Sunday, June 30, 2013

Something Sinister

Unfortunatly I did not make the deadline for last weeks Illustration Friday Submission, but I already had an idea for something I wanted to paint. I wanted to give my husbands boss a thank you card for letting me borrow her Twighlight movies. I'd been wanting to see what all the fuss was about. Hubbs boss loves vampires so I hope she likes her thank you!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Caprese Crostini Plus 10 Variations for Easy Summer Meals

Caprese is so pretty! I could eat it year round. Also, if you grow a little basil and some grape tomatoes in a pot you have lunch almost daily. It's just so fresh, it's like eating a salad but with big hunks of bread and cheese! chEESE! CHEESE! I almost feel silly giving you a recipe for this because it's pretty much slice and serve.  But here you go, plus a few little variations for you. :-)   

Fresh Basil ( Julienned )
Grape Tomatoes sliced ( I like these becasue they are so sweet and easy to eat )
Fresh Mozzarella  sliced 1/4 thick
A loaf of French Bread sliced a little thicker than the mozzarella
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Balsamic Vinegar
Cracked Black Pepper
Sea Salt or Kosher Salt

To make the Crostini preheat your oven to 375. Brush the bread with olive oil and pop in the oven for about 6 minutes. Let it cool then layer your mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil. I sprinkle with a little more olive oil, some of your balsamic, then salt and pepper. 

Variations: Think about replacing the bread with a few of these ideas. 

1. Bowtie pasta, and dice the cheese. So good when the cheese gets all melty!
2. Try doing the bowtie pasta cold, just add a little parmesan salad dressing and you have a cold summer pasta salad 
3. Chopped hearts of romain lettuce 
4. Fresh baby spinach
5. Toasted Deli Thins, Peppridge Farms makes them as well as a few other companies, I prefer the multi grain. I ate this almost every day last summer! So yummy!
6. Spinach tortillas 
7. If you want your caprese crostini hot you could skip the first toasting part of the bread and go ahead and assemble everything (minus the balsamic) then pop it in the oven till the cheese is all bubbly. Then add your balsamic and drizzle with a little more olive oil.
8. Replace the grape tomatoes with a thick beefsteak tomato and just top it with the cheese, basil, olive oil, balsamic, and salt and pepper.
9. Make bite size hors d'oeuvres. Cut out the bread in little rounds or squares just a little larger than the tomato slice. Stack your bread, cheese, and tomato then salt and pepper, ad a whold leaf of basil and maybe a black olive if you like. Hold it together with a toothpick then sprinkle with your olive oil and balsamic. If you don't like olives try three of four capers cradled in the "boat" of the basil leaf. That would be the basil leaf facing down.
10. Caprese Kabob. Cook some cheese filled tortellini and start layering your tortellini, cheese, tomato, and basil on a skewer. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic then salt and pepper.

Here is one of my sandwich thin versions....honestly this is so good!

Below is a caprese salad I made using Aristotle Basil. I bought the basil at a cheese shop, the owner grew it for making pesto. Unfortunatly the shop is no longer there. I may have to order one of these plants online.

Well, if you have not guessed by now I really love caprese. :-) Don't forget this weekend is the SUPERMOON! I hope I can get a few good shots! My moon pictures never turn out so great, but since moonrise will be a good time (7:30am if you're in Kentucky) I've got my fingers crossed.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Welcome Summer Goodbye Spring

The hot morning tea that by noon will be iced
the seasons first berries all sugared and sliced

I just thought I would give you a peek at a page from the little book my sister and I are working on. Today feels very much like the picture above. It’s sunny and warm, windows are open, there are strawberries to pick, and who does not love iced tea on a warm day…85 degrees to be exact! For some reason it feels like Friday to me. Maybe I’m looking forward to the weekend a little too much. I have plans (that I’ve yet to tell the husband) to go on a picnic. He’ll be just fine with it, I plan to lure him with fried chicken. He’ll do just about anything under the spell of fried chicken. If I could learn to make hoecakes like his grandmother did I bet I could get him to do the laundry! Ha! Anyone know how to make amazing hoecakes? To be honest I'd never heard of them till I moved to Kentucky. A southern dish for sure. Hubs loves hoecakes. We went to the Paula Dean restaurant where he couldn’t wait to try them. I think he liked them, but they still weren’t like his grandmothers. I doubt anyone, even Paula Dean, could make them like she did. ;-)
Off to clean up the poor Robins nest and broken eggs that landed on our patio last night. It was a little windy and may have been too much for the little nest. This is our second nest this spring to not make it. A wren put her nest in a hanging basket on our front porch, I think all her landing and taking off was a bit much for it because the basket fell off the wall and the nest obviously went with it. I miss the little wren waiting on the front porch for us when we would get home. She didn’t seem to be too afraid of us, she would just watch us go in and out the house despite the nest being a mere 3 feet from the door and at shoulder height.

