Thursday, December 29, 2011

Cabbage Soup

Since my second child was born I have lost about 20 lbs.  The key to my weight loss has been simple; take in less calories than I burn.  When I want to lose weight I record calories in and calories out, every day to make sure I stay within my calorie budget.  I highly recommend Lose It! but there are plenty of smartphone apps and websites that will track calories for you.  By seeing the caloric value of what you eat you really begin to understand which foods will give you the most "value" for the least calories. 

I have a few tried and true low calorie foods that I return to time and time again.  I hope to share all of them with you and will start with cabbage soup.  I call it cabbage soup but really it's an ever-changing vegetable soup that is very loosely based on a Weight Watchers recipe.  You know I don't always measure so below are estimations:

Saute 1/2 cup chopped onions in 1 tablespoon olive oil until they start to become transparent. 

Add 1/2 cup chopped carrots.  When parsnips are in season I also add up to a cup of them peeled and chopped. 

Cook in olive oil (add more if needed) until parsnips/carrots begin to soften. 

Add 1-2 cup chopped green cabbage

***at this stage you can add any other veggies you like.  I sometimes add chopped celery, zucchini or green beans.  Today I happened to have kale, so I added about 1 cup chopped kale.

Add 4-5 cups reduced sodium broth (enough to cover vegetables.)  I prefer chicken but you can use vegetable to go vegan.  I love Trader Joes Savory Chicken Broth pouches - one pouch per cup of water. 

Add 1 tablespoon italian herbs and 1 or 2 whole bay leaves. 

Simmer covered until vegetables are soft - about an hour.  Remove bay leaves.

***for years I ate the soup as is - rustic with all the whole veggies but lately I've started pureeing.  Use an emersion blender or transfer small batches to blender until soup is as pureed as you like.  Today I avoided the kale when I blended in a blender because the color of the kale when blended was not so pretty.  A great benefit of blending is that my 6 year old will eat this healthy soup when blended but would NEVER otherwise eat cooked cabbage, parsnips or kale!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Illustration Friday - Messenger

The bird and fish are nature's messengers. 
The fish needs clean water. 
The bird needs clean air.

Watercolor, pen, acrylic ink on paper.

Make 2012 the year to go a little greener.

When you go to the beach take a bag and collect trash.  Leave the beach cleaner than when you arrived. 
Walk, bike, scooter, skate.  Leave the car at home.  You will also save money and do something good for your body.
Replace plastic bags with these.  Replace plastic water bottles with this and this.  You will save money when you stop buying plastic!

I find the concepts of "reduce, reuse, recycle" easy...the challenge for me is the precurser - REFUSE.  Do I need another handbag?  How many pairs of shoes do I really need?  Another toy for my kids?  This is the idea I am taking in to 2012.  Just say no.

Happy New Year from all the little birds and fish.

Hanalei River

Maybe because it's almost 2012 I have Kauai on the brain. 

Hanalei River, acrylic on canvas

Next time I want to SUP on this river.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Renaissance Woman

Years and years ago I wrote myself a list of goals.  I know I kept it somewhere and it would take me ages to find but I can see it fairly clearly in my mind's eye.  It was written on a shirt-shaped notepad that had a tropical print on it made to look like a Hawaiian shirt.  Here is how I remember the list:

Paint a piece of art nice enough to hang on my wall.
Write a cookbook.
Write a book of craft and art projects.
Lose weight.
Be happy.

Fast forward a few years and I am approaching my 40th birthday. As it turns out I did lose weight and I did paint a picture that was hanging on my wall (several, in fact) and I did feel happy. In fact, I began to think of that stage of my life as "the -est". As in I was the fittEST I had ever been, my body became the thinnEST it had ever been, I was the happiEST I had ever been. It was at this time I began to think about starting a blog and I always pictured my blog being called "the est". The name doesn't work for a lot of reasonss but mostly because it reminds me of a self-help group my friend belonged to in the 80's called EST and I always thought it sounded like a cult.

Anyway, back to the title of this post and the real point I want to make. So here I am a few years even further down the line. I am still in full "est" mode. I have embraced the artist in me. I started running at the age of 40 and ran my first half marathon at 41. I have not published a book on cooking or crafting but I have started this blog which is surely the next best thing.  Most importantly, I feel good.  I feel happy.

It took me a few weeks to tell people I was blogging because I was self-conscious but when I emailed a link to this blog to a friend her reply was "wow, you are having a real renaissance". I loved that because it's true...I really do feel like I have been reborn in a lot of ways. A few nights later at my book club meeting another friend, who has just recently seen my blog for the first time, told me how surprised she was to learn all of these new things about me...she had had no idea that I painted and gardened and did all these things. She thought for a moment and said "you're like a renaissance woman!"

