Friday, December 21, 2012

#26Acts and Hungarian Flowers in Watercolor

In honor of the 26 who died at Sandy Hook Elementary School a week ago today I have been participating in #26Acts.  For each person who died I am doing something kind.  Some are a positive message with a dollar bill attached and some are giving to may favorite charity in memory of one of the victims.  I am making sure that each one is associated with a specific name in the hopes that they will not be forgotten.
Getting ready to start:
Here's something I painted as a Christmas gift for my mom a few years ago but never got around to sharing here:

Here is my list of the kindness acts so far.  I'm not counting the cookies and chocolates because they didn't have a victim's name attached and I strongly feel the need to associate a name to each kindness.  I still feed good about brightening those guys day, though, they work hard!

Happy Holidays to All!

Sharing with my friends at Paint Party Friday.

Paint Party Friday

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Roasted Rosemary Almonds

While most people are baking Christmas cookies, my go to holiday treat are Rosemary Almonds. I make these every year, sometimes to take as an appetizer to parties or to give as holiday gifts (as I did this year) and sometimes just because they are so darn yummy and I crave them.

Roasted Rosemary Almonds
2 cups raw, whole almonds
1 1/2 teaspoons butter
1 Tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Spread almonds on baking sheet and roast in 350 degree oven for 10-15 minutes, tossing almonds a occassionally.  I like my almonds a bit crunchy but you can toast for less time if you like.  While almonds are roasting melt butter in medium saucepan.  Remove from heat and add rosemary, brown sugar, cayenne pepper and cinnamon.  Add roasted almonds and toss to coat.  Cool slightly then add kosher salt and toss again. 

These are delicious served warm or room temperature and they can be stored in the freezer for longer life.  This year I made a HUGE batch (14 cups!) and was able to give out 10 gift bags and keep some for us to enjoy at home.   
Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Finished Hungarian Floral Bird

Last week I showed you my work in progress, a Hungrian folk art bird in pen on paper.

Here's the bird and her floral tail all colored in.  I'm very happy with the color. 
She might just get wrapped up as a Christmas gift (If I can bear to part with her.)

I hope the holiday season is going smoothly for all of you.  I am 99% done with my shopping and now I am sending out holiday cards.  I don't do cards every year but this year we have a cute picture and I was able to get it together in time.


I am calmer than I was last week despite a bit of stomach flu in our house.  The most stressful thing left of the holiday season is figuring out where to put our Elf on the Shelf every night.  This is the first year we have had one (was I the last mom to hear about these things?)  My daughter was pretty sad that we did not have an elf in our house so she wrote Santa a lovely letter and our elf arrived the next day!  Keeping her moving each night has been a bit of a challenge.  The other night I woke up with a jolt at 3:30am realizing I hadn't moved her!  A few nights before that it was 5am.  Still...if this is the most stressful thing I have going on right now, I'd say I'm doing pretty good!

Sharing with my friends at Paint Party Friday.

Paint Party Friday

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Manicotti, one dinner, four ways

One dinner, four ways. 
Yesterday was my turn in the "mealtrain" that has been making sure my friend L and her family are eating well since her surgery.

Since I made manicotti for L almost 10 years ago when her older daughter was born I thought it would be fun to do it again.  Since I was cooking on a weekday, I was hoping to make the same for my own family to save time but herein lies the problem:

L is a vegetarian
My son is allergic to dairy
I am gluten free

After a bit of consideration here is what I did.

1. For L and her family I made the recipe as listed above.  Sorry about the flash obscuring some says "in a pan heat."  I did add sauteed onions to the mix and a little dried basil...because I can't leave recipes alone.  I substituted half the Parmesan with mozzarella because I like the cheese to be a little more gooey.  I also didn't steam the spinach first, totally unnecessary! (top right in picture)

2. For my husband and daughter I made a second batch in the same way but I used precooked Italian sausage instead of mushrooms.   I cooked the sausage the night before, just squeeze meat out of sausages, discard skin and cook meat like any ground meat. (top left in picture)

3. For myself I made a polenta bake, I crumbled most of a package of polenta (the tube from Trader Joes) in the bottom of an 8X8 baking dish and covered with some spaghetti sauce.  Then I added the ricotta/spinach/Parmesan/mozzarella/sausage mixture prepared in the same way as above.  I topped with more spaghetti sauce and then sprinkled 1/4 cup each shredded mozzarella and Parmesan.  I baked covered at 350 for 45 minutes. (bottom left in picture)

4. For my son, I reserved 4 manicotti.  I used the last bit of polenta, about 1/3 cup and mixed with about the same amount of the cooked Italian sausage.  I added some spaghetti sauce and then about 1/4 cup of non-dairy "cheese."  I use Daiya brand.  I stuffed the 4 manicotti with this mixture and then followed the same instructions as the Manicotti above, some sauce in the pan and more on top of the manicotti. (bottom right in picture)

In the end this did not save ANY fact it was hectic and a bit crazy to make all of these variations but I also found the process of accommodating all these dietary requirements quite amusing.

