Saturday, April 23, 2016

Spring crafting continues...

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 Anyone who knows me knows I am a gardener. I love flowers and all manner of plants and this invariably shows up in my work at this time of year. In addition to craft classes, I decorate the center to reflect the season so, of course, flowers play a major role in the decor.

In February, I decided to remake some decorative floral panels I had made for the Dorchester Senior Citizens Center in 2011 and I promised to show photos of the installation once it was in place. That took place last week and I have to say the effect is wonderful. Here you see it paired with a Spring sign I had originally made in 2012 to go over the entry door of the main activity room (as seen in the original post from 2012). That sign still looks as good as it did when I first made it and it blends seamlessly with the new floral panels. All the pieces were tacked onto a canvas covered frame in the office area and is a very eye catching display as people walk into the center.

 There are also decorations in other parts of the main room. Here are panorama photos of two large wall displays. The butterfly swarm is a crowd pleaser as they appear to chase each other down one panel, across a cork strip and up another panel, essentially taking up the entire wall with color. On another wall, there is a row of flowers gently rippling up and down across it.

There's more to come in the spring decor but I have to take a break to prepare for the next crafting project. It is a lovely card featuring flowers and butterflies on a high contrast background of black, white and a third color. It is a layout that looks as well in either landscape or portrait orientation. The ladies will have the opportunity to emboss the design of their choice on the base panel, assemble the flowers and butterflies and manipulate the paper so the various elements pop up away from the card, giving them a three dimensional look. This card has already generated some interest so I'm hoping for a full house at the next crafting session. I'll let you know how that goes.

Until then, keep crafting!


Ballo ergo sum,
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Back in the Crafting Saddle

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Sunburst Card
As I mentioned in my last post, I have returned to conducting craft classes at the Dorchester Senior Citizens Center. This time around I have a new crop of crafters so I'm hoping to try out some new techniques and projects with them. The first two projects were simple greeting cards assembled from kits I designed and created. Simple projects give me an idea what the participants are capable of and what they like to do.

This week I tried something a little different and had them create three dimensional dahlias that will be used as decorations. The project itself was really very simple...roll and glue square pieces of paper into cones to form the petals, then hot glue them onto paper circles to form the flower. Here's what I learned from this exercise: a) rolling 41 squares of paper into cones takes time, b) not everyone can easily roll a paper cone and glue it into shape, c) not everyone knows what a glue gun is, let alone know how to use one, and finally d) when Access-A-Ride shows up, I lose my class as they run out to catch their ride. As a result, most of my ladies did not complete their flowers but they promised to return next week to finish it up. Nevertheless, a couple of diehard crafters who did not depend on outside transportation stayed and completed the project. They are shown here with their completed flowers.
3-D Dahlias on Display @ DSCC

The prototypes that I completed prior to the class for demonstration purposes as well as those completed by my class were tacked to a fabric covered panel on the wall of the room and are now part of the center's spring decor which I am currently in the process of mounting. In the next post I will have photos of some of the spring decorations that I have put up, some of which I have created specially for Dorchester Center. Until then...


Ballo ergo sum - Gitana, the Creative Diva

Saturday, March 19, 2016

A New Start With Old Friends

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I have returned to my beloved senior center to conduct crafting classes as I did four years ago. It seems so bizarre that it's been four years already. I feel as if I never left the place. Today I returned to conduct a crafts class and, as usual, the project was a card. As with all new activities, the members have to ease themselves into it slowly so I only had a couple of women to work with but I'm sure with time my participants will increase.

This first card was a simple one based on a layout I found on Pinterest and introduced the techniques of die punching and rubber stamping to the class. The ladies had a choice of punches and stamped verses to choose from to make their card unique. They both enjoyed themselves and one of the ladies asked to make another one for her son who will soon be graduating from a trade school. Hopefully they will spread the news to the other members and more will join the class.