Well! When the word "renaissance" is used twice in one month to describe you, you need to stand up and take notice!  The part of me that wants to be humble agonizes over tooting my own horn but really, and here is the denouement, I can't accept a compliment.  I don't quite believe when I am told I am talented.  I have a hard time with the idea that anyone cares what I write here or tuly likes my art.  And so here we are at my New Year's resolution, which came to me 20 minutes into post-Christmas spin class this morning.  I will stop being embarassed to brag about my accomlishments (what is this blog, anyway, if not a spot to brag about them??)  I will not deny compliments given to me and I will embrace my newly coined status. I am Renaissance Woman, hear me roar.

(oh geez...this post is stupid.  Should I really publish it?  What if someone reads it?  What if NO ONE reads it?  What if it gets hits and no one leaves a comment...then I have to wonder what people are thinking of me...)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

A Christmas Tree

Something new I did today (thanks Maggie!)  Colored pencil on paper.  A little rough around the edges but I like it a lot.

Hungarian Vintage Christmas Cards

My love affair with vintage Christmas cards continues.  These are all Hungarian.  The one on the bottom is my favorite.  I love what they are holding in their hands...reminds me of my own Hungarian dolls and that braided loaf is going to visit me in my glutinous bread dreams...(10 days and counting, by the way...)

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Christmas Delights

Things I am really liking this year.

Natural Christmas Ornaments

Vintage Greeting Cards

My own Christmas painting.
From last year.  Acrylic on canvas.

The View

This is the view from my living room window.  This poor little painting has been in limbo for so long that the view is a little different now...this is a spring time view.  I'm happy to sign my name and call this guy done.

This morning started with a sunny pain!  A Gingerbread Latte.  A healthy salad for lunch.  Kids playing nicely with friends and I am going to start a new painting.  Pretty nearly a perfect way to spend the day.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Silent Auction

Butterfly Beach Aloes

I've returned to landscapes for a silent auction to raise money for a good cause.  The best thing is that this painting now lives so close to me I can visit is every day!

  Acrylic on canvas.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Gluten Free Diary

Oh, please don't look at me like that.  I have not jumped on the gluten free bandwagon for the sake of weight loss or being trendy or lowering my carb intake.  With a child who is allergic to milk I have enough dietary restrictions in my life and was not looking for another...but...I have known for some time that I don't always feel quite "right."  

Since my children were born I have had the usual upswing in colds from germs the little monsters bring home but these days I can't get through one week without feeling cold symptoms of one sort or another.  For years I have had unexplained gastro-intestinal issues that can result in cramps bad enough to send me into a fetal position and require me to carry gas-relief pills with me everywhere I go. Unexplained nausea, skin rashes, chronic tendinitis and nagging headaches can all be symptoms of other issues but eventually I started to get suspicious.  I already eat (mostly) healthy, I get plenty of sleep (usually,) and work out (almost) daily.  I should be the picture of health.  I figured there was nothing to lose by going gluten free.

Going gluten free has never been easier.  There are many products out there that flaunt their gluten free status and there are just as many helpful articles, blogs and websites with advise on gluten free living.  I have not made a doctor's appointment to make this official, by the way.  For now I am just monitoring my diet and waiting to see how I feel and it's been almost 2 weeks now and I can say I have had no nausea, much less gas and stomach pain and much clearer sinuses.  I confess I've fallen off the gluten free wagon twice.  One night I literally forgot I was going going gluten free and ate pizza with whole wheat crust.  Another night I threw caution to the wind and ate Chinese food (how much gluten can you get from the soy sauce used to make Kung Pao Chicken, for crying out loud?)  On both occasions I paid dearly the next stomach issues were back with a vengeance but cleared up within a day or two of going back to avoiding gluten.  Definitely sticking to the gluten free diet for a while...which leads me to my first recipe which was adapted from a recipe on a box of Cream of Buckwheat which I picked up at a local specialty store as an alternative to Cream of Wheat.

Old World Cauliflower Soup

1/2 cups Cream of Buckwheat
4 cups chicken broth
2 cups diced cauliflower
1/2 cups chopped onion
1 cup milk (I used non-fat)
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese (I used low-fat)
1 Tablespoon butter
1/4 teaspoon each nutmeg and pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt

Combine first 4 ingredients in medium saucepan and bring to boil.  Simmer uncovered, stirring frequently.  You'll need to scrape the bottom if the buckwheat is sticking and may need to add water if the mixture gets too thick.  Continue to simmer until cauliflower is soft, 15-20 minutes.  Then add remaining ingredients and heat until cheese and butter are melted but do not boil again. 

