Back in the first years of the 2000’s, I lived in Slovakia teaching English. I learned a lot about Slovak cuisine and tried my share of baking traditional breads. Since I married a Slovak and we have two Slovak-American children, I prepare Slovak foods that we enjoy here in California. Here’s a bread I bake this time of year.

Vianočka is a common yeast bread in Slovakia. It is a braided bread, slightly sweet, and eaten often at breakfast time. Vianočka is available in just about any grocery store in Slovakia. It is so common in fact, that I’ve never seen or heard of any Slovak baking it at home. Why would you bake a basic bread if you could just pick one up at the local market?

Vianočka is also a good bread to bake for Easter. In Vienna I’ve seen this bread sold at bakeries with a few colored hard-boiled eggs set between the weave of the braids. It’s very festive.

I consulted several recipes and came up with my tried and tested version for authentic vianočka. To me it tastes almost identical to what you can buy in Slovakia. Below is the recipe and my directions:

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cup (.4 liter) milk
2 rounded tablespoons sugar
2 packets (1/4 oz each) of dry yeast or 30 grams cake yeast
4 1/2 cups (600 grams) flour
1/2 cup (120 grams) butter
1 cup (225 grams) sugar
3 egg yolks (keep the whites to brush the dough later)
1/2 cup (120 grams) raisins
1/2 teaspoon salt
grated lemon peel

Directions: Mix the two tablespoons of sugar into lukewarm milk and add the yeast. Let the yeast rise and become active — this takes about 5 to 8 minutes. If you don’t get a good foam, put your cup, with everything in it, in the microwave for 20 seconds to make it warm again.

In a bowl combine the flour, butter, sugar, salt, egg yolks, raisins, and grated lemon peel. Add the yeast mixture to the flour mixture and transfer everything to a floured surface to kneed the dough thoroughly. Gather the dough into a ball and place it back into the mixing bowl, making sure to sprinkle the base so that it doesn’t stick to the bottom. Cover the bowl and set it in a warm dry place for an hour or so, until the dough doubles in size.

Kneed the dough a second time thoroughly until all the air pockets are removed. Separate the dough into eight equal sized parts and let them “rest” for another 15 minutes.

Make a braid with the first four pieces. From three more pieces make another braid that will be set on top of the four-piece braid. Cut the last roll in half, roll them thin, braid them, and place it on top of the three-piece braid (pictures above).

Tuck the sides under and brush the top with egg whites. Bake the bread at 350°F (180°C) for the first half hour and 325°F (160°C) for an additional half hour.

Note 1) To make the crust darker, start baking at 375°F.

Note 2) The recipe yields one large loaf. To make two smaller loaves, separate the dough into 16 pieces.

The longer I experiment with collage art, the more fun it gets. It’s funny how little bits of paper can get me so excited and enthusiastic about the art of making a journal.

Previously I wrote about my trip to San Francisco in January to visit my friend and fellow correspondence-art artist Pamela, and how I fell in love with her collage book made with Reader’s Digest covers. I was very much inspired to make my own, and that’s what I’ve done here. Pamela got me started by giving me extra covers she had on hand, and then cutting down some file folders to make the pages. Once the pages were hole punched and everything assembled with rings, I was ready to go.

With this journal, the covers were no work at all. Reader’s Digest books, like this one from the 1970s, can be found in abundance at any thrift store. I didn’t like the rings at first, but now I can see that they are pretty useful in being able to move collages around. I’ve seen people use twine or other heavy fibers to bind hole-punched pages like in this journal. I might try that next time.

I didn’t have any themes in mind as I was creating, I simply wanted to use papers from authentic sources; no images from a craft paper pad or digital printouts. I used some vintage papers like from old books, but I also used things like postcards I have received in the mail over the past year, receipts from places I shopped, maps, forms, photographs, and postage stamps, of course. I also used washi tape and rubber stamps with ink.

More of the pages are here:

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Video is here:

I’m not sure if I’ve shared much about the process of making journal covers. I do them all pretty much the same way, so I thought I should write a bit about it.

I start with cutting down some heavy weight card stock to the size I want. I don’t have specific measurements but it’s usually around 5 x 8″ with a spine of 1.5″.

After I cut the board, I cut a piece of tyvek paper that will cover the width of the spine and a half inch over to the front and back covers. Tyvek is a “paper” made with plastic fibers that help give the joints strength so the book covers don’t tear off over time. I use double sided tape to attach it.

