The alm Project

Diary of a Crafty Insomniac

Gluten Free Muffins

by Al - May 14th, 2015

Gluten Free, Sugar Free Muffin Recipe

Gluten Free Muffins

Gluten Free Muffins

Have you heard of the The Whole Life Challenge? it is “a 56-day, habit-changing, community-building game that is designed to help you live a happier, healthier life”. You play for points with friends and family and you are challenged to make small daily changes. Players are asked to include seven daily habits into their lives. They include exercise, hydration, mobility, supplementation, lifestyle practices, and reflection.

Well, I have decided to participate in this challenge and the best way to stay complaint is to prepare most of my meals. That way you know exactly what you are ingesting.

Now, full disclosure, I do not hangout in the kitchen very often. My creative mind has caused me to concoct some ill fated recipes – but every now and then I get one right. So I shall share the recipe with you.

Ingredients

  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup of raw honey or pureed dates
  • 1/2teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 cups of almond or gluten free flour
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk  – this is optional – I added it because I like coconut flavor or 1/2 cup plain almond milk, unsweetened
  • You may also add craisins – as much or as little as you like.

Instructions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Place all ingredients into a mixing bowl or mixer and mix well. You can also use a stick blender if you have one. Blend until well mixed.
Pour batter into a greased muffin tin.
Cook time: Approximately 15 minutes for full size muffins.

coconut

The anatomy of a coconut

Easy peasy, right?

My View of The Hoover Dam

by Al - May 5th, 2015

The Hoover Dam – A Few Facts I gathered on my trip to Boulder.

hoover dam

The Hoover dam

hoover dam

Constructed Between 1931 and 1935

Did you know that the Hoover Dam was once known as Boulder Dam? of course you did, just testing. It is a concrete arch-gravity dam in the Black Canyon of the Colorado River. It is located on the border between Arizona and Nevada.The Hoover Dam was constructed between 1931 and 1936 during the Great Depression. Its construction was undertaken by thousands of workers, and cost over one hundred lives.

The dam is located near Boulder City, Nevada, a municipality originally constructed for workers on the construction project, about 30 mi (48 km) southeast of Las Vegas, Nevada.

20150308_085845

The white line shows the former water level

It took 91.8 billion cubic feet of concrete to create a retaining wall of the Dam that weights an estimated 6.6 million tons. It was the most expensive engineering project in U.S. history at the time of its construction costing $49 million.

The primary purpose of the dam, is to generate electricity. The dam’s generators provide power for public and private utilities in Nevada, Arizona, and California. The Hoover Dam’s  electric generating plant has 17 turbines that can produce about four billion kilowatts of electricity per year.

20150308_084241

Amazing!

The Hoover Dam was also built to controlling floods and silt as well as irrigation.

The Container Park and Other Hidden Vegas Gems

by Al - April 30th, 2015

Container Park, Las Vegas

So, I am hanging out in Vegas, I don’t gamble, I don’t drink, I don’t like crowds, I think most of the entertainment they are offering is cheesy plus I do not want to spend $400 to see freaking Britney Spares. And a Prince cover band, seriously! Nah, I’ll pass. I would prefer the real thing. If you’ve seen 1 drag queen show, you’ve seen them all. The cirque du soleil shows are kinda cool – check; Chippendale’s dancers – check; zip lining down Fremont street – check. I have seen the outlet malls, the Fashion Show mall, the Miracle Mile mall, I have toured all the major hotels, and the under ground malls, I’ve had several helpings from the various ‘all-you-can-eat’ buffets, gained 5 lbs in 5 days and I still have 3 days before I return home. What to do? what to do?

A lengthy chat with the concierge turned up a hidden gem in Downtown Vegas. The Container Park – why is this interesting to me- I majored in Urban and regional planning in college (minored in Geography) I was curious to see modern day Urban Planning in full effect. Plus I am just different. And this place is different.

Container Park

Container Park Downtown Las Vegas – Artist rendering

Here’s the deal – Vegas is to home to several entrepreneurs who have great ideas for new businesses. However, there is no place for their businesses to go. unless they are willing to wait for new buildings to be completed – and that can be a long process.

Container Park Entrance

Container Park at Night

To speed up the process, The City of Las Vegas with the help of Zappos is employing what has been described as flexible urbanism. They’re transforming an underused, high value urban area by installing re-purposed shipping containers and Xtreme Cubes. These Xtreme Cubes, which are manufactured locally, houses small businesses such as cafes, boutiques, bars, galleries, and more. The park is made completely of shipping containers stacked upon each other and it incorporates community space, outdoor seating, and children’s play area to activate the center of the neighborhood.