Last week I decorated the center for St. Patrick's Day using predominantly purchased items in addition to some hanging shamrock ornaments that were made by the center members in one of my classes five years ago and still survived. I created another version of that ornament and made some to add to the original batch and used them to dress up the center a bit. Here's a photo of this year's version of the ornament. You can go HERE to see the original version and the women who made them.


St. Patrick's Day is over now and all the shamrocks have come down in preparation for spring decorating. I will soon be putting up the pretty new panels I made a few weeks ago. Go HERE to see those panels and the original one they were based upon.

This time around I would like to introduce techniques to the members that they can build upon to create cards and other objects as opposed to creating complete kits that they assemble. I want them to do more of the work in order to foster a sense of pride and accomplishment in the finished product. We'll see how it goes. If nothing else, this is a new start with old friends. Another adventure begins.

Ballo ergo sum
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Thursday, February 25, 2016

A Tiny Little Kitchen Trick = A Big Difference

This post is way off my beaten track but bear with me.

Have you ever spent untold time, energy and scouring pads trying to clean off the burnt on grease that stubbornly clings to your stove burners? If you have a self-cleaning oven, I've got a tip that will change all that. It was something I discovered after my own countless and futile attempts to clean my burners.

It occurred to me that burners are made to withstand the high and sustained heat of cooking, like an oven. I figured if the burners could withstand the heat of the oven, they could probably withstand the much higher heat of a self-cleaning cycle. Sure enough, the next time I set my oven to self clean, I placed the burners inside. Hours later when the cycle was over and the burners cooled to the touch, I sponged and rinsed them off and...VOILA!...clean burners. They actually looked like new again after all that accumulated schmutz (that's a technical term) was removed. One year I needed to have a repair made to the stove and I mentioned this to the repairman. He looked at me in surprise and said, "Wow, I'm gonna tell that to my customers."

You're welcome.

Ballo ergo sum
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Revisiting Spring - Update

(Click on any picture to view a larger image. Scroll to the bottom of the post to see the update.)

Original panels 2011
New panel 2016
Filigree butterflies adorn each corner.
One of several whimsical ladybugs.
About five years ago I created some simple floral panels as part of the spring decor for the Dorchester Senior Citizens Center. After years of use they were in need of some refurbishing so I decided to spruce them up. As usual, what started out as one thing turned into another and I didn't refurbish them at all. I decided to remake them. I kept all the same elements of the original panels -- a winding vine with flowers attached and butterflies flitting about -- but decided to make them really pop with color and texture. The updated version has larger flowers in clusters and leaves in vibrant colors. The butterflies are really fancy and are suspended off the face of the panel so they appear to be floating over it. I reused some of the flowers from the original panels and I even added little ladybugs for a touch of whimsy. I folded and manipulated the paper so the various elements had three dimensional depth and didn't lay flat against the background paper.
At 28 inches, the new panels are about two inches longer than the originals. This first prototype panel took me a long time to decide what I wanted to do. Now that it's completed, the other three should come together a lot more quickly.

As the days grow longer and the weather is turning slightly warmer, it won't be long before spring erupts in its annual display of color and sound. This year the Dorchester Senior Citizen Center will be ready to welcome her in style.


UPDATE (2.26.16)
Four Completed Panels
The new spring panels are complete! As you can see, they are much livelier than the original panels they were based on. It won't be long before they're mounted on the wall at the senior center. Spring soon come. Bring it!

Ballo ergo sum 
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Another Year Gone By.

The past two months are a blur. Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Eve have come and gone and we're already past the middle of January 2016. Why does it seem that time is moving more and more swiftly as I get older?

Some of the highlights of the past couple of months include gardening. Yes, gardening. In December. In New York City. Early winter 2015 boasted some of the warmest weather in recorded history with temperature hitting 70 degrees two days before Christmas. As a result, my garden was in quite a confused state. My front yard hoop house, which had been winterized with a plastic covering, was now as warm as a spring day and producing a bumper crop of cilantro and some red leaf lettuce. The lettuce was sufficient for a small side salad (yum) and I am still harvesting cilantro for cooking. I find this winter cilantro to be even more fragrant than the warm weather variety.