Once the tyvek is in place I cut down the paper I want to decorate the cover with and glue it or attach it with double sided tape. I create 6 pieces: 3 for the front, spine, and back, and then 3 for the inside front, spine, and back. In this photo I’ve moved the pieces below the cardboard so you can see the layers. Normally the pieces of decorative paper would be flush, or very near the edge of the page.

The cover should be in one continuous piece by this point. Lay it flat on your work space with the side you want to be on the inside covers lying up and take 2 large pieces of white tissue paper, laying them on top of your cover. Cut the two pieces of tissue a quarter of an inch larger than your covers, on all sides.

With a paint brush and some matte medium or glue, attach the first piece of tissue paper over your cover. I usually start with the spine and move out to the covers. With the tissue paper glued on, there should be a bit of extra paper hanging off the edges.

Once it is dry (I usually use my hair dryer to quickly dry it), take your scissors and carefully trim off the extra tissue paper. Turn it over and lay your second piece of tissue paper down. Use your paint brush to glue down the second sheet. With the extra quarter inch, wrap it over the edge and use the medium to glue it down.

Dry everything again. Now the fun begins with paints, dyes, and whatever tools you’d like to use to decorate your covers. I like to use Distress Stain, acrylic paint, rubber stamps and permanent ink, and lately Gelato pigment crayons.

Here’s the cover I made with these:

This cover has a simple element from a rubber stamp and ink. Simple but effective, I think.

This one also has a rubber stamped impression.

After you have done enough to your covers, seal them with a varnish. I use Liquitex Satin Varnish but I think just about any varnish will do. If you have experience with Mod Podge that might work too. I ruined an important piece of art with Mod Podge (I couldn’t get rid of the tackiness, even after days of drying it, and it stuck to something else causing major damage to the cover and the other piece next to it) so I never touch the stuff anymore.

I sometimes attach metal pieces or other decorative elements. Some planning is needed for that, but they do get attached once the varnish is dry.

 

 

One of the neat things about sharing your art through the internet is that other artists reach out to you and connect with you over shared styles and interests. That’s how I came to be in contact with Trishia at the French Kissed Postcards shop online.

Trishia and I both love collage art from vintage paper sources. We initially connected through our interest in Mary Green‘s glue book art, and then I learned that Trishia herself is a wonderful source of some really gorgeous vintage postcards.

But first let me explain about my interest in postcards.

I use postcards a lot in my artwork. When considering a postcard I look for several things:

  • The image on the front: is it in color or black and white (I look for both kinds). Is it interesting?
  • The back for writing: is it blank or has someone written a note? What does the handwriting look like? Is it legible? What language is it in?
  • A stamp: does the postcard have any stamps? More than one? Are the stamps attractive and in one piece? Is there a postmark? Is it legible?
  • A date: is there a date either written by the author or on the postmark?

Sometimes I place the entire postcard in my journal, in a page pocket for example.

Other times I will glue a postcard down so that just a single side is showing. I do that if I am making a larger collage and need only one side as an element in the over all piece.

It’s handy when you have a bunch of old postcards and either the picture on the front is ugly or boring and therefore you don’t feel guilty about covering it up permanently, or if the note on the writing side is dull (or it’s blank), then I don’t feel guilty about gluing it down.

Trishia knows I use a lot of postcards and she sent me a packet of vintage postcards that are just beautiful. She sent me some that are a perfect example of classic penmanship and some that are written extra fancy.

Here’s one with a nice illustration and a stamp with postmark all on the front. I haven’t see many like this.

She also sent some with neat illustrations or photos. My absolute favorite are postcards with architecture. This one is of architecture with the bonus of writing on the same side. Wow!

Trishia specializes in French postcards. At her shop she sells vintage postcards as well as digital images of postcards for quick download. Those are useful too for printing at home and using for personal projects. Check out her shop if you are looking for some really unique pieces of postcard art.

She sent me more postcards but I didn’t photograph all of them. I did take a picture of the card she sent them in. It’s so pretty I’m tempted to use this in a collage too!

 

 

Lace journal

For 6 projects I will be making vintage junk journals using different collections from the designer Ephemera’s Vintage Garden, who makes digital paper kits for download.

The first two journals are done, and being that I am behind in posting, I’m going to post about both journals here. I can also note that I used the same paper kit for both journals; I’ll be switching to a new collection for the next two projects.

