Roses and Teacups

I discovered that a batch of cold porcelain I made in February is still usable. Hard to work with, but adding small drops of Elmers glue to the dough it makes it malleable again. This is the first time a batch lasts this long. I tried to take a few pictures to illustrate how I model a rose and I apologize for the abysmal quality of the images. Not an excuse, but in a few pics I was holding both cell phone and dough. Needless to say, you get what you shoot for… or something like it.

A Rose

This is more or less what you need to create a rose.

The Cone









I start with modeling the cone that will support the structure of the finished rose. The petals are made by flattening  the small spheres between my fingers.

The Petal









Then, I wrap the petal around the cone like a tight scarf.

The Scarf









The second petal I add is not as tight as the first one, but more loosely embraces the stem.

Adding the petals









I keep adding petals, leaving them more and more open as I go around, while I pinch the base.

Assembling the petal









Finally, I have a fully formed rose.

The finished rose









I cut the rose from the cone and create the stem by rolling the remaining dough between thumb and index fingers. I repeat the process with a second flower and I add a rosebud.The two roses  








Close up of the small composition. To create the rosebud I make an incision on one end of an elongated cylinder and then I cover it with a snug petal.

Close up rose e teiera









I had to have some fun with the picture as well. Paint.NET oil filter on a resized canvas to accommodate my little piece of wisdom.

Life is too short not to have tea and smell the roses

Roses and Teacups

Friday Snippet #14

Following last week successful experiment, this Friday snippet was written just for fun. Coincidentally, I wanted to know what Allegra and Julius were doing. I left them unattended on a running train last week.

From X:

Cartaghena the Beautiful, it was called. Allegra rejoiced at seeing it still held true. They had jumped down the train worried it wouldn’t stop long enough to let them out. The city was still there. Unwalled. Unexed. Funny how words that hadn’t existed a year ago, now were part of their vocabulary.

“Ready?” Julius took her hand in his and gently squeezed it.

“Ready.” She smiled, not wanting to show him how scared she was and knowing it was a futile attempt. She had thought she could cope with going back home, but she had been wrong. Back at the boarding school, the pupils were shown footages of their home cities to prepare them. Mostly, it was done in good faith to help them visualize what they were going to find once out of the safety of the institute. But there had been accidents. Not every mind was strong enough to accept their families were lost to the world. Unreachable behind dark walls. And that was what scared Allegra the most. The unknowing quality of waiting for the truth to reveal itself. What if there was nobody alive behind those un-climbable barricades? What if the people you loved the most were worse than dead? One look at the glass towers and she sighed in relief; the buildings were mirrored on the placid waters of three rivers insinuating through the city. Cartaghena was intact. The destruction bordering its limits a palpable reminder nothing was what it used to be, but the city had been spared. For now. How long would it take for the Malady to corrupt her city?

“To your place first.” Julius’s good nature shone bright even in times like this.

Friday Snippet #14

Chocolate Banana Muffins

EnjoyToday, I feel like giving back to the world. I’ve been struggling to be good and avoid eating gluten and dairy, but sometimes it proves to be hard. But I do try and the following recipe is the proof I successfully concocted something worth serving to guests. The original recipe was for a banana bread and was given to me by a good friend—thanks, S. I made several substitutions and I had two bananas instead of three, but the final result actually surprised me.

The ingredients I had in the pantry:

  1. 2 Ripe Bananas
  2. 2 Cups of Gluten Free Pantry Decadent Chocolate Cake Mix
  3. 2 Eggs
  4. 3/4 Cup of Nutiva Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil

This is how I did it:

I threw everything into the Kitchenaid bowl and let the machine work its magic until  the bananas were completely dissolved and all the ingredients were well mixed. Meanwhile, I turned on my oven at 350F and oiled the muffin tray with a few drops of the coconut oil. I filled the muffin cups up to two third and put them into the oven for 30 minutes. Notice that my oven doesn’t cook well, but after the thirty minutes mark I poked one muffin with a wooden skewer and it was moist but not dry. I let them cool inside the open oven and then tried one and it smelled and tasted better than I thought. Reason why I thought to share the joy. As an aside, the image a the top of this post is actually a picture I took with my cell phone of one of the muffins. I used Paint.NET to give the picture a little makeup.

Chocolate Banana Muffins

Friday Snippet #13

Thankfully, being Italian the infamous number thirteen doesn’t have any effect on me. Seventeen on the other hand… I had my final high school exam on a Friday seventeen and it happened to be an Ancient Greek poem to translate in Italian. Serial killers were born that day.

I followed Clare’s suggestion and wrote just for fun. I know, incredible concept isn’t it? I have several works in progress—just remembered there’s a third story I started and never looked at again—but between the jet lag and life in general, I can’t concentrate. So here it is something I poured on the keyboard without thinking. It’s so liberating to put down words without worrying about writing from beginning to end. Forgive me the length, I didn’t have time to shorten it. Aptly named X…

The train didn’t stop. Allegra looked at the landscape outside the window, an ever-changing river of colors following each other in a maddening rush.

“I know where we are.” She tapped at the window with her long, brightly painted nail.

