and some salt & pepper, and added a pouch of pre-cooked chicken (in the same aisle as the canned chicken) and then let it all cook until the flavors had had a chance to meld together (probably 10 minutes or so... the noodles I used were done in 3).

The Mookie Sundae ended up being the ultimate combination of decadence and convenience.  First, I should explain what a Mookie Sundae is.  There used to be a very tasty local Italian restaurant that had the ooiest gooiest cookie dessert ever, called a mookie sundae.  They would bring you a medium sized ceramic dish filled with a warm chocolate cookie that had been cooked in said dish.  On top of said awesome, warm gooey cookie, was vanilla Ice cream and fudge.  Sadly, the restaurant went out of business, so the lack of mookie sundaes is an oft heard lament in my household since we frequently drive by their empty building.  But I digress. On to the instructions:
I got a tube of chocolate chip cookie dough and put about half of it in the bottom of a (more or less) 6 inch corning glass oven safe flat bottomed bowl.  Then I cooked according to package instructions.  I actually could have put less dough because the middle was a little undercooked and it filled up almost the entire height of the bowl when it rose.  I let that cool until it was still soft and warm but no longer cookie lava and scooped half into a wine glass for each of us.  Then I added gelato on top (this evening's choice was vanilla with caramel swirls and chocolate cookie bits), then hot fudge then whipped cream. It was a total surprise to hubby, really pretty in the wine glasses, awesomely tasty and really easy to make since I used cookie dough instead of making something from scratch.

We hope you enjoyed this week's "Creation Sunday" and hope you have a fantastic Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Interview with "Just Give Me Peace"

Today we are featuring an interview that Hillary did with Sing of Just give me Peace.  Hillary Said that she was drawn to Sing's art because it is colorful, has a very unique watercolor style and is very retro/hippie much like Hillary's own work.

How has art and self expression been a part of your life and when did your involvement with it start?
It's funny, but we were allowed to color on the walls when we were little. To paint lines down the middle of the sheets and write our names on our pillows. To paint make-up on our Barbie dolls and dye their hair with magic markers. To tattoo them. I don't ever remember a time when I wasn't talking with colors. And painting stories with them.

How did your styles of expression develop over the years? 
When I look at my work, some of it 40 years old, I still see the same lines, a cobweb of no rules. And as much as I think I've changed, I really haven't. I'm most comfortable with the same mediums I used as a child....Markers, acrylics, watercolors, pencils, ink, food coloring. And silly as it sounds, the only style I have is hippie, no fine art training, so I guess I just go with the flow...

Your shop features a very eclectic mix: some drawings, some paintings, some done on paper or more traditional "canvases" and some done on re-used items like records. You also feature poetry that goes along with each image. How did you come to this mixture of expression?
That's an 'always been'. The poems. Because all my work first begins with the thoughts, the words or remembrances of a moment...the painting or drawing itself just takes over where the words leave off. I think I did my first piece to poetry my senior year of highschool, and that was a really, really long time ago. My friends call me the 'keeper of words', and most of my works are just that. As for what I paint or draw on, it's whatever I can put my hands on, and often even the canvas works and papers are hand-me-downs, reclaimed and put to use again. Nothing is safe 'round here. :)

What is your creative process like for an individual piece of art? Do you do things in a specific order (e.g. writing the poem first), do you have an idea for what the finished work will be, or is it more stream of consciousness?
I never ever know what the finished piece will look like. There is no choreography at all, and usually it just begins with the thoughts I'm going to write about, maybe one line scribbled on a paper towel....and one single color. Sometimes it flows, sometimes it's splashed, sometimes I bounce back and forth between mediums and methods, but always, I'm lost in thought. It's like some kind of quiet therapy, a little yoga for my spirit.

Where does your art come from?
It comes from my heart. From my beliefs. From the tiny sometimes unimportant and yet totally profound moments in an ordinary day. Sometimes it comes from the sound of rain, the expression of a stranger, but always, from my heart.

Is there something that you hope that your art does for others? 
Art is so very personal. I can only hope that every now and then, someone is moved by it. Feels it. Connects with it. When someone is touched by my work, I feel like they've given me a gift. Like we've shared a heartstring.

Is there anything you like us to know about you that we haven't already covered? 
Nah, pretty much my whole world is covered in the words tethered to my paintings, but Thanks so much for taking the time to do this interview. It was an unexpected invitation, and I've thoroughly enjoyed it.

Finally, Where can we find you and your art? 
Online, at and in real life, well, you just never know :)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Creation Sunday - Awesome tutorial on knitting embossed leaves by Elizarde

Today, Hillary is zonked out from all the birthday fun so she is going to share an excellent tutorial by a talented local artisan.

