Friday, July 30, 2010

Busy Day!

We have errands to run this morning and a Mexican feast to prepare for a dinner party tonight. Well, it's just us and Doris (the friend from my previous post), but that's enough people for a feast, right?!

So, for now I leave you with some garden photos from this morning...

See you all again tomorrow! Enjoy your day!!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

What's the Deal?

For weeks now we've had a bald-headed male cardinal come to our feeder. He looks quite funny with his black shiny head. And lately, the female cardinal who is always with him has also become bald. Does anybody know what that's about?

We've speculated that maybe they have a brood of young ones who are difficult to handle and the stress is causing their feathers to fall out...

On another note, I spent the day yesterday here with our artist friend, Doris, who works with fibers and beads (you can see her stunning work here). She and I had a great time in this creative little town and I got so inspired visiting quite a few galleries. What was most exciting to me was that as I looked at some of the other people's art, I thought that my art could fit right in. That was a nice feeling!

Today, I am busy, busy with creative projects and hope to have something else to show you soon! But in the meantime, I wish you a happy Thursday.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Do you remember my series of sort of light-hearted little paintings I did earlier this summer?

I was looking at them a while ago and tried to figure out what to do with them because I like them as a series (and I want to hang on to the originals for now) and suddenly I thought: bookmarks! Aren't they fun?

As you've probably noticed from some of my posts and photos, we LOVE to read and I think one can never have too many bookmarks. (Especially if you are like me and have several books going at once!)
If you want to check them out in my Etsy store, click here. So far, I've only listed four of the series of ten, but I'll be listing the others as well soon...

Happy reading... 

Monday, July 26, 2010


For a long time now, I've wanted a pretty apron, what's more than that, I wanted to make it myself. So, a few weeks ago, I went out and found a pattern and fabric I loved and cut out all the pieces. And then it sat. And sat.
Until a couple of days ago that is. I decided it was time to make this apron and see if I was still able to sew. And I found that sewing is much like bicycling for me. Once learned, it seems to have stayed with me for all these years that I didn't touch my sewing machine.
The fact that it was an easy pattern also helped. I only had to open up one seam that I had messed up. Not bad! And the end result?!? I love it! What do you think?
I don't know what took me so long to start on this. And ... you guessed it ... I've already laid out the fabric for another one with a different pattern. I find that housework is so much more enjoyable with a pretty apron...

P.S. I have been painting again and should have something to show you soon. I'm so excited!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Peach Crisp

It all started when Daniel had to go to Hilton Head and came back with these five big, beautiful, ripe peaches. Ten minutes later, they looked like this:
And 45 minutes after that, they came out of the oven hot and bubbly and too delicious for words...
Click here to find the recipe for this scrumptious peach crisp.

But first, here are our variations: I didn't make the crisp in ramekins, but rather in a baking dish, which pretty much doubled the baking time. Also, we thought the lemon flavor (zest and juice of one lemon) was a little too strong and overpowered the peach flavor. So, next time - and there will be a next time soon - I'll probably just use zest and juice of half a lemon. And maybe add a little ginger...


Saturday, July 24, 2010

"No Pressure, You Know?"

That's what dear Anne of El Milagro Studio said to me in response to my worry about not painting in this post. She had other wise things to say as well, as had all of you, but "no pressure" — those two words have been on my mind constantly since then!
I don't know about you, but I put enormous amounts of pressure on myself! And I'm not exactly sure why!
I'd like to blame it on someone else or on my upbringing, but the fact is that nobody applies pressure to me other than my own inner voice.
There are many people who have significant external pressures. I am lucky in that I don't! And I think that's part of it. It's still hard for me to enjoy my good fortune without feeling guilty, without feeling I need to work extra hard to justify the wonderful life I have right now. Do you know what I mean?
And those feelings often prevent me from moving forward, from enjoying all that free time I have, and the creative projects that are in front of me.
Does that ever happen to you? It's such a waste of time and energy! Mostly I am aware of when it's happening and will make a conscious effort to enjoy life. But after all these years of an easier life, the enjoyment of it still doesn't come naturally. Part of me has trouble believing I deserve it.
So, yesterday was one of those days. And I decided to take my wonderful friend Beth's (of Beth's Take on Life) advice to "just be as I am." I took the pressure off. No plan, no guilt, simply being.
And a funny thing happened. I spent the whole morning sewing on a project that had lain dormant for weeks, after which I suddenly - out of the blue - felt like painting again. Plus, I finished two crocheting projects AND made a delicious peach crisp ... but that's a recipe for another post!
So, the motto for today and forevermore: NO PRESSURE!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Friday Food - Asparagus with Tarragon Sherry Vinaigrette

I am of the opinion that it's always wise to interrupt deep thoughts with good food. So, I'm doing that in my blog posts as well. Too much deep thinking is not good without sustenance.