For these first two journals I used a collection called “Mabel’s Diary”, which consists of colors in red, black, cream, brown, and white. If you’ve read some of my earlier posts you’ll know that red is my favorite color, so it’s not surprising that I was drawn to this set. It’s very dramatic and elegant.

Mabel's Diary order page

Since I have such a nice collection of vintage illustrations and photos I’ve been collecting over these last few years, I wanted to use up a lot more of it, as well as use vintage lace.

desk organizer

For my first project, I’ve called it “Dear diary”, and made a cover with a lock that hooks over  knob. The cover is a book page layered with a single piece of tissue paper that was then inked in some brown stains until I had the right look. There’s also a bit of lace at the left side.

cover Dear diary

setting aside pieces and once I had my book assembled with my printed journal pages along with many tea-dyed pages, I went to work collaging and filling up the journal.

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Here’s the flip through:

For the second journal, I’ve called it “Vintage lace” because it is meant to be a journal created entirely to hold samples of lace that I’ve collected from the Sunnyvale Lace Museum.

vintage lace

I had a Tim Holtz blank journal cover that I decoupaged  with papers and tissue paper. I have to admit, it’s not a very exciting cover, but the inside makes up for that.

Every 6 months or so, the Lace Museum holds a vintage lace sale where they sell lace they’ve received as donations, or some of it is from their collection. I’ve also begun to volunteer at the museum, and so am learning more about the different types of lace that exist. I brought in my book and had some of the experts identify my pieces. Where I could find out more information about the pieces, I wrote a short description on some of the journal pages facing the lace.

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I still have a few unidentified pieces, but I will get them recognized sooner or later. This one is still a bit of a work in progress, but it will be easy to complete.

Here’s the video on this one:

Last Saturday I took a day-trip to San Francisco to meet my friend Pamela. Pamela is an amazing collage artist  — one of the most talented that I know. We’ve discovered that we share a similar style, or at least are drawn to similar types of images and illustrations.

We’ve been admiring each other’s work for several months now and knew that if we’d get together we’d have a lot to talk about, so when we made arrangements for me to come up to her studio I was so giddy, I couldn’t resist telling my kids, “Mommy’s got a play-date on Saturday!”

Her workspace is filled with so much inspiration and neat projects. Here’s some of the loveliness on her desk.

Pamela's desk

And her tower of index cards. I love all those tabs.

index card tower

One of her awesome projects to make a piece of art on a Rolodex card, every single day.

Rolodex card art

Other artists also contribute to her collection, including me (yay!). She’s been doing this for a couple of years so her collection is extensive. See her blog post for more amazing photos. All those cards represent a work of art. It’s astounding, really. It would take a pleasant period of time to go through them all. I’d love to do that some morning, along with a cup of tea.

Rolodex collection

Another of her interests is in correspondence art, and actually this is where our paths crossed. We share a love of all things postal, so of course I wanted to see art she makes, she collects, and some of the ephemera she has for creating more.

letters and glassine

postage stamp book

Here are some of the postcards she has received from all over the world.

mail call

Field Notes

Another project that is very unique is her work on altered passports. She takes an old passport and tells a story with photos and ephemera of where this person has traveled. It’s so creative! Read her description of how she comes up with the ideas on her blog. I want to create something with one of my old passports. I’m going to do some studying of these for a while first.

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She also has glue books that I found fascinating. The covers come from hardcover Reader’s Digest compilations.

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All in all, we had a wonderful time. I brought some of my journals to share so with all of our sharing we didn’t have that much time to create. That’s ok. We’re going to do it again someday 🙂

rubber stamps

bingo cards

gummed labels

 

red stencil and postcard

Red is my favorite color. Even from my earliest years, red was the first color out of the crayon box. I’ve wanted to make a little art journal with a red theme for some time now and decided the time was right after I found these index cards at a used book sale.

index cards

The cardstock is so dense and heavy — ideal for book covers. I took 4, cut off the tabs and then painted them in reds. After the paint was dry I used rubber stamps and black ink to cover the surfaces from corner to corner.