“Do you?” Julius raised his head from the article he was reading and looked outside.

“See the greens and the violets?”

“Yes, and the oranges and the reds.” He squinted but his expression remained puzzled. He did close the glass reader though and focused on her words.

She could see the news flowing under the surface of the reader, but she tried her best to ignore it. “I remember when I was a kid, my mom and I travelled for miles and miles through lavender fields and orchards to visit an old uncle. He lived in Rallen—”

“I have a cousin who lives in Rallen,” Julius started saying, then realization dawned on him. “Lived, I guess. So the rumors about Rallen being exed were true. ”

“So it seems. I’m sorry for your cousin. Maybe he’s still alive. Nobody knows for sure what happens behind the city walls.”

Julius cleaned a tear with the palm of his hand, sadly smiled and took a deep breath before saying, “Rallen was all white marbles and spires. It looked like delicate lace from faraway.”

Allegra understood his silent request to change the subject and didn’t interrupt his reminiscence. “We took tons of pictures inside the Mosque. Its ceilings were so high.”

A few minutes later, browns replaced the rainbow and she knew Cartaghena was next. Orchards once stretching for acres had been destroyed by wildfires soon after Centralia proclaimed martial law and started putting cities under quarantine by drawing the letter X on the municipal buildings doors. Only one month after the first exing in the ancient city of Lavi, walls were erected as a precaution to ensure the safety of the healthy citizens. Allegra had never believed Centralia’s good intentions.

“Will the train stop to let us go home?” Julius asked, the news already forgotten under the transparent screen of the reader as Cartaghena drew closer.

Friday Snippet #13

Before and After #4

The title should be Friday Snippet#something, but I landed in Washington State a few hours ago and unless I’ll be struck by the literary Muse later on during the day, I’m afraid there will be only awesome photo manipulation to look at this glorious Friday. It could be worse. I could hit you with some of my sad-days writing. And nobody wants to read that, starting with yours truly.

For this Before and After post I used a recent picture I shot at my parents’. On the front side of their house, under a lovely window that already got one of my makeover treatments, there’s this big terracotta vase that used to host a magnificent aloe plant. This year, winter in Umbria was particularly rigid and the poor plant suffered under the freezing snow and died. Now, only its ghost remains.

The Long Gone Aloe

The original image shot with my iPad. Unrelated to the quality of the picture and also unnecessary to the post, but my iPad has a pink cover. From my laptop to my cell phone, everything is pink. Just to give some background noise. I’m aware I should be writing my daily quota of words instead…

Vaso immagine originale rigirata


















During my flight from Rome to Amsterdam, I worked on it with Brushes for iPad: a little bit of accent here and there to make the colors shine and wrongly positioned the picture inside the canvas. No worries, nothing it can’t be fixed later.

Brushes Long Gone Aloe

The flight is only two hours, but it’s plenty of time to play with iPhoto and accentuate the color contrast and apply an artistic filter, a light oil.

The Long Gone Aloe











Time for some Paint.NET magic and the ink sketch filter. Also, some much needed cropping.

The Long Gone Aloe sketched















After the ink filter, I went back one step as usual and applied the oil filter on the iPhoto image.

The Long Gone Aloe oil















Finally, I applied the ink sketch filter on the oil image. This time, I must say this is probably my favorite of the whole bunch.

The Long Gone Aloe oil and ink















All in all, it was a productive way to spend a two hours flight, me thinks.

Before and After #4

Before and After #3

During our trip in the beautiful land of Umbria in 2007, we shot several hundreds pictures. In the ethereal city of Assisi, resting place of San Francesco, I discovered several hidden corners that begged to be immortalized.

Angolo Verde

The original picture














The image after a touch of iPhoto: the usual corrections, light balance and oil filter to the minimum.














The ink treatment with Paint.NET and a slight alteration of the light balance.

Angolo verde di Assisi, inked













Then, the softness of the oil color filter for a more whimsical rendition.

Angolo Verde, colori ad olio













Finally, to have some fun I applied the ink sketch filter right after the oil color plus the usual light adjustment. Love Paint.NET.

Angolo Verde, ink e colori ad olio insieme

Before and After #3

Friday Snippet #12

Back in Umbria to my parents’. A heat wave has been following me from the sea to the hills and only at night temperatures lower to reasonable digits. Today, despite the merciless weather condition, I wrote 2k words. Too bad they are the only words I typed in a week.

Although I should be working on both projects, my mental energies are depleted and I can’t see a clear path out of an impasse in the fantasy plot. Therefore, dystopian TCOM it is, again.

The man under the brunette’s care moaned in pain as she threaded the needle in and out of his skin. “I’m sorry, but it’s better this way. The longer it takes the more painful it is for you.” She patted his arm in a display of tenderness Marie found out of place. “The rector sent me another useless, snotty girl,” the brunette said under her breath, but loud enough to be heard. The man smiled through thin, bloodless lips.

Marie had already reached the door and was looking longingly at the darkness of the stairs, when the brunette called her back, “Where do you think you’re going?”

“I thought—” Sweat freezing on her forehead, Marie understood she wasn’t getting away from that job.

Friday Snippet #12