Daniel recently found The Gourmet Cookbook (edited by Ruth Reichl) at the public library and, after we tried some of the recipes, bought a copy from a used book seller. It has over 1,000 pages of deliciousness, and - here it comes, dear friends!! - over 400 pages of baked goods and desserts. That's a cookbook for us!!

Here's a simple Asparagus recipe we tried the other evening and I thought you might like it, too. It reminded me of the way my mother would serve asparagus salads (with white asparagus, though) when I was growing up.

Asparagus with Tarragon Sherry Vinaigrette
from The Gourmet Cookbook

1 1/2 pounds medium asparagus, trimmed
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
2 teaspoons minced shallot
1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh tarragon
1 hard-boiled large egg

Cook asparagus in a 4- to 5-quart wide pot of boiling well-salted water, uncovered, until just tender, 3 to 5 minutes, depending on thickness. With tongs, transfer to a bowl of ice and cold water to stop the cooking. Drain well and pat dry with paper towels.

Whisk together vinegar, shallot, mustard, salt, and pepper in a small bowl, then add oil in a slow stream, whisking until well blended. Whisk in tarragon.

Halve egg and force through a coarse-mesh sieve into a bowl. Toss asparagus with 1 tablespoon vinaigrette and divide among four plates. Spoon remaining vinaigrette over asparagus and top with egg.

Our variation: Instead of poaching the asparagus, we brushed it with a little bit of olive oil and then grilled it. It tasted soooo good!!


When I checked this morning, I saw that there are now 300 followers on my blog! I am simply blown away! Thank you so much - and Welcome to the new readers!! And, as soon as the creative muse visits me again, there will be a giveaway. Promise!!

But for now I wish you a most wonderful Friday and a great start to your weekend!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Creative Journey

I've been reading and rereading your comments on this post and thinking about all the good wisdom you shared with me and all of us, really. This has spawned quite a few blog post ideas as I want to share my thoughts with you.
First of all, I was reminded by you that this is a creative journey. Not a destination. It is a becoming, which implies movement. I've been so focused on the end result, the paintings I create (and don't create right now), that I was missing the deliciousness of the whole process.
Painting is so new to me that for some reason I didn't realize that it also has a rhythm to it, just like the rest of my life. I've gotten used to most things coming to me in waves, like the high and low tides I see at the ocean.
And when it's low tide, I'm never afraid that the high tide will be forever gone. I know it's coming again. The same, I take it from your experiences, is true for the creative muse.
You've also reminded me that this is bigger than just cranking out paintings. This is my life. I am expressing all of me in this art and, again, the ebb and flow of all of life will be present in my
creative journey.
Now that I 'm writing about it, it seems so obvious. Thank you for pointing it out to me. So, forward I march, simply being me - whether I paint today or not. All of life is art really, isn't it? And how we live it makes us an artist, not just if we can paint on a canvas.
What do you think?
(I took all photos on a beach outing on Tybee Island a few days ago. Click here to see Daniel's finished sketch. It's really beautiful!)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Another Thank You...

I want to give a great big Thanks for a recent giveaway I won. And for this I have to say thank you first to the wonderful Theresa of Fairie Moon Creations for introducing me to Art and Beth. If you haven't yet visited Theresa's blog, you must (click here)! Not only does she create gorgeous jewelry, she also features different artists every week and many of them have a giveaway.

That's where I first saw the beautiful stained glass pieces created by Art and Beth Crouse of Glass of Many Colors. Click here to visit their website (which also has a link to their Etsy shop). The beautiful colors and designs are just a joy to look at!!

And here is what I won:
Aren't those the most beautiful wind chimes? When we unwrapped them today, Daniel saw immediately that they was perfect for our back porch with our bright orange door. Makes us very happy!

Thank you so much, Art, Beth and Theresa!!

Thank You So Very Much...