The original recipe calls for chopped parsley as garnish but the gophers ate my parsley plants long ago.  I garnished with a little dollop of sour cream, a bit more cheddar cheese and some fresh oregano.  (The oregano makes the picture look nice, but I don't recommend it for eating.)

This gluten free soup is quite low in calories if you use non/low-fat dairy ingredients and very filling.  I'll be freezing the leftovers in small batches to warm up for lunches.  It would be perfect with a nice slice of fresh bread.  Sigh.

PS.  I will not be freezing the leftovers of this fact, it doesn't keep well.  After a day or two in the fridge it had congealed into a unappetizing white mass.  I added water and warmed it up to eat for lunch today (I HATE to waste food,) but it wasn't very good and I threw the rest away.  So make this soup when you plan to eat it all while it's fresh and yummy.  Next time I make it I will make sure there is a large enough crowd to finish it all off.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Black & White vs. Color

A couple of weeks ago I drew the top picture of flower using pen and paper.  The majoriy of the feedback on it was to add color so here is the result.  The bottom picture is pen, colored pencil and watercolor on paper.

Which do you like best? 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Illustration Friday - Round

One Round Orange.
acrylic on canvas

Monday, November 28, 2011

Monday in the Garden

Over the holiday weekend I was hoping to have a lot of time to devout to art but in the end I only had time to for this birthday card for a friend.  Watercolor, colored pencil and pen on handmade paper.

Trying to get back into my normal Monday groove today but I have a sick kid staying home from school.  Instead of burning off the wine and sugar I overindulged in with a spin class I will have to make do with what I like to call my "yardwork" exercise.  Shoveling, weeding, carrying pails full of compost in an effort to get my heartrate up.  It's all for the best...the weeds are growing like crazy and the gophers are taking over.

Lucky for me there is lots of beauty in the garden to inspire me while I work.  Taken with iPhone

Saturday, November 26, 2011


I hope you all had a lovely Thanksgiving.  Here are some images of our long weekend in California's Central Valley.  Fall is in full force here.

I love how this next picture contrasts with the vivid colors of the previous pictures, I was disappointed not to find colorful trees near the water's edge but the quiet colors here are beautiful, too.  All photos taken with Canon EOS Rebel T3i.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Icing on the Cake

Nothing could make me happier than giving a painting to a friend and having her clap her hands in glee.  That she sent me a picture of my painting already displayed on her wall was icing on the cake.

Friday, November 18, 2011

5 goals of 5

I am not someone who normally sets goals but these thoughts came to me on my run today (which I made sure was 5 miles long.)

In 5 days
- I will be well prepared for the long holiday weekend, including wrapping birthday and Christmas presents that will be hand delivered.

In 5 weeks
- I will be ready to host a fabulous Christmas and I will not spend too much money on gifts for my kids who will get more than enough gifts from relatives. 
- During these next 5 weeks I will go to yoga at least 3 times a week and I will increase my run mileage by 1 mile a week.

In 5 months
- I will be running 1/2 marathon distances regularly without pain or injury and will be registered for a race. 

In 5 years
- I will really be self-employed doing what I love...not anything like my current state of "self-employment." 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

more flowers!

Pen on paper.  Trying to decide if I am going to add color or leave as is...what do you think?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


 This video is so pretty

It makes me want to paint nothing but flowers.

Dahlias 2009

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Illustration Friday - Silent

"Silent Knight" or "The 'K' in Knight is Silent"

This was a tough one...I mentally went through the obvious choices and even drew a baby sleeping in the woods but in the end, I'm pleased with my play on words and drawing this cute little guy took me out of my comfort zone.  That's what IF is all about for me...forcing me to be creative and productive.

I was a busy bee today...I made the BEST beans ever and two loaves of bread for dinner.

The BEST beans ever (Beans in broth)

Chop 1/2 cup yellow or white onions and cook in a 1 tablespoon each of olive and vegetable oil until the onions are black.  Not just browned but burned black.  You might want to open doors and turn on your fan.  In the meantime, rinse 1 cup of dry pinto beans.  Do not soak.  When onions are black add the beans and 4 or 5 cups of boiling water.  Be very careful adding water to hot oil!  Water should cover the beans.  Add one bay leaf.  Simmer partially covered for about an hour.  Keep your eye on the beans, if too much water evaporates add one cup of water at a time (water should be hot before adding.)  After about an hour when beans have softened add 1 teaspoon of salt.  Make sure you do not add salt before beans have softened.  Continue to simmer, adding hot water when needed for another hour or two until beans are cooked.  There should be some "broth."  If too much water has evaporated, add more to make some broth.  Discard the bay leaf.  Discard the black onions if you like (I never do.)  These beans freeze very well.  Use this recipe to make refried beans by smashing beans and reheating in a bit of oil.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

You Are Where You Are

Another tidbit from yoga class.  You are where you are.  In yoga it means leave your thoughts behind and clear your mind for 90 minutes of moving meditation.  In my life it means that I will not let past mistakes or regrets paralyze me, nor will I be afraid of things to come.  You are where you are.  Be there.