Shipping Containers

Shipping Containers

Although downtown Vegas is kinda sketchy, I decided to be adventurous and hopped on the Deuce to go check it out.

The Container Park is on the southeast corner of Fremont and Seventh streets. It’s a mix of several shipping containers (I am told there are 30 of ’em) as well as modular cubes (41 Xtreme cubes).

container park shops

Container Park shops

When you approach the park from Fremont Street, there is a heart shaped sculpture covered with smaller metal hearts with messages of devotion written on them, all of them padlocked to the sculpture itself. The heart was originally created for the Life is Beautiful festival by artist Nova May. Yep, I am in for something different.

Lock Heart

Lock Heart

Next to the heat (at the entrance of the Container Park) is a giant flame-spewing steel sculpture of a praying mantis. This It’s 55-foot-tall steel sculpture is built atop a dump truck. I am told that it was originally built for use at the Burning Man festival in Northern Nevada’s Black Rock desert. How cool Hot!

Praying Mantis

Praying Mantis Sculpture

praying mantis

This Praying Mantis is on Fire!

Next to the sculpture there is a structure called the Catalyst Dome. It looks like an igloo and displays some groovy colors at at night. The structure is used for corporate events, private parties, performances, screenings and multimedia demonstrations. I would party there.

Catalyst Dome

Catalyst Dome

The sign at the main entrance of the Container Park is, in my opinion, a work of art. It is a creative use of negative and positive elements. Imagine an over sized laser cut out forming a monogrammed ‘windows’ (the negative) that spell “C-O-N-T-A-I-N-E-R P-A-R-K.” The positive pieces are placed atop the ‘windows’ to complete the look. Too cool – It looks like they used a super sized cricut machine to make it.

Container Park Sign

Container Park Sign

sign

Looking through the window

The sign is cut into a gray and orange shipping container, and also functions as a bridge.

The brige

The bridge

I walk through and viewed some of the action on Fremont Street from large window.

Container Park Sign

Container Park Sign all lit up

The west side of Downtown Container Park is has small galleries while the east side as mostly fashion and accessories. Dining and drinking outlets are scattered throughout the development.

Container Park Sign

Shops at the Container Park

There is a playground and an interactive zone designed for children at the center of the par. A shipping container has been converted into a 30-foot-tall tree-house with three different slides that I wanted to try out but thought it would be weird because I had no children with me. Kids can also play with the NEOS Playworld System, an electronic game that encourages them to race around while hitting flashing lights.

play ground

The play ground

I was so fascinated by the park experience, that I almost missed the Real train tracks that were laid for a boxcar and a caboose. There is an outdoor stage with a canopy, an audiovisual tower and lawn with benches positioned in front of the tracks.

There was an awesome indie band playing in the at the outdoor amphitheater that night. I got some food, then walked down to Fremont to take in the Viva Vision shows – It’s 12.5 million lights and 550,000 watts of sound. On my way back to the hotel I noticed a gathering of some bohemian looking hipster types. I stopped to check it out. I was in front of the Emergency Arts building where they were having a pop-up art show featuring artists, writers, photographers, clothing designers, musicians, film-makers, artisans, graphic designers, and entertainers. This was not Elvis’ Vegas!

Emergency Art Building

Emergency Art Building

Yeah, I am kinda digging downtown Vegas and the Container Park.

Hot chocolate

Not so Wordless Wednesday – Stratosphere Tower

by Al - April 28th, 2015

Stratosphere Tower, Las Vegas, Nevada

Stratosphere Tower

Stratosphere Tower

One day I am going to Sky Jump from this building.

stratosphare

The Stratosphere from a distance

The Stratosphere Tower’s SkyJump is the Guinness World Record holder for highest commercial decelerator descent.

Easy-to-Grow Indoor Plants That Thrive

by Al - April 23rd, 2015

Easy-to-Grow Indoor Plants That Thrive

Source: Fix.com

Wordless Wednesday – Grand Canyon

by Al - April 22nd, 2015

My View of the Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon National Park

Grand Canyon - South Rim

Grand Canyon – South Rim

Grand Canyon - South Rim

Grand Canyon – South Rim

Butte

Butte

grand canyon

A tree stands alone

Out crop

Mesa

mesa

Cliff hanger

Mesas and Buttes

Mesas and Buttes

That rock formation tho

That rock formation tho!