...for all your heartfelt comments on my post yesterday, sharing your own experiences, fears and triumphs, and encouraging me on my journey. You have no idea how much that meant to me!
You've helped me realize (once again) that as I am spreading my creative wings I am by no means alone. There is a whole swarm of us butterflies ready to spread beauty in the world...

You've given me much food for thought and I feel a few follow-up posts coming on, but for now I just wanted to tell you a great big THANKS!  You all are the best!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Time to fess up...

Ok, so I haven't been in my studio for over two weeks. I blame it on the heat, but that's only part of the truth. The other part is that I am sort of intimidated by the creative process at the moment.
I know that sounds sort of weird, so let me try to explain...

My art is changing and I don't know if it is good objectively seen, but to me it seems to be getting really good. Different than before with more depth or something -- hard to put into words.

All my life, I have had real difficulties being really good at something. I'm so comfortable not standing out in any way (actually, in my younger years I consciously practiced blending in and it has sort of stuck with me), that when something starts happening that might make me stand out, I immediately get paralyzed.
Ok, that sounds like I think I am oh so very good, but that's not it. I have that feeling that something is happening in my art that is going to make me extraordinarily and uniquely "me," sort of like I am finally on the cusp of living the creative life I imagine living and it scares me into inactivity.

I know it makes no sense and logically I am aware of it all and I know just what I need to do, but emotionally it's a whole different story. It's that old notion of fitting in, of not making waves, and of trying so hard to be "normal."

And, believe me, I KNOW that being "normal" is highly overrated, I KNOW that there's nothing else but to be "me", but how to know it emotionally? How do you make that leap from knowing something in your head to knowing it with your whole being? I am hoping at least one of you knows what I am talking about...
In the past, as soon as I'd get to a point like this, I'd retreat and sort of blend into the masses again for sheer comforts sake, but not this time. I've considered it - believe you me! But when I do, everything in me says MOVE FORWARD!
One of the reasons I am putting this out here is because I know that when I say this "out loud" to you all,  it is much more of a commitment than when I just say it quietly in my mind. And, most importantly, because I wonder if some of you are dealing (or have dealt with) with something similar.

So, are you?!?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Fig Tart

Friday, I made a fig tart that is simply to die for. We had collected quite a few figs from our tree so that we had enough for the tart and still have some left over to simply eat!

This is definitely a great recipe and I thought I'd share it with you all!


Rosanna Jolis's Fig Tart with Pink Peppercorn Glaze
from The Martha Stewart Cookbook
makes one 11-inch tart

Pastry Cream
1 cup milk
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 egg yolks, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 cup fig purée (English fig jam)
2 to 3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon crushed pink peppercorns (we couldn't find any and I just used a little cracked black pepper, less than a teaspoon - I think it's stronger than pink peppercorns)

1 11-inch Pate Brisée tart shell (fine the recipe in this blog post), prebaked and cooled (or simply use your favorite pie crust)
12 ripe fresh figs, quartered (or more if you have small figs like we do)

To make the pastry cream, heat the milk in a heavy saucepan until hot but not boiling. Combine the sugar, flour, and salt in a mixing bowl, and slowly stir in the hot milk. Pour this mixture back into the saucepan and bring to a boil over low heat, stirring constantly. Cook the mixture until smooth and very thick.

Off the heat, beat in the egg yolks, one quarter at a time. Return the mixture to the heat and boil for about a minute, stirring vigorously. Remove from the heat and continue to beat until the mixture cools slightly. Stir in the vanilla and butter, blending thoroughly. Cover the pastry cream with plastic wrap, directly touching its surface and let it cool completely.

To make the glaze, put the fig purée in a saucepan over low heat and add just enough water to reach spreading consistency. Stir in the peppercorns and heat briefly.

To assemble the tart, stir 1 tablespoon of the glaze into the cooled pastry cream, for flavor, and spoon the cream evenly into the bottom of the tart shell. Arrange the quartered figs in concentric circles on top, and drizzle the remaining warm glaze over the figs. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Oh, so very good! 

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Some of My Favorite Artwork...

...from two of my very favorite people!
Yesterday, when I was baking I realized that every time I was getting something from the fridge, I was looking at the art my sister's talented boys have been sending me. And every time it made me smile! 

I'll get to see them all again later this summer when I have a long overdue visit planned to see my family in Germany. 
I cannot wait!!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Blueberry Tart

Do you remember this picture I had shared with you some time ago and promising you the recipe?

