Friday, June 19, 2015

Bad Paintings

 Some time ago, maybe seventeen years or so, I took an art class where every week a different model would pose and we furiously painted portraits in oils. I then hid the paintings in the garage and promptly forgot about them.

The teacher painted in a photorealistic style and described my paintings as "decorative", which was pretty derogatory at the time. After a couple of months I realized that I didn't really like painting portraits that much and quit. But looking at these made me feel like perhaps I might like to paint people again.

It also made me realize that it is okay to experiment and fail, as long as you get back to it and keep trying.


 This model worked at Medieval Times and had long hair. The words around the edges are from a poem by John Donne, "At The Earth's Imagined Corners" and talks about angels blowing their trumpets to raise souls from death.

“The object isn't to make art, it's to be in that wonderful state which makes art inevitable.”
~ Robert Henri

Thursday, June 4, 2015

In My Kitchen for June

This last month was busy with birthdays and Mother's Day.

Victoria Sponge Cake with Chocolate Ganache frosting for Mother's Day. 

I had never made a ganache frosting before and it was surprisingly easy. I used very dark 80% chocolate and it bordered on bitter. Next time I'll be a bit more generous with the sugar. The fresh strawberries made it juicy and sweet.

 I love broccoli and picked up a bunch of broccolini from the farmer's market. I used it in a stir fry with seitan, bell peppers and sesame seeds.

Also for Mother's Day I made a tropical fruit salad with apples, oranges, raspberries and strips of mango.

Breadmania continued... 

I finished my "Twenty Hour Challenge" of bread baking. I learned a lot. I like the routine of it, and there is something to be about a process that billions of cooks have done for centuries. I'm not sure what my next kitchen challenge will be.

For my birthday my hub bought me a glorious Le Creuset sauce pan. For it's maiden voyage I made a Bearnaise sauce. Mostly I've been using it to flash boil veg. It's just the right size for peas, green beans or broccoli.

 The rest of Mother's Day was pretty quiet so I made some pasta. I don't make pasta from scratch very often but I bought a bag of good semolina flour and thought I'd try it out.

The paper toy for the month of April was tiny books, which you can find here...

Finally, I've been posting a dragon's hoard of jewelry in my Etsy shop, lots of shiny happy things.

What's been happening in your kitchen?

Wishing you a creative week,



 Don't be afraid to attempt something new.

 Remember, it was amateurs who built the ark.

 It was professionals who built the Titanic.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

In my Kitchen - March 2015

When we first bought our house two dozen years ago, I hated the kitchen. The whole house was a fixer upper from hell, with orange wall paper, green linoleum and iffy plumbing. But the kitchen was it's own special level of ugly, nothing worked, the fuses blew if you even thought about running more than one appliance at a time and it was cramped as a submarine.

Over the years, the hub has replaced ever bit of it, even the fuses, so I can run the microwave and the dishwasher at the same time.... and now I love our little kitchen.

We still have to walk sideways like crabs when we are all in there, and yell, "Hot behind you!"when  someone opens the oven, but it works.

I'm still in the middle of breadbaking mania.  After watching Josh Kaufman's wonderful TED talk on how to learn a skill in 20 hours,, I decided to bake 20 loaves of bread, trying to make each one a little bit better each time.

The goal is a crispy crunchy crust and a chewy airy crumb.

One loaf I made had a nice mix of seeds and grain. 

Some loaves were prettier than others.

I baked #13 yesterday and it came out a treat. Each loaf is exciting in a small, humble way. I like finding out what happens if the recipe is tweaked a little. It's teaching me patience. The baked loaf has to sit for at least 20 minutes before you cut it or it will be gummy. Bread baking is teaching me planning, a loaf for Friday needs a starter feed on Monday, sponge making on Thursday and shaping and baking on Friday morning.

It's helped to have my mate, Celia, bread baker extraordinaire from Fig Jam and Lime Cordial, patting my hand and giving me good advice along the way.

I've been getting a lot of good use out of my Le Creuset red brassier, I made a cassoulet for the first time.

And Chicken Spinach Rollups...

For Valentines, my man got me Orange Marmalade, Bergamot Jam, vanilla and a cool kitty cookie cutter.

The Farmer's Market had these beautiful red oranges, so I made a salad with feta and spiced pecans.

So, that's what's in my little kitchen. For my next 20 Hour challenge, I'm trying to get better at drawing hands. What skill would you like to learn?

Wishing you a creative week,



 I am always doing that which I can not do, in order that I may learn how to do it.
~ Pablo Picasso


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Five Tips for Getting Your Stuff in Order

Last December, we painted my studio. All my stuff, art supplies, books, junk, had to go out of the room and come back in, piece by piece. Since then I've been trying to put a bit of thought and logic into how my things were organized. I've also been helping my 84-year-old mom declutter her house bit by bit.

Here's a list of five things that have helped me in managing my "stuff".