Today, I am happy to share a tutorial on how to make an embossed leaf design on your knitting projects.  @Elizarde is a talented textile artist, brilliant foodie, and sharp-witted tweeter and I was thrilled when she agreed to let me share this tutorial with you! Tutorial: Stick a leaf on it | The Cusser Knits
I hope you enjoy it!

Friday, November 11, 2011


Tomorrow is Hillary's Birthday, so she wanted to share with you some of her favorite Cake Pictures and tell you about her birthday plans!

OMG SO MUCH CAKE. (original link courtesy Cake Wrecks)

DiscWorld Cake!!! (original link courtesy Cake Wrecks)

Mendhi Design Cake. So beautiful. (original link Wedding Bee)

Yum.  Aside from eating enough cake to make myself look like a pregnant elephant, I am going to go see phantogram on my birthday.  I am also, going to take a few days off from blogging.  Updates may be thin for the next week or so, but I still love you guys!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Creation Sunday - More Pumpkin

Today, Hillary thought she would continue the pumpkin trend that she started last week.

 Todays "Creation Sunday" is going to be a gem of a recipe I found many years ago that somehow manages to make biscuits with minimal fat!  These pumpkin biscuits are super easy, easy to tweak to your liking and extremely tasty.

Here's the base recipe.  I don't actually tweak these very much.  Instead of the 1 Tbl of water, I add 1 Tbl each of honey and molasses because of the hygroscopic factor that we talked about in the banana muffin post and to add a little more sweetness.  I also add a pinch of salt and a touch of vanilla to every baked good I make because it helps bring out flavors more.  Sometimes I use turbinado sugar instead of straight brown sugar and sometimes I use pancake mix instead of Bisquick (I add a touch more leavening in this case), but all work equally well.

The first time I made these, I added some chopped dates for additional sweetness and flavor.  The most recent incarnation had no dates, but had some bitter orange liqueur (I used Patron Citronge) added for a little more "brightness" in the flavor.  I also served the most recent version with some awesome homemade maple butter (sometimes I split and scrape a vanilla bean into this, but the recipe is awesome on it's own).

The great thing about this pumpkin biscuit recipe is you can tweak it quite a bit to match your tastes.  I make it sweeter, but you could easily leave the extra sweeteners out.  Personally, if I wanted to make it less sweet, I would use 3 tablespoons of light brown sugar and a tablespoon of molasses or honey (trust me, the extra moisture makes a much bigger difference than you would think) and leave out the vanilla and/or liqueur.  In this case, you might need to add some of the water called for, but probably not all (this biscuit dough is usually a little on the mushy side until I roll it out with the flour as called for).

Now that I've started thinking about savory muffins, I wonder what this would taste like with no pumpkin pie spice (maybe a little cumin instead) and some fresh sage or rosemary... or some pumpkin pie spice but also some garam masala...
Hmm...I may have to try this and report back.

Friday, November 4, 2011

AldoJeffrey Interview

Today we present an interview that Hillary did with Aldo Jeffrey of Art by Aldo Jeffrey.  Hillary said that she was drawn to Aldo's work because it displays excellent technical skill while expressing some very personal and private emotions.

First, Tell everyone a little bit about your background as an artist.
I've always drawn. I started by doodling, but then moved on to copying drawings out of magazines of videogame characters when I was younger. I never really considered being an artist until I realized that you can actually make a living doing it (if you do it correctly). When I was about 22, I had the opportunity to sell some of my drawings at an art fair.. They were terrible drawings, I scotch taped them to a little table, just the pieces of paper, and stood on the side of the road for about 5 hours, while people drove by or walked by. I didn't have any prices for anything, so most people just looked, but one guy bought a drawing for $7...and that was enough motivation for me to become an artist. The first month I had 5 drawings, the next, I had about 25. I've been drawing since.
Eventually, I would go back to school to learn how to make 3d art for videogames. So now I'm a 3d Artist as my job and career, and 2d 'fine art' as my hobby.

Your art seems very personal. How did that develop?
I've never really given much thought to it, but if I was going to guess, I'd say it's probably a combination of a few things. When I started out, I would spend most of my drawing time, drawing for girls in school. I wanted them to like me, and so I would draw for them....some people write notes; check yes or no. Not me, I just drew drawings. So I think just from those, I would put all my feelings and emotions into them, so they were pretty personal drawings, even thought they were usually of things like flowers or mermaids or whatever the girl liked. Once I realized what type of guy that made me, I stopped drawing to get girls to like me (or tried my best to). I think it probably did have some effect on what direction my artwork would eventually go though.
I think another reason why my artwork is so 'personal' is because I know when people look at my artwork, they don't really know why I made it or what it says about me...they can never be in my mind. They can only take it for what it is, what they whatever they say about my work (in regards to the 'personal' things), is more telling about them as a person and how they see life, than what my artwork means or says about me.
Probably the biggest reason though, is my family. I grew up in an environment where everyone was pretty honest with each other, and I think it just seems like the most efficient way to approach I try and be honest with all the things I do, including art. I'm not sure if growing up in that environment made me not be afraid of just putting stuff out there, but I know that for me, it's probably not as hard as some other people (just because of the experiences I've had in life).

