Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Kitchen Sink Slaw

It's been awhile since I posted a 'recipe'.  I put quotes on the word 'recipe' because this is one of those anything-goes kind of dishes.  Be encouraged to rummage through your crisper and work with what you have.

I have often wanted to make something on the order of a cole slaw, but didn't have any cabbage.  I used to think cole slaw had to be the light green and white stuff, dotted with carrot shreds, coated in a slick white dressing.  Once in awhile, a poppy seed would make its way into the mix, but that's about as creative as it got.  Then I discovered what an improvement it was to add a few sunflower seeds!  Whoa.... game changer!

So now, when I have a hankerin' for cole slaw, I have ventured so far outside of the boundaries of the traditional cole slaw recipe, that it doesn't really matter what I put in it, as long as the dressing is right.  Today's version started with a little bit of purple cabbage, just because I had some on hand, mostly to add a touch of color to salads or tacos.  I also had half a head of cauliflower.  (Broccoli would've worked well too.)  I love minced onion in my slaw, so in it goes!  Shreds of carrot, yep!  And then I pulled out whatever else I had in the crisper..... celery, parsley, cilantro, and..... (drum roll, please!).....  NECTARINES!  Most any fruit will work well in a slaw.  I've often included diced apple or pear, but crushed pineapple is also really nice.  Even blueberries or raisins make a great addition.  The point is, something sweet should be considered.  Now, if you added little marshmallows and nuts, you're getting close to a Waldorf salad, right?

So, go ahead and chop yourself a big bowl of random produce like this:

Now let's discuss the dressing.  Even THAT has gotten a makeover.  Remember when it was mostly mayo, with a little vinegar and maybe some sugar or agave?  Well, try a splash of pure sesame oil!  And maybe use honey instead of sugar, and... WHOA.... what have we here?

I added a spoonful of peanut butter to some honey that had gotten dark and sugary.  It's still plenty good.  It just needs a little heating to dissolve the sugar grit, and that will also soften the peanut butter so it blends well into the rest.  Today, I used Vegenaise, a little balsamic, a few drops of sesame oil, a splash of milk, a drizzle of olive oil, and this honey/peanut butter blend.  YES!

I taste the dressing and check for basic flavor, but I don't add the salt until I've dressed all the veggies. Then I salt it a bit, stir and taste, maybe salt some more, and check again.  It's a horrible thing to over-salt it, but some salt is a must!

Here's today's outcome- much different than the average cole slaw, but OH so tasty!  I think I'll still add some sunflower seeds, or black sesame seeds.... or BOTH!

Next time, it probably won't look anything like this.  It might have summer squash, or cucumber, or grapes!  You just never know, but it'll certainly taste awesome!  What unusual things do you add to cole slaw?  I'm curious to push the boundaries even farther.

I'll be posting about something crafty soon.  I'm dabbling with bead-weaving lately.  It's tedious, and a change of pace from the other beading I'd been doing.  See you soon!

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Art Event Follow Up

The night of my Best-of-Show win at the RCAS art exhibit, I was asked to return in a few weeks for a presentation of my art to the community dignitaries and library staff, where the piece will be placed on permanent display.   So that event was held last week at the Richardson, Texas Civic Center offices.  I made a fun weekend out of it first, staying with a good friend and shopping quite a bit.  But, not to digress, the art event was the main reason I was there.  It turned out being a very quick presentation where I held the framed artwork, stood next to the Richardson mayor, Paul Voelker, and several others involved in the process.  Cameras flashed a few times, and we were done!  Once everyone arrived, it took exactly NINE minutes!

But it was a pleasure to conclude this honorable follow-up to the RCAS annual exhibit, a show where only artists residing in Texas are eligible.  I look forward to entering next year!

I've been asked several times to explain the meaning of the title, 'Exaggeration'.  I purposely used subtly contrasted paint values to include a shadow in the lower part of the art.  If the hand, wasps' nest, and wasp were to cast a shadow, sometimes those shapes are abstracted in unnatural ways.  In this case, I further changed it so that the wasp created the shadow of a fire-breathing dragon.