Tip One : The hard part for some people isn't getting rid of "stuff" but getting rid of memories. If you are having trouble deciding whether to keep something, listen to how you feel about an item. If you have good memories, and want it, put it aside. If you feel negative energy, chuck it in the box. A couple of years ago I got rid of a beautiful wool scarf that I had lent to a horrible boss at a trade show. Every time I opened the drawer it made me think of her so I gave it away. I haven't missed it.

Tip Two : Go for the low hanging fruit... is there a pile of papers to throw away? Do that first. If you know something needs to go to the Salvation Army, chuck it in a trash bag and put it in your car. Creating even a little extra breathing room feels good.

Tip Three: Get help with the big jobs. When cleaning out my mom's closet I grabbed a friend and we took everything out and put it on the bed. Then we found a skirt that just fit my mom but was snug. Any skirt smaller than that went into the bag. Everything that fit went back in sorted by type, long sleeves, short sleeves, etc. Now it's 100 times easier for my mom to get dressed.

Tip Four : Keep the things that are most useful to you close at hand and store less important items farther away. I keep my everyday art supplies like pencils and drawing paper on my desk along with the book that I am currently illustrating. Paints and inks are in the closet in labeled boxes. Beads and sewing supplies are in the hall closet.

Tip Five : "When in doubt, throw it out."... or give it to someone who can use it. Pass books, clothes, dishes on to someone who can use them. Doesn't that make you feel a whole lot better?

Here are a few clutter problems solved....

Problem... Where's the pencil sharpener?

Solution - All of my drawing supplies that I use everyday are organized by type and have to stay on their side of the line. I still haven't figured out how to keep the pencil sharpener from sliding back, but it is a lot easier to reach. All my bead supplies went into the closet.


Problem - My mom was having trouble finding clothes that fit. Too much stuff! Ack! 

Solution - Take everything out and put back only the clothes that fit. Sort by type. This project took three people an entire afternoon so having help is key. Sometimes the big jobs must be tackled with abandon.


Problem - Bottles of nail polish all ever my desk...

Solution - Five dollar box from Michael's.  

I'm still struggling with how to manage too much paper, drawings, bills, receipts. If you have any suggestions, ideas, life hacks, please let me know. 

Make space so magic can happen,



“Give me the discipline to get rid of the stuff that's not important, the freedom to savor the stuff that gives me joy, and the patience not to worry about the stuff that's messy but not hurting anybody.”
 ~ Vinita Hampton Wright

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Learning new things....

Today was Valentine's Day and my hub's birthday...

It was also a leisurely day for learning new things,

I made Toasty Bread Sticks out of some leftover sourdough bread from yesterday. Just paprika, cumin, pepper, Parmesan, and some splashing of olive oil on strips of bread, toasted for fifteen minutes at 450F. Next dinner party, these are on the menu. They are like Cheetos for grown ups. :-)

Some origami envelopes.

And notes for strums on my ukulele.

Merry Valentine's to you!



“Nobody will stop you from creating. Do it tonight. Do it tomorrow. That is the way to make your soul grow — whether there is a market for it or not! The kick of creation is the act of creating, not anything that happens afterward. I would tell all of you watching this screen: Before you go to bed, write a four line poem. Make it as good as you can. Don’t show it to anybody. Put it where nobody will find it. And you will discover that you have your reward.”
~ Kurt Vonnegut

Monday, February 2, 2015

In my Kitchen ~ February 2015

This month has been all about the bread because my friend Celia in Australia sent me some dried sourdough flakes from her starter, "Priscilla, Queen of the Refrigerator".

Nurtured back to life with bread flour and cooled boiled water, the dried flakes grew into a new starter that I christened "Big Mama" after my great grandmother who was famous for her biscuits.

The results is a crunchy crispy crust and a soft chewy insides. Another side effect has been my complete breadmania, with things like "hydration levels", "crumb", rising times and "semolina flour" being obsessed over like some crazed mad scientist. It's all great fun.

It hasn't been bread alone around here... we are enjoying lots of winter tomatoes...

Still loving on Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking,  I made Hollandaise sauce for the first time. It is delicious. Not something I'd do everyday, but for company perhaps.

Lots of fresh veg from the farmer's market, sounds so hipster doesn't it? I've been living on english peas. I'm the only one in my family who likes them. Oh well, more for me. :-)

Broccoli, bell pepper, olives and feta salad.

The hub made a pitcher of fresh mandarin juice. No scurvy around here. In years past the mandarins have been really sour. This year they were sweeter for some reason. The froth on the top was creamy like an Orange Julius.

He also made meat pies using some leftover pot roast. Many "Mrs. Lovett" jokes were made.

My one purchase for the kitchen was a Le Creuset bread pan that I found on sale. I'm hoping to make sandwich bread.

And for dessert, rice pudding with pistachios.

So that's what's been cooking here at Casa Del Aguas. How about you?



“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you've got to have a what-the-hell attitude.”  ~ Julia Child