I also noticed that some of your art is very dark in theme. Some people shy away from expression of darkness. How do you feel about creating art with dark, melancholy or otherwise unhappy themes and why do you choose to do it? 
When I was younger (about age 12 to about 22), I was terribly depressed. All I could see in life were dark things. I didn't understand how people were able to just go about being happy when there was so much misery in the world. I would ask them for answers, but no one really had any other than...well, if you think about those types of things, it'll make you sad, so don't think about those things. My reasoning was always that if you didn't think about it...that's how you end up being someone who doesn't care about people (or become detached from your empathy)...and I didn't want to be that, so I kept thinking about stuff that was depressing. So I think I've always been sort of drawn to darker/depressing things. I started really drawing when my heart was broken and I just wanted to die, so I think it started out sort of dark and continued that way
Honestly though, I don't consider my stuff to be that 'dark'. There are a few that are, that I made when I was battling depression, but for the most part, I think there are always different ways to look at my drawings....good and bad. And so someone might look at one drawing and cry and another might laugh, because they see it as sort of like a dark sense of humor, others, just see it as dark; others, don't focus so much on the dark in the drawings, but the light...and so they see it as being hopeful, little bit of light in a dark world...that type of thing.
Why do I do it? I'm not sure, but I'd guess: I've spent most of my life trying to come to terms with the dark things in this world (and in me) only to realize that most people ignore it...and I don't ever really want to be like that, so I make the type of art that I make. I make it for a younger version of myself. I make the type of art that would get my younger attention, sort of shallow and obvious on the surface, but if you look into it, maybe you could see the bigger picture or at least see it in a different way. I think of this like this....when you're depressed or your life is surrounded by darkness, you don't really see all the helpful things around don't look for look for the dark...and so when those types of people see my artwork, it immediately draws them in, because they relate to's 'them'...and so they would investigate it...look into it...THINK about it...and how dark it is....but then maybe they'd look up, and see me smiling...and look at some of my other stuff, and see that it's not all dark...and so maybe they will consider some of my other ideas, or maybe they will ask me about whatever 'dark' theme the piece is about...and so I'll get to talk to them...maybe point them in the right direction to the answers they're looking for. I don't think of it as being important or anything like that, maybe it's just a way for me to connect with people.... and it just as silly as when I tried using my artwork to get laid, but hey, at least I don't feel bad afterwards. :)

What is the most important thing for you as an artist?
The most important thing to me as an artist: This is probably one of the harder questions but I think it's not having to feel like I have to sell art to make money. I think it changes the creation process when you know you have to be able to sell something. So I try to avoid ever feeling like I HAVE to make money off of my artwork.

What would you tell other artists who are seeking their own voice or trying to "make it."
As for what I'd tell other artists trying to find your own voice: Don't. Whatever you find, it won't be really be yours. (generalizing, I know) It will be what you think other people want, or it will be what you think hasn't been done before, or maybe will be your voice...but you wouldn't know it...trying to find your voice is a lot like trying to find don't finds you. See, it's because the person that will love you, will love you for who you are...and so if you improve yourself and become the person you want to be...then the person that will love that person (you), will find you....but you can't just sit around and you date. See what's out there, see who you like. That's basically the same thing with art. Your goal might be to find your voice and style...but really...just try and be a good artist and you won't have to find your voice, it will find's almost impossible for it not to, if you're a good artist. So focus on being a good artist, you'll voice will develop....just go out there and see what's around....try different styles, different things....anything that you it...copy if you must. See, starting's important to recognize that you're not you have freedom to really do anything you's all just training. It's how you learn. A lot of people get caught up because they think artists think....I want to say 'this' with my drawing...and then they draw it...but really, it's more'll draw, and you'll think...hmm, something is missing...what should I put here to balance out the drawing? Oh, maybe a clock....oh, maybe lots of clocks....and you enjoy drawing it. Over the years, all of these types of small decisions will add up...and someone will look at you and say....oh, THIS is your voice! And you'll think...oh no, that's not what I was aiming for...I'm going to start doing these other things...and then your voice becomes that....and so all your little preferences that you make...down to things like...what type of medium you want to use and all that stuff adds up to being your voice....and it's not something you can look for or really plan (well you can, it's just not as efficient)'s just something that develops on one's quest to become a skillful artist.

And finally, where can we find you and your art? and my facebook page:
My facebook will have all my updated work. Everything else (including etsy) always gets updated later due to procrastination.