The holidays would not be complete without some Christmas-related crafting. Although I was busy with many things, I made time for some last minute card and tag making. The tags came from my RTU (Ready To Use) stash of leftovers and I embellished them a bit with gold edging and text cut from gold card stock. For the cards. I decided to go simple. Instead of designing something from scratch, I chose a free ornament cutting file from birdscards.com, mounted the finished ornament on cardstock squares that I had in my RTU stash, and used one of my favorite card styles: the matchbook. The cardstock I used for the card was double-sided so the inside was a coordinating print to the outside. A bit of ribbon, a small ornament and a bow round it out. I printed out my own greeting on my computer, slapped in inside the completed card and, voila!, a finished card. You can find the free cutting files on Birdscards.com's website HERE .

I also made time to create an winter themed over-the-door sign for the Dorchester Senior Citizens Center. A couple of years ago I made a spring themed door sign and I thought it was time for another season to be represented. Again, I used cutting files from www.birdscards.com for the corners and some of the snowflakes. The plan is to eventually create signs for every season so they can be changed every three months.

Valentine's Day is around the corner and I haven't done a thing to prepare, craftwise. I better get moving. Looks like the next few months will be a blur also.


Ballo ergo sum
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Friday, November 13, 2015

Late Fall Garden Update


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The weather is turning nippy and the winds are blowing the remnants of fall's brilliant leaves around into whirlwinds of color. My garden, which has been so productive, is beginning to slow down in preparation for winter. Nevertheless, it still has some bounty to share before the long sleep. Here are the last of the apples in my tree. These beauties are the inaccessible ones at the very top of the tree. Since they can't be reached, we have to wait for them to fall. The squirrels and birds haven't been very cooperative in this regard, helping themselves to more than half the apples on the tree.  Apparently they have had their fill as they have left these few alone. Fortunately these apples did not get mangled, beaten or bruised from the fall and fell onto the soft dirt instead of the hard concrete surrounding the garden. There's good eatin' here.

My monster tomato plant (yes, plant...singular) has all but obliterated the azalea bush that supports it. Only a little bit of the bush is visible on the extreme right side. The rest is all tomato. It is still producing flowers which I am ripping off as fast as they are being produced in the hope of redirecting the growth hormones to the developing fruit. There are still hundreds of little green tomatoes on the vine. Because of the shorter days and cooler weather the ripening process has slowed down drastically but I am still harvesting quite a bit. I was out of town for a week and upon my return the bowl of tomatoes you see here was waiting for me.


Now begins the long process of readying my garden for winter. Spent plants must be uprooted, Pots must be brought in, and plastic must be draped over the hoop house to shield it from the ravages of snow and ice. I'm tired just thinking about it but it inspires me to look forward to next season's garden. Now I have property upstate that I can plant also. More work. More fun. More food. I love my garden .

Always and All Ways,
#Gitana the Creative Diva







Sunday, October 25, 2015

More Halloween Goodies

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I have truly been enjoying myself immensely while creating Halloween decorations for the Dorchester Senior Citizens Center. In my last post I showed photos of the fancy pumpkins, bows and poster that I made. Here I have a Halloween spiderweb wreath complete with resident spiders. A foam wreath foam was wrapped with a fall inspired ribbon as the base. A commercially available spider in a web was added to the center and a second ribbon in orange was wrapped around the wreath and interlaced with the web, holding it firmly in place. A pretty two-toned bow with sheer black tails and a pumpkin jingle bell in the center top it off. I made a bunch of itty bitty spiders to go around the edge of the wreath. Can't you just see the attitude in their eyes? They mean business.

Bows and glittery coils adorn the sparkly witch hats. These hats were already so pretty, they didn't need much more than a pretty coordinating bow to complete the look.