Hope you've had a wonderful week, I think I will start my friday now!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Todays Painting

I really enjoyed doing yesterdays painting for Illustration Friday, the concept of it anyway. Often times I'll come up with an idea but maybe don't care for the first production so I'll go on and try another. Well, here is the second one. I really like this one and am thinking I may do two more so I have a set of four. For some reason I like sets of four. :-) 

Monday, June 17, 2013

Illustration Friday Submission "Worn"

Grandpa V. and Grandpa R.

Yesterday was Fathers Day and I was lucky enough to be able to spend the afternoon with my dad and the rest of my family. It made me think about my parents who have both lost their fathers in recent years. It put my grandfathers in my mind. I miss them but remembering what amazing people they were makes me thankful for the time I had with them and it’s a good feeling.
Grandpa V and Grandpa R

Have you ever watched the movie 16 Candles? I grew up in the 80’s so anything with Molly Ringwald was a prerequisite. One of my favorite things about the movie is the difference in Grandparents. I always thought it was strange how different my grandparents were until I saw this movie. Then I realized there are probably a lot of people out there who have grandparents like mine. On the one had I had the very conservative religious “do the right thing” grandparents and on the other hand I had the very liberal “live your life and make no apology” grandparents.  This was great for me, I think a healthy dose of both makes a good balance and recipe for life.
I’ll start with grandpa R. He had an infectious laugh and would turn bright red from laughing so hard. He cursed at IU basketball games, proclaimed to be an atheist, thought all politicians were pond scum, loved to tell ghost stories and watch creepy movies, he drank Tab, loved his mean dog Muffin ( the family joke was that we’ve all been bitten by her), and always told my sister and I great stories of the horse Frankie kept in the attic. Frankie was a character he made up for us and would do a silly voice. When we were older Frankie got a gorilla and kept it in the wooded area behind their house. He said the woods were misty…get it…gorillas in the mist! He was so silly but he was also a man of opinions who made no apology for it. If you didn’t like it, he didn’t care. This made him really good at giving great advice. He also always made sure to tell you that you were worth a million bucks, you were beautiful, talented, and could do whatever you wanted in life. This picture pretty much says it all, my favorite thing about Grandpa R. was how silly he was.  
Grandpa R being the Boogie Man!

Grandpa V. could not have been more opposite. He was a good Lutheran, always serving his church and community. He even received a few awards from the Governor for his service. He loved to sail his boat with my grandmother, he traveled, and was heavily involved in politics. He played the violin, had season tickets to the symphony, smoked a pipe, drank his coffee black, ate butter and lunch meat sandwiches that I thought were so gross. He loved big family get-togethers where all my aunts, uncles and cousins would rent cabins for the weekend at Lake Shakamak State Park. He always had a huge smile on his face the very minute he saw you. He also gave great advice and encouraged you to follow your talents and dreams. One of my favorite memories of Grandpa V. was him watching Sense and Sensibility with grandma and I. He kept trying to guess what was going to happen to the broken hearted Marianne Dashwood. This is when I realized he was a romantic as well.   
Grandpa V. always looking distinguished 

I often hate that they are gone, I would give anything to see Grandpa V’s big welcoming smile again and I know Grandpa R. would so be enjoying all the ghost hunting shows that are on TV now! Haha. He loved to tell this story about a demon on the ashtray, but I’ll save that for another time!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Cafe Curtains

New curtains in the kitchen! A few months ago we decided to give the kitchen a fresh coat of paint. We went from a dark yellow cozy room (not really my style) to a fresh, clean, bright, light grey/blue.
I'm in love with my cafe curtains!

Here is the before. I liked the yellow and I love my windsor chairs (they are now in the dining room...I'll show you that below). But I had these directors chairs that we stored away and I thought the fabric on them made a nice compliment to the cafe curtains. Now I just need to find a new table. I'm thinking something in white, or maybe something I can paint. The current cafe table will go outside. It's just a little Peir One slate table I picked up years ago when I lived in Arizona. It was an end table for most of it's life, but it's actually an outdoor table!

 The windsors are very happy next to the piano.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