Here's a close-up:

When I have loose ends like this event, waiting to happen, I always find it hard to immerse myself in another project.  But now that this has concluded and can be checked off, I will settle back into the next item on the list.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Art Show Outcomes....how did I do?

It has been an exciting couple of weeks!  My parents came to visit, which, in itself, is full of  busy preparation, commotion, etc., but they came while I had trips to make, to attend two separate art receptions up in the Dallas area.  As it turned out, it was AWESOME that they could be here for those events!

Let's talk about Irving!  On May 20th, we attended the reception and awards ceremony for the 'Texas & Neighbors" 33rd Annual Region Art Exhibit.  We had time to kill before the event started, but it was just long enough for us to make a circle around the Las Colinas Mustang sculptures, which were only a mile or two away.

The Irving Art Center is a lovely venue, and as always, this harpist made the affair so much more beautiful with his playing.

So.... (drumroll, please)...I won 3rd place in the Mixed Media category!  Yay!  If my math is correct, the winners from this show can be proud to be among the top three or four percent of ALL entries into this juried exhibit.  With just under 700 entries this year, they chose 70 to be included in the exhibit.  That's about ten percent of the entries.  Then about a third of those in the show received an award (1st, 2nd, 3rd & honorable mention in several categories, plus two special top awards).  So... my math may or may not be accurate, since I'm rounding off my numbers some, but it should be close.  Even just being in the show at ALL makes you a winner.

In addition to receiving a $300 prize, I was also flattered to have a local florist, The Chocolate Rose, choose my piece, among several others, to serve as inspiration for an innovative floral creation.

In case  you missed my previous post, here's a better image of the artwork I titled "Enduring the Countdown".

My friend Gwen showed up at the reception, and was so kind to block out her Dallas Air BNB for us for the night. My folks and I enjoyed a relaxing night in her funky space, without having to drive ten hours (up and back home again) in one day!  One of the rooms in her ecclectic apartment housed a massage chair, an acrylic chair, and coffee station, and there was a black light bulb illuminating it all, causing a very fun effect on her acrylic chair.  It was more or less a quirky night light, and I was somewhat mesmerized by it.

So NOW... let me take  you back in time.... to the previous weekend.  I am retelling these events in reverse order, so as not to be anticlimactic.  On May 13th, we attended the awards reception for the Richardson Civic Art Society's Annual Juried Regional Art Exhibit.

We got to town early, ate at one of my favorite places, Eatzi's, and, once AGAIN, had time to kill before heading to the Eisemann Center for the art shindig.  We are 'early people'.  We don't like arriving late for anything.  We'd much rather have extra time on our hands than make excuses why we were late.  I thought my dad would enjoy sitting and watching planes land onto Love Field, so we parked under shade trees on the south side of Bachman Lake and watched the activity for about an hour.  It was a nice respite from the big city traffic!

The Eisemann Center in Richardson, Texas is such a pretty space.  I have exhibited artwork in this particular show before, and yet I always get giddy when I'm included in an event here.

And now.... drumroll, please...   Wait, we already did a drumroll earlier.  Okay, then, how about if we get a much bigger drum?

I WON BEST OF SHOW!!!  I could NOT believe it!  When they handed out all the awards in my category, I went from nervous, and worried, to wondering what went wrong.  LOL!  They had actually told me I should attend the ceremony, because I'd won something.  But I had no idea what, so I thought maybe they had called me in error.  And then after every category was awarded, they had two prizes left.  The $500 juror's choice award, and the $1500 Best of Show Purchase Award.  And I got the Purchase Award.  WOOHOO!!!

My parents were such troopers, and even though this was a late event, concluding at 9 p.m., this time we DID have to finish driving the second half of the 10-hour round trip.  But it was a perfect way to spend Mother's Day, and we were all floating on an adrenaline cloud!

They hung in there for the duration, but they were certainly ready to hit the road.  I wanted to milk it for all I could, and really didn't want to leave.  On the way out, I even stood for awhile and stared up at the exhibit from the lower level.