National Register of Historic Places

National Register of Historic Places

Wish you were there!

Wish you were there!

Monogrammed Flower Pots – and other Plant Pot Hacks

by Al - April 15th, 2015

Flower Pot/Plant Pot Make Over

Mother’s day is fast approaching (May 10th, 2015) and instead of heading to the mall to purchase gifts for all my mommy friends, I opted to create handcrafted gifts.  And since I am obsessed with all thing garden, I decided to personalize a few inexpensive clay plant pots. You can pick up flower pots from IKEA for as low as .45 cents. Although I am sure you have a few clay pots lying around – so no shopping necessary:) BTW, these would make a great Birthday, Father’s day or Just because gift as well.

Monogrammed/Personalized Plant Pot

Monogrammed/Personalized Plant Pot

The process is simple, and (like I said) chances are, if you are a DIY enthusiast or a crafter, you may already have most of the supplies in your craft stash.

You will need:

  • Plant pot
  • Primer
  • Paint
  • A stencil of your initial
.45 cent IKEA Plant Pot

.45 cent IKEA Plant Pot

I found a few plant pots at IKEA for .45 cents. They were coated with a high gloss beige paint (say NO to beige). Since the finish had a high sheen, I had to cover the plant pot with 2 coats of spray on primer. After priming the pots, I painted on my base color – the color of my monogram. I only applied the color to the area that I will be placing the letter. In the example below, I wanted my letter to be yellow, so my base color here is yellow. 

Monogrammed flower Pot

Monogrammed flower Pot

While I waited for my base paint to dry, I prepared my monogram on my computer. In this case, I typed lower case letters a and ‘m’, madethem bold, sized them to 3.5 x 3.5 inches and printed the letters to a sheet of  ‘sticker’ paper (blank adhesive printer paper). I cut out my letters and once the paint dries, I affix each letter to a plant pot.

al Mc

al Mc

You can use any word processing or imaging software – I used Adobe Illustrator – and you can chose any font you like – upper or lower case. I happen to think that lower case fonts are more interesting. 

Monochromatic Monogram

Monochromatic Monogram

 

Once I was happy with the placement of my letter, I applied several coats of paint to the plant pot. I waited for the paint to dry, then I removed the letter to reveal a perfect monogrammed flower pot. I completed the process by applying a layer of polyurethane to seal and protect my project. This way, you will be able to use the pots indoors or out doors.

blue_a

a is for Al

Since I was in a painting mood, I decided to paint a few more flower pots with abstract designs.

abstract shapes3

Abstract shapes

I had a few funky color nail polish that I picked up from a clearance bin in a dollar store. They were .25 cents each. Although I a fan of bold colors, I was a bit nervous about using these polishes. They had a high chemical smell and I was afraid that they could be carcinogenic or that I could loose an appendage if I applied them to my fingers and tootsies. So, after arming myself with a face mask, I taped off a few abstract shapes and painted a few funky colored shapes on my Ikea plant pots.

Abstract Plant Pot

Abstract Plant Pot

I like that you get a different pattern each time you rotate the pot. It’s like you have a new planter at every turn.

Perfect for succulents

Perfect for succulents

These planters have no  drainage holes, so I would not recommend planting directly in them. They are essentially a plant pot cover. Go ahead, use the cheap plastic pot that your plant came in – jus hide them or cover them up with you chic DIY plant pot.

abstract shapes4 I know what you are thinking, all my friends initials are ‘A’ or ‘M’, well no, those are my initials. I am keeping these masterpieces for myself:)

abstract shapes5

 

Home and Garden – Snake Plant AKA Mother-In-Law’s Tongue

by Al - November 12th, 2014

I have a new favorite plant and I am on a quest to add each variation to my balcony garden. The species is commonly known as the Snake Plant or Mother-In-Law’s Tongue or if you speak Latin Sanseivieria trifasciata. 

Snake Plant

Cylinderica Spear Snake Plant

The plant is an evergreen perennial plant that typically grows in a dense stands. This no fuss, succulent with thin upright leaves that resemble the skin of a reptile is native to tropical West Africa from Nigeria east to the Congo. In Africa, the plant is used as a protective charm against evil or bewitchment.