My final project before closing the book on this year's Halloween decorating is a straw fan done very simply with a silhouette of a witch flying on a broom. The witch is backed with vellum which mutes the colors of the red and yellow ribbons radiating behind it. The muting was just the subtle touch needed to keep the scene from looking too busy. The handle of the fan is adorned with curled black and orange ribbons and highlighted with a little white ghost in the middle.

As much as I love Halloween, it is time to let it go for now and revisit it again next October. Now I have to concentrate on the next big holiday -- Christmas! A creative diva's work is never done.


Ballo ergo sum
- Gitana, the Creative Diva
#GitanaTheCreativeDiva

Monday, October 19, 2015

The Witching Hour Is Nigh.

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Although I'm no longer acting as Dorchester Senior Citizens Center arts and crafts specialist, I still pop over for a visit from time to time because I really like the people there and I always find an appreciative audience for my crafts. This fall I'm making Halloween decorations for them and these are my latest creations.

The center secured the materials for these decorations from Materials for the Arts, a NYC organization that receives donations of goods from various sources and redistributes them to non-profit organizations. Sometimes the pickings are phenomenal, as with the beautiful ribbons and embellishments I used to create the bows. The bright orange paper was also scored at MFTA on a trip a few years ago.

Halloween...second only to Christmas as my favorite holiday.


Ballo ergo sum,

- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Thursday, October 8, 2015

The Vine That Ate Troy Avenue

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View from the front of the garden
No, you're not looking at a scene from an agricultural horror flick. What you're seeing is a monster tomato plant that has all but consumed my ancient azalea bush and is using it as its own personal trellis. This vine spontaneously sprang up in the middle of my garden of its own accord. Had I intentionally planted it, I would have placed it in a container. I thought about pulling it up but then I got lazy and decided to leave it and allow it to take its course. OH MY, I got a whole lot  more than I bargained for. Turns out that this tomato was an indeterminate variety. That means that it is a sprawling vine that keeps on growing and growing and growing until weather or other conditions kill it off. Some of those tentacles are over eight feet long!! If I had known that when I saw that cute little plant spring out of the ground, I might have yanked it out without any mercy but I'm actually glad I didn't. Turns out that:

View from the back of the garden

Indeterminate Tomato Varieties Have Better Tomato Flavor*

“Determinate” and “indeterminate” are terms used to describe a tomato variety’s growth habit — but many gardeners don’t realize these categories relate to flavor, too. Most determinate tomato plants have fewer leaves per fruit than their sprawling indeterminate cousins. These compact determinate plants have the advantage of growing better in containers and producing all of their harvest at once, which makes them great for processing. But, don’t expect them to be as flavorful as the vining indeterminate varieties that have more leaves to convert sunlight into sugars and, thus, develop more intense, complex flavors (*Source).
The fruits of my labor

Who knew? Not me, but I can tell you this. Those little tomatoes, pictured here, are delicious. My son pops them in his mouth and eats them like candy. I've used them in salads, in stews, made tomato sauce with them and they are great. Best I've ever grown, really, and I never would have known this had I ripped it out of the ground. And it's still producing in October! I have dozens of green tomatoes on the vine waiting to ripen. 

Basil, Lettuce seeds, and more
These days I've been harvesting as much as I can because the days are shorter and the weather is cooler. Here you'll see a picture of Italian basil, red lettuce seed heads, some tiny potatoes that were hiding from me last time and a green pepper. Those leaves are going to be dehydrated, those seeds will be separated out from the heads for next year, and those potatoes and pepper are destined for my cooking pot. BONUS: the cooler weather benefits cilantro which has begun to grow in my garden now from seeds that dropped from the spring crop. More tasty herbs on the horizon. The cycle begins again.

This year's growing season is winding down but I'm still reaping the benefits and planning next year's garden. I'm smiling just at the thought of it.

#LoveMyGarden 



Ballo ergo sum - Gitana, the Creative Diva