Sunday, January 13, 2013

Illustrating Fool

If I could go back to college I would study design. Because despite not having artistic talent, I am drawn to creative design work. But because I can't afford the time or money to redo college I have opted for a few classes here and there. If you have ever heard of Nicole Hill Gerulat, photographer extraordinaire, you may have heard of Nicole's Classes. Nicole works with Mike & Alma Loveland, as well as other professionals to teach us lay people some creative skills. I have attended two Art Weekends, which are three day events that offer  lots of different two-hour mini-courses. I have taken screenprinting, Illustrator 101, pattern-making (in Illustrator) and Photoshop. And Illustrator is my favorite. I feel like I can create something that I can picture in my mind, without my hands having to draw at all!

For Christmas this year, my sweet husband paid for me to take an online course from Nicole's Classes. So this month I am taking Illustrator 101 from the illustrious Alma Loveland. And I am loving it! It's so nice to take a month-long class instead of just two hours. I completed week 1 and am deep in the throes of week 2. For anyone yearning to cultivate their creative side I highly recommend Nicole's Classes. I am very impressed with their online format and they offer classes in photography, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop, flower arranging, sewing, and watercolors.

My first assignment was to make a typographic poster and I chose to make one for my friend that just had a new baby. I asked her about colors and used the sweet baby's name (isn't Piper Jane the cutest!). This poster is not fabulous design-wise, but it was fabulous as practice for all the things I learned in my first week. And I learned something about saving files properly so I was very pleased with the printed results. Costco prints a 16 x 20 size for only $6.


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Foods to Try

I am a Bzz Agent, which means I sometimes get products or services for free to try out and review. Over the holidays I was part of two campaigns - Alexia Frozen Foods, and Private Selection (by Kroger) Foods.

Sweet Potato Julienne FriesAlexia is a line of all natural, gourmet-inspired side dishes. I tried three Alexia products - which are available in your grocer's frozen food case, sometimes in the section for fancy or organic stuff. Although I found it at my grocery store, they carry less than half of the line of products. I would be interested in trying more of the products, but am not sure I will venture out to another store just for that.

The julienne sweet potato fries were our favorite. My family ate these straight off the baking sheet and enjoyed every bite. The seasonings were perfect. They were a great side to serve and are much healthier because they are baked and because they are sweet potatoes. Plus they taste better too!

The oven fries with rosemary and garlic were not as great. They cooked up well and had a pretty good flavor, but were dry and needed a lot of salt.

The garlic baguette was very convenient for a Sunday dinner with soup. It certainly didn't taste homemade, but was probably better than other frozen breads I've tried. The butter and seasonings were good and not overdone, and the bread baked up crisp on the outside and soft on the inside.

Private Selection is the gourmet brand by Kroger, which for me means my local grocery store, Fry's, carries all the products. I was already a fan of this line, particularly the ice cream and the greek yogurt, but was glad for the chance to try a few new things.

largeImageI tried a jar of fancy kalamata olives - and when I say "I" I mean my husband (because I hate olives). We actually served these at a holiday party and they were a big hit. They were higher quality than what we normally buy, but really were barely more expensive. We are switching.

We got a few kind of Private Selection crackers. We already buy these regularly and love them. My husband is strange and prefers crackers and cheese and fruit over chocolate for his dessert. I love chocolate, but with my weight-loss challenge I am starting to join him. (I started a new 8-week challenge yesterday). These crackers are higher quality than the cheap stuff, but much more affordable than the fancy ones.

We tried a bottle of the Private Selection Napoletana Roasted Garlic Sauce too. It was wonderful! I'm not a big fan of bottled tomato sauces, and usually just feed them to my kids or use them on pizzas. But I was impressed with the flavor and quality of this sauce. We are switching for sure!

My BzzKit also included some Private Selection coffee, but since we don't drink coffee we passed it on to my husband's co-workers.