Everyone enjoyed their meals. 
L specifically mentioned how pleased she was to have mushrooms and spinach in her manicotti. 
My son was thrilled to eat something that normally would be full of allergy inducing cheese and he loved the taste of my concoction. 
My polenta bake as amazing...I didn't miss the pasta at all.  And of course my husband and daughter loved their gooey traditional manicotti.

I don't recommend cooking like this often...but it made me happy to please everyone!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Oh, December!

Oh, December!  We've entered that time of year when I can't remember anything and I have to rely on lists and my calendar and my iPhone to keep me on track.  There are so many extra activities, holiday parades, holiday sings at school, holiday parties, gifts, plans...I get a little frazzled.  I somehow found the time to draw this Hungarian folk art bird which I am loving.  I love it in black & white, love the graphic nature of it, but I think I will love it even more in color and will do that soon.

Mostly what I have been doing lately in my free time is reading.  I find it funny that in the year I've been blogging I have not mentioned reading because I love to read.  I read about 3 or 4 books a month but in the last 3 weeks I've read the Night Circus, Gold, The Art of Fielding and am now on The Second Empress. 

What are you reading?
Friend me on Goodreads and you can see follow my books and I can follow yours.  (Hopefully this link works...I've been having a hard time with it!)

Finally I leave you with this pencil sketch of more Hungarian inspired flowers...this was done a couple of years ago but was lost in a sketchbook until this week.

Happy Paint Party Friday!  I'm hoping for equal parts relaxing and getting some holiday stuff done.

Paint Party Friday

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Illustration Friday - Whiskers

It's not yet December but I am decorating our tree and unpacking our Christmas storage boxes means this is going on our wall again.  Pefect for sharing on Illustration Friday this week...Whiskers.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Life is a Gift (And so are Friends!)

Hanging in L's entryway
It's been 11 days since my "Yesterday I fell Off a Cliff" post in which I wrote about hearing tragic news about a friend of a friend that really made me stop and appreciate life.  I was brimming with gratitude and thankfulness for my own healthy and happy life.  I had no idea that 3 days later I would hear the earth shattering news that one of my dearest friends, L, has a brain tumor.  The first thing I did was call our friend A.

I have been friends with L & A for 17 years.  L & A, along with the boys who would become their husbands (and my husband) went to college together.  Since I met them all a few years after college I like to refer to myself as the newcomer in the group.  As three couples together we used to call ourselves "the six pack."  I've joked in posts before that L and her family are the largest collectors of my artwork.  She is a faithful reader of my blog and even commented on my "cliff" post just hours before she found herself being rushed to the hospital.

For an agonizing day all we knew was that L had a tumor but not what kind nor if it was treatable. A came to my house to wait for news and finally we learned that it was "the best kind of tumor you can have."  Operable and benign.  In less than a week L had two surgeries, the tumor was removed and she is now recovering at home.  I summarized it here in two or three short sentences with a happy ending, but for all involved, especially my dear friend L, it was the longest week in our lives. 

Life is a gift, every moment is a gift.  It can change in an instant.  L is the luckiest girl in the world. She had an army of friends and family sending positive thoughts, praying, bringing Red Vines and making sure she was never alone.  She had one of the best neurosurgeons in the country, a brand new state of the art hospital, the most amazing nurses (seriously...they were awesome!)

Hanging in L's dining room
A & I have been addicted to each other, with dozens of daily texts and phone calls, hugs and tears. We spent hours in the hospital with L every day (and night!)  The three of us are forever bonded now in a way we never imagined we would be.  I feel like the luckiest girl in the world, too.  I love my friends and am so fortunate to have them in my life.

Celebrating L's birthday in the hospital. She requested A's famous coconut cake
The three of us at a wedding over a decade ago.  Me, A & L.
Easter, 2012

 And oh yes, it was Thanksgiving last week!  I know I had A LOT to be thankful for. 
I hope you did, too.

