Friday, August 9, 2013

My New Favorite Jeans

Something light hearted for your Friday: a shopping recommendation!

I have sadly been on the hunt for a good pair of jeans for almost 18 MONTHS. Since Judah was born I have not been able to find a pair of jeans I really like. I used to live in the Stella skinny leg jeans from Express. I do have some of their "jegging" line that I like because they still have a lot of stretch. But when it comes to true denim, putting on those jeans just didn't quite feel... right.

Anyone that's had a baby can tell you that even though you may weigh the same as before kids, your body shape may be completely different. And that's definitely true for me. I weigh exactly the same as I did pre-Judah...but clothes fit SO differently now! I'm a little thicker in the waist and my butt is flatter (what the heck is up with that?).

The problems I was having with jeans were endless - one was that I was between sizes, so it's hard to find something that fits properly without alterations. I was also finding that I would try a pair on in the store and they would fit great, but then I'd get home and they would start getting saggy really quickly. I was having to belt all my jeans or keep pulling them up constantly. It was because the denim was loosing it's elasticity too quickly, so I'd keep washing and drying them hoping for that "just out of the dryer" fit.

A lot of the problem comes from the rise of the denim - everything is super low rise now. That just doesn't work for me or my mommy muffin. Enter my new favorite: the Straight and Narrow Dark Wash Jeans from J. Crew Factory.

The rise actually comes up to my belly button. The denim is quality enough so that it doesn't get stretched out after one wear, and thick enough so that I know it's durable. The cut is simple and doesn't have a lot of trendy fading or distressing on the wash.

Image via
Best of all? Right now they're on sale for $44. I ordered a pair of skinny cropped jeans in coral from J. Crew Factory about a month ago when they were having a 40% off of their already reduced clearance and got this pair for $17:

Both jeans were a great deal since they're normally $80. They both fit great, and I'm looking forward to ordering more in the future. Hopefully THIS will finally be the brand of jean I've been searching for and can count on.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Back in the Saddle

I have not done a new oil painting in more than two years... until now. I decided it was time to get back in the saddle, and I really missed working in my favorite medium. I stopped oil painting when I was pregnant with Judah because of all the toxic chemicals in the paints and in the mixing mediums and switched to watercolor. And then of course it's really hard to find time to paint with a toddler running around getting into EVERYTHING. So I moved my little studio to my office at work and started painting during my lunch breaks. It was perfect - quiet, and I didn't have to worry about a small human getting into toxic chemicals.

The subject is what scared me. I chose to do a portrait of Judah, and I was so worried because I wanted it to look like him. I am mostly happy with the way this turned out, and it looks a lot like the photo I was painting from, but I'll admit, it's rare that his face ever looks that serious. I searched and searched for the perfect image to use, and ultimately went with this one. It's one of the closest I have of his face where he's mostly still and has a lot of dramatic lighting. I'd like to share the process with you if you're interested.

I started my painting with a light pencil drawing straight onto the canvas which you can see a little bit of in this shot. I used only three tubes of paint with this piece because I wanted the finished painting to look cohesive: Cadmium Red - Medium Hue, Cadmium Yellow - Medium Hue, and French Ultramarine Blue. And Titanium White of course. Every color in the finished painting was mixed using only those three primary colors and white. I used very light washes to rough in the dark areas. If you want to know the medium I use to thin my paint this is my formula:

• 5 parts ordorless turpentine
• 2.5 parts linseed oil
• 1 part damar varnish

I work "lean to fat" - the darkest areas actually have the least amount of paint on them and are a bit translucent. The lighter areas have much more paint and go on towards the end.

Here you can see the picture I'm working from clipped to the top of my easel. This stage kind of makes me laugh. It's where I start tweaking it to actually look like the person I'm painting. I make a list of things that need to be adjusted. For example, I don't like in this one how his eyes look too intense and not really like the sweet baby that he is. His chin in a little too pointy and the eyebrows are too dark and sharp. The upper lip is also slightly too pointy. So I go through and make little edits and tweaks. Sometimes moving something a millimeter makes a difference.

And here's the final piece one more time! I have a home for it already in my renovated office at home on the gallery wall. I just need to find a frame.

If you're at all interested in a custom portrait, I do accept commissioned work. You can shoot me an email or contact me through my etsy shop. It feels good to be back to doing what I love!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

On the Menu: Bistro Chicken Pasta Salad

I've been following Kraft on Pinterest and have to admit - they've got some great recipes! And they're all really easy, which is a nice benefit. If you click on one of their recipes, it will take you to their page so you can even make a shopping list.

This recipe for Bistro Chicken Pasta Salad has become Scott's new favorite. I love it because it doesn't heat up my kitchen. I've tried this recipe with pre-grilled strips from Tyson and also with grilled chicken that Scott made on the grill earlier in the week. Both are great options, but grilling your own chicken is definitely more economical. Also, I didn't take pictures of this one, but another recent hit in our house was this Bacon and Avocado Macaroni Salad.

Bistro Chicken Pasta Salad Ingredients:
• 2 cups cooked whole grain penne pasta
• 1 cup cherry tomatoes - quartered
• about 1/4 of a red tomato - diced
• 1 4 oz container of feta cheese - crumbled
• 1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes
• 1/2 lb chicken breast - grilled and cut into 1/4" strips
• A handful of fresh chopped basil if you have it, 1/2 tsp of dried basil if not
• A package of Good Seasons Italian Dressing Mix - prepared with the "less oil" directions (you'll need oil and vinegar to mix)

Combine all ingredients and enjoy! Serve room temperature or chilled.