No Egg Microwave Cookie in a Cup

It may not be a Cup o' Pizza but a Cup o' Cookie is pretty good if I do say so myself! When I logged onto Pinterest today one of the girls I follow had posted a cookie in a cup microwave recipe. I love the idea of making a quick treat without having to bake an entire batch of cookies. Especially when the temperature outside is 95 degrees! I don't know about you but I have no interest in turning on the oven when it's that hot. I've tried the microwave cake in a cup recipe and honestly I found it a little disappointing. It was ok, but not ok enough for me to want to make it again. Also, it had an egg in it. I’m no Alton Brown but isn’t part of the reason you put an egg in a cake to help it bind together? If it’s in a cup why do you need an egg? Well I read through the microwave cookie in a cup recipe and it sounded ok but there was that pesky egg again. I decided that I would try it without the egg, and I would do it with my cookie recipe. I love my cookie recipe. LOVE. It’s a little salty and sweet and so delicious. The recipe originated from a friend of my parents. We’ll call her Marie. Marie was so sweet. She would bake a bunch of different Christmas cookies every year and give them to her friends. Her chocolate chip butterscotch cookies were the best cookie that had ever past my lips. I would ask her year after year for the recipe and she would forget or loose it or something would happen where she couldn’t give it to me. Then after some serious begging she finally forked it over. I was so excited I went right out and got everything I needed. I baked them exactly as she had instructed. I did everything I was supposed to. Unfortunatly, they were not right. Not even close. She Marie Barone’d me. Did you ever see the episode of Everybody loves Raymond where Marie is going to teach Deborah to make her meatballs? Marie brings over all the ingredients only to sabotaged Deborah by putting an Oregano label over the Rosemary. Well, I don't know if that's what happend but I'm going to think maybe she just wrote it down wrong. Lucky for me I’m pretty good a figuring out recipes. After 2 batches I got it right. I try not to make them very often because we gobble them up.  I’m not sure if trying to convert them to a microwave recipe was a good idea. If they came out great it would be very dangerous! Are you ready to live life on the edge? This cup o'cookie is so good! You’ve been warned! ;-)

You will need.

1 pat of butter
1 tablespoon of sugar
1/2 tablespoon of brown sugar
2 drops of vanilla

mix these together with a fork in your cup

Add the following
3 tablespoons of flour
1 pinch of kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon of baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons almond milk ( you can use cows milk or whatever you have) 
chocolate chips and butterscotch chips. I don't add too many as they burn in the microwave easy.

Mix with your fork and pop in the microwave for 30 seconds. Check it and cook for 15 seconds. You can tell you're getting close becasue it puffs up and you can smell it. Mine took 90 seconds. Just watch it because you don't want the middle to burn...and it will if you over cook it! Let me know if you try this and like it! 

Oops...look at that I spilled a few extra chips on the top after I microwaved it!

The weather in the US has been crazy the last day or so...fires out west, tornados and storms in the east. I hope you are all safe and sound!


Illustration Friday Submission: Children

This weeks topic for Illustration Friday is "Children". I've been working on our childrens book (for more info click here) and with this heat I've been thinking about summer. Remeber catching fireflies!? This seemed like a good submission for the topic of children.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Sweater Weather in June!

I just thought I would share a watercolor I was commissioned to do back around Christmas. It was for a little girl’s room that had a frog theme.
I’m off to visit my mom today, she is going to help me make new cafĂ© curtains for the kitchen! I can’t wait. Ever since we’ve painted the walls and cabinets in the kitchen I’ve been looking at my old curtains and sort of cringing. The new color is a very light grey blue and the cabinets are white with copper pulls (they are the original pulls from the 50’s that we cleaned up). My old curtains don’t go at all, they are extremely autumnal and warm, a complete contrast to my new cool paint colors. Once I get everything done I will take photos to show you guys. You can see a little bit of the old yellow curtains in on the right in this photo. I don't mind a little yellow, but these are just the wrong shade.  

Copper pulls...all clean and bright!

Once again we ware in for a lovely day in here in the Bluegrass state! It’s June and I’m going to wear a light sweater. No complaining here, I love it! I hope wherever you are the weather is as nice!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Improving on Man Food

Written by Robin Hartman     Illustrated by Shelly Dowell
Last week I put together a “book” section for this little blog. It consists of books I would like to publish, not books I’ve actually had published …. anyone know an agent? ;-)  The thing is my sister and I came up with this idea to do a cute little funny/snarky illustrated cookbook.  We’ve often made up recipes together and they’ve usually turned out pretty darn good. Apple pecan sticky buns anyone? Sounds amazing right! (I bet they were...I hate sticky buns! haha Everyone else enjoyed them and they smelled divine!). Anyway, I started to go ahead and paint pages for the cookbook but it’s been a few years since I looked at it. When I pulled up the “Man Food” sandwich recipe on my computer I realized the image looked pretty rough. This is going to sound strange, but it made me feel great. I painted a new page and can really tell how much I’ve improved over the last few years. I know the more I paint the better I will get. It’s sort of exciting if you think about it. What will my paintings be like in 10 years?! Will things I find difficult be easy? Will I be faster? Will creativity flow more freely? I can’t wait to see what the future holds! Have any of you experienced this? Have you seen your talents improve? It gives me a feeling of renewal!     

 Hopefully you can see the improvement. I also thought the page looked cramped so I made it a two pager (the instructions on the second page that I'll finish up tomorrow). Well, I hope you are all haveing a wonderful day...I've been painting and doing laundry. There are only two of us but we still seem to have a ton of laundry. It's almost chilly outside today, but I'm so happy to have the windows open. Even if I do need a sweater. :-)