Snake Plant

Robista Snake Plant

The Snake plant  is a low-maintenance plant that will do well in bright, indirect or even low-light environments. They like to be pot-bound, and are difficult to kill (score!)
Water them every 1 to 2 weeks, allow soil to dry out completely between waterings. They  dislike Over-watering, cold temperatures and drafts.

Are you a forgetful or busy plant owner like myself? Its adaptations for surviving drought make it a suitable plant choice for you! and will work well in most living space, for example a bedroom or family room. These plants will  tolerate low and artificial light, making them great for dim spaces like first-floor apartments and office cubicles.

Snake plant

Birds’s nest snake Plant

The Mother-in-law’s tongue plant (so called because of the sharp pointy leaves) is recommended for improving air quality, it has one of the highest conversion rates of carbon dioxide to oxygen. You need 6 to 8 waist high plants per person to completely clean the air. (note to self – get more snake plants)

Check out the smoking hot pot!

Check out the smoking hot pot!

The Snake Plant have a low-toxicity level, making them less harmful to your household pets than other common houseplant. Plus, they can take some serious abuse. I’m talking getting knocked-over-and-detaching-from-its-roots neglect. Simply re-plant them and they will keep thriving.

Lighthouses – Another Nautical Inspiration

by Al - November 3rd, 2014

What is a lighthouse?

It is typically a conical shaped tower that is designed to emit light from a system of lamps and lenses and used as a navigational aid for maritime pilots. Lighthouses can be at sea or on inland waterways.

They mark dangerous coastlines, hazardous shoals, reefs, safe entries to harbors, and can also assist in aerial navigation. Because of the expense associated with their maintenance, the number of lighthouses in operation has declined and they are now being replaced by modern electronic navigational systems such as strobes.

Stars can't shine without darkness

Stars can’t shine without darkness

If this post seems like Déjà vu, it’s because I have addressed this topic before here. But this time around, I am seeing things a little different.

Please Indulge while I tell you a story. Recently, I lost my way. Because I live the isolated life of an artist, I was craving companionship so I decided to lend my talent for marketing to a local small business. The potential camaraderie was enough of an enticement.  Unfortunately, my zeal to help, left no time for  a creative outlet. I become obsessed with trying to grow someone else’s business with zero marketing budget – it was a challenge – one that became increasingly difficult because my client was resistant to change. Let’s just say, I now know why small businesses remain small.

I needed to get back to basics. I needed to create, so I went to my favorite place – the beach, and I spent hours simply gazing at the water and I was inspired.

lighthouse

Lighthouse in the Afternoon

My illustrations are typically more cartoon like – I guess you could say my artwork looks like it is straight out of a coloring book, but with Adobe illustrator’s help, I was able to add some more depth and details.

No clouds in sight

No clouds in sight

And as day turned into night, my head was bursting with ideas and I could hardly wait to get back to my computer to digitize my ideas.

lighthouse flower pot

Smoking Hot Flower Pot

What is a Tea Towel?

by Al - April 2nd, 2014
Not so stuffy

Not so stuffy tea Towel

A tea towel is a cloth typically used to spread over a tea tray before tea cups, tea pots and other tea paraphernalia are put onto it.  In addition, clean tea towels may be, or used to cover warm muffins, cakes and cookies or a tea pot to prevent heat loss. Some people, especially in North America, use tea towels for drying dishes and cutlery after they have been washed. Others use them as guest towels to dry your hands after washings. I am the product of a former British colony, I guess that explains my daily use of tea towels and my love of all things tea. And although you can pop down to your local big box store to get these versatile kitchen textiles, I felt the need to create a line of tea towel that defy the norm. My designs are influenced by my surroundings. I may be going for a run on the beach or at the park and I will see something that most people may take for granted, but that random image will show up in one of my designs.

Butterfly in my Garden

Butterfly in my Garden

Who doesn’t like butterflies. I have a container garden on my balcony and one of my greatest pleasures is sitting outside, having a cup of tea and watching the butterflies fluttering around my plants.

Water Under the bridge

Water Under the bridge

I live in south Florida where the terrain is flat – in fact most of Florida’s land mass is below sea level, but as I was running across a historic bridge in a tiny town in South Florida, I kept envisioning some mountains in the distance. when I designed this tea towel, I decided to add the mountains – I think it adds interest to the image.

Time for tea

Time for tea

These are not your mother’s tea towels:) These tea towels are designed to be conversation starters – they are art work for your kitchen. They are bold, colorful and whimsical – they are distinctively different; they each tell a story. What do you think?

xoxo Al