I used a little Tim Holtz grunge board over the spine. It didn’t need the extra reinforcement but I just liked how it looked, especially after I put the silver and gunmetal brads along the borders.

little red jj cover

I used a watch piece that I attached to the cover as the fixed portion of the fastener. I glued a few “jewels” on the piece to give it a little more sparkle. On the bottom portion of the watch piece is stamped, “U.S.A. PAT. MAY. 24. 1904” It also says “7 jewels” in fancy lettering. So neat!

watch jewels

On the inside I have some of tea-dyed pages but also added papers from several different sources. Mostly it’s recycled book pages, and art scrap pages. In all there are 3 signatures that I stitched in using the 5-point pamphlet stitch.

I wanted to include a lot more art in this journal. Sometimes I created the art myself with ink or paints, or collaging. Other times, if I found beautiful images of art or pictures from magazines that work with the page layouts, I used those types as art.

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I added small bits here and there from postage stamps, pieces of decoupaged napkin, vintage lace, ribbon, postcards, playing cards, rubber stamping, a few die-cuts, and washi tape.

It’s a very busy book, which is exactly what I wanted. I’m still adding to it and will be for a while.

 

img_20170121_083022

Most of you know I am not a fan of Mr. Trump. I do, however, accept the results of the election and I accept that he is president of the United States.

Still, I will be peaceably marching today, along with my husband. I am marching for me. I honestly don’t care what President Trump’s reactions might be. It’s all personal. Here are my reasons:

#WhyIMarch

I’m marching for girls everywhere, including my daughter, who will be impacted by the normalization of aggression towards women. Misogyny is becoming common place and only likely to grow while having a self-professed sexual assailant as a world leader and role-model to many. 

I am marching in support of basic human rights because I think they are under threat more than ever — everyone regardless of their gender, race, religion or sexual orientation deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.

I’m marching to protest the use of fear and hatred to intimidate and control, ultimately used to persuade people to exclude and distrust others who don’t think the same. 

I’m marching because I can while others cannot and would like to. 

I’m marching because if I don’t speak my mind, I never will. 

we_the_people

 

door plate and mirror

I’ve wanted a floor-length mirror in my room for years and I had an idea of how I wanted it to look. A long time ago I saw a photo in a magazine of a mirror that was decorated with hardware to make it look like a door; that’s exactly what I wanted to do.

mongstad mirror in white

I love vintage hardware. For months I went to antique malls and hunted on ebay looking for just the right pieces for my project. I wasn’t able to find the door plate and hinges in the finish that would match the fireplace frame near by so settled for getting reproduction pieces. Still, I’m very happy with the result.

I found my pieces at House of Antique Hardware for reasonable prices. Here’s a closeup of the door plate and crystal knob. It would have been neat to install a lock in that keyhole but that would have made the project a lot more complicated.

door plate and crystal knob

The hinge can swing away from the door if I want to hang something off it, such as a hangar. I’m not sure if I’d ever do that, but I like that one portion is not fastened to the frame.

decorative door hinge

The mirror is an Ikea Mongstad mirror, though wouldn’t you know it, they don’t sell it in white anymore, only in brown. Luckily we had this mirror hanging in the entry way and moved it. I’ll replace the now empty spot with another mirror.

The Mongstad is just perfect for altering. I wonder if I can find a letter slot plate in brushed nickel. I might keep an eye out for that.

Mongstad full length mirror

While my husband and I were putting this up, I had flashbacks to when I refinished my Ikea cabinet for the kitchen. I love how if you choose, you can make Ikea furniture into something that uniquely fits your living space.

leksvik-grey2

 

Cognac cover
“Do you want to do something with this box?”

A few months ago in October, my husband received a bottle of Martell cognac in beautiful packaging. Interestingly enough it was he who put the box in my hands and asked if I wanted to do something with it. It hadn’t even crossed my mind, but yes, I did indeed want to.

martell cognac

I loved the blue hues and started thinking about the colors that would go along with it — black, gold, gray, and cream. I decided make a junk journal and fill it with an eclectic mix of images and papers. I wanted to make it for the people who gave us the cognac, my husband’s uncle and aunt.

I wanted the book to be interesting; something that inspired curiosity, spurred thought, or at the very least was entertaining in some way, so I used papers of multiple languages and various alphabets, black and white images, rubber stamps, and several stencils.

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After I was finished, I wrapped it up and mailed it off to Slovakia for Christmas. Hopefully I’ll hear back in a few days if it was a hit or a miss. You never know with junk journals. Some people “get it”; others don’t and just think it’s weird. I’ll see.

Here’s the flip through: