Of Rats and Jen

Tales of a Perpetual
Work In Progress

Fun with Faces

Filed under: Retired - The Life & Times of a Winged Cat — folkcat at 7:37 pm on Friday, July 29, 2005

Through another blog, I found an interesting link to something called the Face Transformer. This is an interactive tool that lets you upload an image of a face, and apply transformations that do amazing things to it.

As an example, here’s what I did. I uploaded this picture of me:


Deer in the headlights – not my best look

and followed their instructions for cropping the image to my head, then marking the locations of the eyes and mouth. This is how they get the facial proportions right for the transformations they’re going to apply, which amount to morphing your image with other images stored in their database.

Several of the transformations are intended to show how you look at different ages: baby, child, teenager. Others show you as different ethnic groups, such as afro-carribean, east asian, or west asian.

My favorites were those that transformed your image based on famous painters’ styles. Here is how I’d look if painted by Botticelli, for instance:


Is that really me?

Isn’t that amazing? Hard to believe that’s the same picture I posted above. I liked the Botticelli so much, I converted it into an icon-sized graphic to use as my profile photo here at Blogger. I also printed one out at about 6 1/2″ x 7″ as a picture for my husband to frame, as I’m not likely to see such a nice image of myself for a long time.

While you’re at the Face Transformer website, you might consider participating in their experiments. The Face Transformer is actually a tool that the Perception Lab uses to create images for their experiments in how humans perceive human faces. They have a number of experiments in this perception right online for you to participate in. It’s anonymous, and you’re contributing to science from the comfort of your own computer chair. Check it out!

Repost #1: Paradigm Shift Pea Soup

Filed under: Cooking - Folkcat in the Kitchen — folkcat at 10:36 pm on Thursday, July 28, 2005

This will be the first of several posts that I am copying from my blog “The Life & Times of a Winged Cat“. These reposts will continue until all the cooking posts there have been moved here.

Originally published June 26, 2005:

For those who don’t know what that means, a paradigm shift occurs when your reality, your core beliefs, or your perception of your reality undergoes a change.

Gryphon and I have been undergoing a paradigm shift lately. A big one. It started with closing our bead store after 2 1/2 years, and it has continued as we transition from people who did almost nothing but work at that store, to people who have time to work on their lives.

My diet had already changed in a small way after my diagnosis of diabetes back in December. Recently, Gryphon and I have been trying to make even more improvements in how we eat, as well as how much we spend. We decided to find a way to make better food without spending all our time in the kitchen.

We have had a crockpot for some time, and this proved to be the right idea. I began by adapting an old microwave recipe for Sloppy Joes that we had always enjoyed. Success! It was tasty, inexpensive, and healthier than those frozen packaged foods. And the batch was large enough that we still have some in the freezer!

The next day, I created a soup recipe out of my own imagination in the crockpot. The goal was to use up a bag of broccoli slaw I had in the fridge that was getting old. I envisioned a chicken soup, but not an ordinary chicken soup – mine would have lemon juice in it, and couscous, and chickpeas, and lots of dill.

I’ve never seen a recipe quite like what I came up with, but my imagination proved right on target – everyone who has tasted my lemon chicken chickpea soup has loved it! I need to try to nail down the exact ingredients now so that I can post a recipe. I promise, I’ll work on it – I have already had requests!

Having had this much success, Gryphon and I decided we’d try to do at least one crockpot recipe each weekend, something to eat for one meal right away with leftovers. I browsed recipes on the web, and found several for split pea soup – a favorite of mine. Gryphon doesn’t care for it, but I can do something specially for him next time.

So I made my shopping list, gathered up the ingredients, and Saturday night we went to assemble the materials. That’s when we looked closely at the recipe and realized…it needed a larger crockpot than we owned! Our largest was only 4 quarts, and the recipe needed 5 1/2. I tried to consider reducing the recipe, but just how do you measure out 5/8 of a ham hock?!?

Drat, and double-drat! We sat down and thought about how to deal with this. A little research on the web revealed the price range we could expect for a 6 quart crockpot. Gryphon, as tight as the budget is, nevertheless agreed that he was willing for us to buy a tool for something that is working so well for us. But how long were we willing to wait for a crockpot to arrive in the mail?

Then we remembered – even though it was 10 p.m. on a Saturday night, we had an option: there’s a 24-hour WalMart nearby! So off we went on an appliance buying expedition.

It worked out as well for us as the cooking had. We found a discontinued model of the Rival 6-qt. Smart Crock on the shelf at a good bargain. (The one pictured at the left is fundamentally the same as ours, only it’s chrome where ours is white.) The Smart Crock actually has pre-programmed settings for the most commonly used time and temperature combinations – High for either 4- or 6-hours, or Low for 8- or 10- hours. After the set time is reached, it goes into a Keep Warm mode. So if you wind up getting home even later than expected, you can rest assured that your dinner won’t get overcooked in the crock!

Properly equipped now, we went ahead this morning with the fixings for my pea soup. The house smelled wonderful all day as it simmered away. I picked up a nice sourdough boule from the supermarket to slice up and eat with it for dinner, and brother, was that heavenly! I have 5 pints of the stuff ready to go into the freezer now.

Oh, yeah…here’s what it looked like. The ham hocks were very meaty, I was impressed.

I don’t expect I’ll be posting the recipe for this one – I got it at RecipeZaar, if you’re interested. They have at least a dozen different postings of split pea soup recipes for the crockpot, and they all look tasty.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly – and the Silver Lining

Filed under: Retired - The Life & Times of a Winged Cat — folkcat at 5:22 pm on Thursday, July 28, 2005

The Good:

My blogging has taken off like wildfire. I’m discovering it’s a great way to communicate about what I’m doing. Communicating about my life helps me to really examine and understand myself in a way that I never have before. As a result, I feel that I’m getting more value out of the same sort of tasks and activities that I’ve always done.

Blogging is also turning out to be a great way to organize information. One of my newest blogs, Folkcat’s Craft Library, is a case in point. The purpose is to create an ongoing catalog of the craft books in my personal library. Each book gets its own post, and with the help of Zoundry Blog Writer, my post editor of choice, each book that is still in print also has a link where the reader can purchase the book online. Since every post entry at Blogger can be a permanent, independent link, I will ultimately create an index page that sorts the books by category, and perhaps indices by title and author as well.

More Good:

My Cafe Press store has shaped up nicely. I’m pleased with how easy it was to configure my graphics and put them up on products. I’ve already sold just enough items to earn the fee for the first month, so it’s already demonstrating potential to pay for iteself.

Blending from Good towards Bad:

Our bankruptcy hearing was this past Tuesday morning. It actually went quite well. Gryphon and I were calm and collected, and answered the judge’s questions simply. There were no creditors challenging the matter, and the judge seemed satisfied with what he heard. We were done in about a half hour’s time, and on our way.

The Bad:

Things turned bad when we got home. Our power was off. We’ve been behind for months, and have been on a payment plan meant to get us caught up eventually, but apparently we missed one installment. Gryphon says we never saw a formal “final notice” letter, so we’re a bit annoyed and puzzled by this. Bottom line, it was one of the hottest days of the year so far, and the contrast between how well our bankruptcy hearing went and the shock of finding our financial situation in ruins at home really upset us both.

We stayed calm in the thick of the storm, though. We both have an ability to keep a clear head during an emergency and save the nervous breakdown for later. We started calling anyone we could think of who might be able to help us out. The utility company was demanding full payment of the past due amount, which was over $400. We had about $10 in the bank that we could spare.

The Ugly:

In my opinion, it’s pretty ugly that I had to turn to my folks for help on this one. I am so grateful that they were able to pay the bill for us, but I’m 44 years old, for crying out loud. About to turn 45. And I have to go to mommy for money? My parents have little enough for themselves, without having to bail me and my husband out of things. It’s also pretty ugly that the way we’d been handling the finances, Gryphon had full control of the paperwork, processing, and bill paying, and I really had no idea where we stood on anything. I absolutely had no clue we were that close to the edge on the power bill.

The Silver Lining:

The good thing that has come out of this nasty situation is that Gryphon, who has been struggling to handle the budget without my help, has come around and admitted that we need to work on it together, and that I need to be very, very involved. He wasn’t up to the job alone, that’s apparent from where it got to. In the last couple of days, we’ve been working together to give me more involvement on the matter of what money comes in and where it goes out. Things are very, very tight, and we have hardly a penny to spare, but we already have a sense that it will all get better if we can continue to work together on the budget, collaborating on the effort, sharing the load of the tough decisions, and coming up with creative solutions.

BIP report: Delica tag progress, and bead embroidery

Filed under: Beading - Confessions of a Chantraphile — folkcat at 4:55 pm on Thursday, July 28, 2005

Believe it or not, I’ve actually done some beadwork this week. Okay, it was only a bit of my Delica Tag Project, but progress is progress, and that’s what counts. I completed three more tags, which makes a total or 75 or 76 done. (I’m not sure which, I’ll have to count.)

3 more down, zillions to go

For a bit of new (read old and not done yet) “Beadwork In Progress”, I’m going to introduce you to my one piece of bead embroidery I’m working on. Anyone who has known me for any length of time will have seen my drawing of my alter-ego, Folkcat – the many-colored cat with wings. I’ve always wanted to do a beaded version of her somehow, and I decided one day (something like 2 1/2 years ago) that bead embroidery would be the medium.

I decided that Folkcat alone wouldn’t be enough, so I looked around for a background, finally choosing this one from a clipart gallery with one of my graphics programs:


The original “cartoon” for the embroidery

You can see my notes about how many shades of each color I’d need down in the bottom right corner.

With tracing paper, I drew in the outlines of all the different areas of color, producing this drawing:

The Map of the patches of color

I took a 8 1/2″ x 11″ piece of Lacie’s Stiff Stuff. Placing the tracing underneath it, I put the two layers on a window (to serve as a primitive light box). With an ordinary pen, I traced the image onto the Stiff Stuff, knowing that the lines would be completely hidden by the time I was done.

I then started choosing my beads. At the time, I had a project box that contained all 32 colors or so of bead that I had picked out. Since I haven’t worked on this in over a year, practical reality has forced those choices back into the general bead pool, or I’d show you a picture of the pile of beads waiting to be stitched onto the picture.


The actual piece in progress

I decided to work primarily with Japanese and Czech 11o seed beads. For the outline of the wings, I used a 12/o Czech seed bead in a silver-lined gold color, to get a tiny bit of extra detail.

photo_2005_7_28_20_41_44_edited.jpg
Close look at the wing.

As my life becomes more orderly and predictable (not that I expect it ever to be perfectly so!), I expect to get back to working on this piece. I really am looking forward to being able to frame it and hang it on my wall. One thing about doing this blog, it’s helping me by providing a forum for examining where I’m at with beadwork, making it more possible for me to pick up the undone pieces and return to them.

Rest assured, I’ll report on the progress here!

Books/Dollhouses and minatures/Projects: Tiny Treasures

Filed under: Folkcat's Craft Library — folkcat at 11:22 pm on Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Title: Tiny Treasures
Author: American Girl Library
Publisher: Pleasant Company Publications
Copyright: 1998

Out of print. Aimed at 4-8 year old girls, this colorful little book offers simple projects to make surprising miniatures using household items. I picked this up at a yard sale – it’s certain to be available from used book dealers as well. Some of my favorite projects include a realistic-looking sandwich made from expanding sponges, rubber bands, and plastic bags, served with french fries cut from toothpicks, a dollop of ketchup (glue with red paint) and a glass of milk (a mix of glue and white paint in a clear makeup tube cap). All of these projects look easy to do, and they produce great results. I’m impressed enough that I’ll probably be trying some of these myself!

Books/Fiber/Knitting/History: No Idle Hands

Filed under: Folkcat's Craft Library — folkcat at 11:10 pm on Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Title: No Idle Hands: The Social History of American Knitting
Author: Macdonald, Anne L.
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Copyright: 1988

From the flap:

No Idle Hands presents an intriguing view of the role of women in American history, as uniquely represented through the art and craft of knitting. From Colonial times to the present, women have expressed their patriotism, creativity, fashion sense, and personal style in the private practice of this rich and varied practical art form. Historian Anne Macdonald sheds new light on women’s use of knitting as a representation of their changing historical roles, and puts into sharp perspective the fascinating legacy of the womanly art of knitting.”

This is an in-depth study of the subject of knitting throughout American history, replete with period photos, illustrations, and pages from knitting books and magazines from all ages. To give you an idea how thoroughly Ms. Macdonald has covered her subject – the main text of the book is 361 pages long, but there are also 57 pages of notes, and a 38-page bibliography.

I have only skimmed my copy so far, but it looks like a fascinating read. If you’re an avid knitter who also enjoys learning about what forces shape our world, I predict you’ll enjoy this one.

About Folkcat’s Craft Library

Filed under: Folkcat's Craft Library — folkcat at 12:34 pm on Wednesday, July 27, 2005

I’ve been meaning to make a catalog of the books and publications in my personal craft library, especially as a reference for my friends to know what I have that they might be able to borrow. I’ve chosen to do this in the form of a blog for gathering the data, but ultimately I’ll use the links to individual posts to create index pages that will sort by various criteria.

The posting format here will be simple. Each post title will contain the full categorization for the book, followed by the title. For example: Dollhouse and miniatures, projects: Tiny Treasures.

I’ll be entering books in no particular order, and I’ll do my best to provide a little commentary about the contents as well. Where possible, the books will also be links by which you can purchase them.

The Return of the Frogs

Filed under: Retired - Folkcat's Fiber Crafts — folkcat at 4:22 pm on Tuesday, July 26, 2005

*sigh*

SE4 was coming along beautifully – or so I thought.

When I last reported on it, here, I was about to pick up the side stitches after doing the heel flap and turning the heel. Since then, I got all the way down to the last round of instep decreases before I discovered a problem.

Somehow, I had picked up one more stitch on one side than the other. I think. Or, looking at the line of decreases on that side, there is one spot that bobbles a little, all the way back at the beginning of the decrease section. I may have done something funky there that left one more stitch.

I carefully undid the stitches in the decrease area alone down to just past the problem, and I carefully re-knit all those rows back up, and still had a problem.

Being thoroughly stumped by this time, I felt the better part of valor was to ribbit! ribbit! ribbit! all the way back to where I left off last time. So, if you want to see a picture of the current status of this WIP, just look at that listing and see the picture there.

Memory Box Update

Filed under: Folkcat & Gryphon's Geocaching Adventures — folkcat at 4:16 pm on Tuesday, July 26, 2005

As of the 24th, three days after we hid the Milford Memory Box, 9 people have logged a find there. Some have added some wonderful pictures to the gallery as well.

If you’d like to visit the listing and check it out, just go here.

Thanks to everyone who’s enjoying the cache so much!

Welcome to Folkcat in the Kitchen!

Filed under: Cooking - Folkcat in the Kitchen — folkcat at 11:36 pm on Sunday, July 24, 2005

Anyone who’s been reading The Life & Times of a Winged Cat may have noticed that I write a lot about cooking there. It wasn’t the plan, but it’s evolved into a major force of it’s own.

Hence, “Folkcat in the Kitchen”. I’ll be moving all my recipe-posts here soon, and you can expect to see frequent recipes, Folkcat’s Tips, and conversation about food as I explore and experiment with it. I hope you’ll enjoy it!

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