Or to quote Lululemon:

Breathe deeply and appreciate the moment. Living in the moment could be the meaning of life.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Illustration Friday - Stripes

Stripes for Illustration Friday

Monarch Caterpillars in my garden.  It's been a while since I've had Monarch babies. 
These guys look fat and healthy.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds, work in progress and a moment of Self Realization

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds


Every year I roast pumpkin seeds to share with friends and although I always go back to a few core ingredients I have never made them the same way twice.  This year I hit the pumpkin seed jackpot...3 gallon bags of seeds brought home from a pumpkin carving party.  Because of the large amount of seeds I had, my recipe changed once again and I think these are the best ever.  There are no measurements'll need to follow your instincts and dip your finger in to test the flavor before you roast.  I have tried to list ingredients in order of volume (in other words much more Worcestershire sauce than cayenne pepper.)


low sodium Worcestershire sauce
kosher salt
ground cumin
brown sugar
cayenne pepper

Remove pumpkin seeds from pumpkin, straining them out by hard is easiest to separate them from the pumpkin "guts."  Remove as much of the guts as you can, but don;t worry if .  DO NOT RINSE THE SEEDS.  This will add a lot of flavor.  Add all the ingredients above to the pumpkin seeds to taste.  Depending on the amount of seeds you might be using tablespoon-fulls of the first 4 ingredients, a teaspoon of cinnamon and a few dashes of cayenne.  

Layer thinly on a cookie sheet.  Bake in preheated oven at 300.  If you have a convection oven, use the convection setting.  Stir every 10 minutes or so to keep the seeds from sticking to each other and to roast them evenly.  I like my seeds a bit crunchy but not overly roasted.  Keep checking and stirring until the are roasted to your liking.

A work in progress

A moment of self realization


Today I was in my Bikram Yoga class and the instructor said something that really resonated with me.  She was telling us that instead of thinking about all the things about ourselves we see as negatives; I'm too fat, I'm too skinny, I'm too old, I don't earn enough, drive the right car, etc, we need to realize who we are.  We are not defined by these things that can consume so much of our thoughts and energy.  What matters is how we feel about ourselves.  Our real selves, not our shape or bank accounts.

It made me think about this blog and my art and all of creative endeavors.  Instead of worrying about being untrained or not as talented as someone else, instead of worrying if what I have to say is relevant or wondering why in the world anyone would even care, instead of being embarrassed or self conscious about what I see as my shortcomings, I am going to be daring and and creative and ARTISTIC.  I'm going to embrace this blog and share what makes me happy and I'm not going to worry about how it is perceived or received.  And I might even dare tell people I have a blog!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

French Pot Roast

Yesterday started with a short rain and cooler temperatures.  The fall weather was perfect for trying a new recipe in my beloved slow cooker.  This beef stew was the perfect meal for date night snuggled on the sofa watching a movie.

Here is my recipe, adapted from something I found on the internet.


3 strips bacon cut into strips
1/4 cup flour
salt and pepper to taste
2 lb roast, excess fat removed, cut into 1" pieces
1/2 bottle dry red wine
2 cups low-sodium beef broth
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 bay leaves
1 package frozen pearl onions
4 small yukon gold potatoes, quartered (skin on)
1 cup carrots, peeled, cut into 1" pieces
1 cup frozen peas

Preheat a large skittet or non-stick saute pan over medium-high heat.  Cook the bacon until the fat is rendered and the bacon is crisp.  Remove bacon and set aside leaving fat in pan on the heat.

Combine flour, salt and pepper in a sealable plastic bag.  Working in batches, add the beef and coat well with flour mixture; remove from bag and shake off excess flour.  Add the pieces to the hot pan and cook until all sides are golden brown.

Remove the beef and add to slow cooker.  When all the beef has been browned, add 1 cup wine to the hot pan and scrape any brown bits from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon.  Pour over beef, along with rest of the wine, the beef broth, tomato paste, bay leaves, bacon pieces, carrots and potatoes.

Set the slow cooker to high and cook for 4 hours until the beef is very tender.  In the last 30 minutes of cooking, add the pearl onions.  A few minutes before serving add the peas and simmer for a few minutes to cook through.  Discard the bay leaves.

Serve the stew by itself or over egg noodles with a good ladle of broth.  Don't forget a piece of good french bread to mop up the broth. This recipe tastes even better the next day.  My kids loved it for lunch today! 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

I've been experimenting with watercolors and acrylic ink.