Well, I'm finally making good on that promise! We've been baking quite a bit and I'll share all of those recipes with you bit by bit (or should I say bite by bite?). They are all keepers.
This one is from The Martha Stewart Cookbook. It's a little involved, but you can make it all in stages and then just assemble at the end.

The basic recipe we used is for a Blackberry Heart, but we made it in a regular pie shell. The first version we made according to the recipe (but I completely forgot to take pictures). At the end I'll tell you how we modified it for the blueberry version.


Blackberry Heart
from The Martha Stewart Cookbook
(makes one 7-inch heart-shaped tart)

3/4 cup red currant jelly
2 tablespoons blackberry liqueur

1 cup Crème Pâtissière flavored with 1 tablespoon blackberry liqueur (recipe below)
1 7-inch heart-shaped Pate Brisée tart shell, baked and cooled (recipe below)
2 pints fresh blackberries

Whipped cream for garnish

Melt the red currant jelly with the liqueur over low heat. Strain through a fine sieve and let cool slightly

Spoon the crème pâtissière evenly into the tart shell and arrange the blackberries (reserving 10 of the most perfect ones) carefully and neatly on top. Brush lightly with red currant glaze and top with the reserved berries. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Garnish with softly whipped cream


Pate Brisee
(Basic Pie Crust)
Makes 2 8- to 10-inch tarts or single-crust pies, or one 8- to 10-inch double-crust pie.

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon granulated sugar (optional)
1/2 pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water

Put the flour, salt and sugar in the bowl of a food processor. Add the pieces of butter and process for approximately 10 seconds, or just until the mixture resembles coarse meal. (To mix by hand, combine the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. using a pastry blender or two table knives, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal.)

Add ice water, drop by drop, through the feed tube with the machine running, just until the dough holds together without being wet or sticky; do not process more than 30 seconds. Test the dough at this point by squeezing a small amount together. If it is crumbly, add a bit more water.

Turn the dough out onto a large piece of plastic wrap. Grasping the ends of the plastic wrap with your hands, press the dough into a flat circle. This makes rolling easier than if the pastry is chilled as a ball. Wrap the dough in the plastic and chill for at least an hour.

Preheat oven to 400℉. Lightly butter or spray with vegetable cooking spray the pie or tart pan you'll be using. On a lightly floured surface, roll out pastry to a thickness of 1/8 inch. Place the pastry in the tart pan or pie plate and press it into the bottom edges and along the sides. Trim the pastry along the upper edge and crimp or decorate the edge if desired.

Carefully line the pastry with aluminum foil, pressing into the corners and edges, and weight with beans, rice, or pie weights. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes. When the pastry begins to color around the edges, remove the foil and weights and continue to bake just until the pastry dries out and turns a nice amber color. Let cool completely on wire rack before filling.


Crème Pâtissière
(Pastry Cream)
makes approximately 1 cup

1 cup milk
1/2 vanilla bean (I didn't have one and used vanilla extract)
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
3 egg yolks
1 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon unsalted butter

Combine the milk, vanilla bean (I added the extract at the end), and 1/4 cup sugar in a saucepan and heat until the sugar dissolves. In a bowl, beat the egg yolks with the remaining sugar until thick. Sprinkle the flour and cornstarch into the mixture and continue beating until well mixed.

Remove the vanilla bean from the milk. Beat half the hot milk into the yolk mixture. Return to the remaining hot milk and bring to a boil very quickly, whisking to prevent scorching. Remove from the heat and pour into a bowl to cool. Rub the top of the crème to prevent a skin from forming. Cover with plastic wrap and cool completely.


For the blueberry variation, we basically replaced the blackberries with fresh blueberries and used an orange-flavored liqueur instead of the blackberry flavored one. One tip - use fresh fruit. We tried it with thawed frozen blackberries and they just had too much liquid. We had to eat the tart from bowls with spoons. It tasted wonderful, but didn't look quite so nice.... (Oh, and because the pie crust recipe makes enough for two tarts, the second tart didn't take at all long to make.)

The recipe seems quite involved, but really you can make all of this in stages ahead of time and then just assemble shortly before serving. It's definitely worth making!!

P.S. I was thinking just now that if you made this tart with a store bought pie crust, it wouldn't be much work at all and still taste great!