 Sharing this with my friend at Paint Party Friday...because online friends are also a gift!
Paint Party Friday

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Sunny Sunday and a work in progress

First off, thanks for all the lovely comments on my last post
Yesterday was pouring rain so I started a new painting.

Laying down some color

Starting to add detail
After a rainy Saturday it's a gloriously sunny Sunday here.  Everything seems fresh and clean.
 We are planning a little road trip to Target...sadly we don't have one here.  Hoping to get a bit of Christmas shopping done and then back home to work on the painting.
Happy Sunday!


Friday, November 16, 2012

Yesterday I Fell Off a Cliff**

**This all happened a few days ago...but I've been writing this post in my head and the "yesterday" stuck.  And it wasn't really a cliff...but in some ways it was...

The other morning after the bell rang and my kids were ushered into their classrooms I ran into a friend who was visibly upset.  She told me that another mom at our school, a close friend of hers, had gone to the doctor for stomach pain and ended up rushed into surgery and diagnosed with colon cancer that has already doesn't look good.  I don't really know this other mom, our daughters are in the same grade but have never had a class together.  I know her by name and by sight only.  Even so...I can't help but be affected by such news.  She is my age, very involved at school, a successful professional, a mom to two young daughters (her other girl is in kindergarten.) 

As I walked back to my car, distracted by the horrible news, I fell off the sidewalk right into the street.  I can't explain it...I just walked right off the sidewalk.  In the split second that my body lost balance I glanced down and realized that instead of solid concrete beneath my foot I had just stepped into thin air.  As I fell forward onto my hands and knees there was that strange time suspension...a million things flashed through my mind in what was less than a second.  I was sure I would break a bone...or worse, fall in front of a car driven by a harried parent rushing off to work.  Fortunately neither happened.  I survived with a bit of raw skin and some bruises.  My fall was terrifying only for a second or two...the bruises still hurt but they will be gone soon.  I am so lucky.

The other mom...she must have felt terrified too, but instead of falling off an 8 inch curb she was falling off a cliff into an unimaginable abyss.  The news she received that day is my worst nightmare and I'm sure it was hers, too.  I don't know what will happen to her.  I hope it's not as bad as what I heard.   When we hear tragic stories like this we are reminded that we need to live each moment to its fullest.  There is no telling when it might all fall away.  

I always admire those who keep art journals...I'm not so good at it...but I wanted to reaffirm all of the great things in my life.  The things I love and the things I am thankful for.

It's easy to take things for granted and forget the gratitude.

I do know that I feel incredibly lucky and I feel so THANKFUL.

  In some ways I do feel like I fell off a cliff instead of a little curb because I feel different than I did a few days ago.  I feel such a deep appreciation for my life. 
Can I say it again? 
I feel very, very thankful.

just noticed my typo...sheesh...should say "OF" not "OFF!"

What are you thankful for?

 Happy Thanksgiving to all my friends at Paint Party Friday

Paint Party Friday


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Apple Cranberry Thanksgiving Salad

The first time I spent Thanksgiving with my in-laws I was served this salad and have been hooked ever since.  Every Fall when I see fresh cranberries at the store I immediately start craving this salad.  It's the thing everyone asks me to bring to holiday meals.  It's sweet & tangy and a light & healthy balance to the heavier holiday favorites on your plate.
Apple Cranberry Thanksgiving Salad
1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries
3 T sugar
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 T cider vinegar
2 t Dijon style mustard
3 tart apples such as Granny Smith or Fuji
1 cup sliced celery
1 cup toasted almonds
Romaine lettuce leaves
Chopped fresh parsley
salt & pepper to taste

Cut cranberries in half.  Toss with sugar and refrigerate covered, overnight (or at least several hours)

 Whisk together oils, vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper.

Core apples and cut into bite sized pieces, leaving skin on.  Slice celery.  Toast almonds in shallow baking pan and allow to cool (or buy pre-toasted).  Add apples, celery and almonds to dressing mixture and refrigerate covered, 1 hour.

Line a bowl or serving dish with romaine leaves. 
 Add cranberries to apple mixture.

Mound salad over romaine lettuce. Sprinkle with chopped parsley to serve.  At a big holiday meal, people will just spoon out the salad, leaving the romaine leaves as decoration but today I served myself on a single plate and the romaine will be part of my salad.  You can also chop the romaine and toss the whole thing.  I've also made this with dried cranberries when fresh are not available. 


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Long Weekend

Some pictures from our long weekend.
Sunset in Dana Point 

Disneyland at Christmas time.

Max's first time on California Screamin'!
Rosey and I keeping the galaxy safe from the evil Zurg