There's my piece.  (I just didn't want you to miss it!)  And then the drive home.... arriving at 2 a.m!

So, it's been a busy couple of weeks, and now I must dive into another project.  I will fail to meet my very next art goal, having too much going on lately to work on my drawing at ALL.  That deadline will have to come and go without me.  But I'm not unhappy about it.  I just have to dust off the ol' pencils and get back to work, now that things are getting back to normal.  I find that it helps me to have a goal in mind, or an exhibit location to imagine, while I'm working.  So I'll find another deadline to light a fire under me, no worries.


Saturday, April 21, 2018

Humble beginnings

I don't like sharing the beginning stages of my artwork because it usually doesn't impress anyone, least of all ME!  It takes a good two or three sittings (in my opinion) for it to start taking shape.  At least that's how long it takes me to feel that its fine qualities are being revealed.  Before that, it just seems.... well... unclear.  I'm sometimes not confidant that it will rise to the mark I see in my head.  For me, the color is unsettling until it's toned down with graphite.  Then I feel more comfortable about it.

So I'm going to go ahead and post the colorful, unsettled state of the current piece I'm working on.  I've just barely started doing some graphite detail.

This helps to illustrate my method of working.  I start with just a few outlines, which set the perimeter for the color to be applied.  Once the watercolor is very dry, I begin the graphite shading, which is where most of the details come from, and lastly, I work on the background.  Sometimes the background is nothing more than one smooth color of matte acrylic paint.  Other times, I loosely shade the background, as if the details there are out of focus.  That's what I plan to do here.

You can barely see the pencil outlines on the left side.  There's more to the art than I'm showing here.  To show you this close-up image, I have cropped the file a bit, so the woman's hand and champagne glass are partially cropped out.  My goal with this subject matter is to highlight the two people and their different drinks.  The title 'Champagne & Sweet Tea' should say it all.  His denim jacket has frayed edges, her garment will be a lace top.  I'm enamored with the contrasts between the cut-crystal flute and the mason jar.  I'm enamored with mason jars, period!

Well, this is a very short post, since I've very little art progress to show.  I'll be kicking it into high gear though, working toward a late-May deadline.  See you soon!

Wednesday, March 28, 2018


Consistency is key to being a prolific artist.  I have to admit, I'm not very consistent unless I have deadlines to adhere to.  (And those can't be self-imposed deadlines or I completely ignore them!)  So in order to turn out consistent artwork, I need to find juried shows to enter, which seems to be enough of an incentive to get me working.  I don't enter the art shows just so that I'll continue making art at a good pace.  That's one of the benefits, but I'm not gonna lie...  it's the potential of winning prize money that energizes me the most!

So, earlier this year, I posted a partially completed graphite drawing.  I have since completed it, entered it in a juried exhibit, and then found out it got accepted.  Here's the finished piece:

It's titled 'Enduring the Countdown' and measures 12"x12", excluding frame.  My favorite part is the fleece lined knitted cap.  That was somewhat tedious, but it turned out just as I hoped it would.

Soon after that completion, I pulled out an old piece I'd started a year prior, and picked up where I left off.  I got it finished just in time to enter another juried show, and then found out it also got accepted.

That piece is titled 'Exaggeration', and it also measures 12"x12".  Both of these artworks are part of a series I'm titling 'More or Less'.  Each of the exhibits they're slated for have opening receptions in May (that's when they will announce the awards), so I have a couple months to wait before finding out how they fared.

I've also been making beaded hat bands this year, which I think are rather fun.  They take quite a bit longer than my bracelets do though.  I like to make the hat bands much chunkier than the rest of my beading, and I fill them with all kinds of semi-precious stones.  I'm enjoying another turquoise mood, so you'll see a lot of that in my work currently.

Next, I'm on to the largest piece of artwork I'll likely make this year.  I've taken reference photos, and am ready to dive in.  It's titled 'Champagne and Sweet Tea', with a woman's and a man's hands that are toasting the respective beverages in the title.  Even though I love drawing hands, the fun part will be the glassware.  The champagne flute has lines cut into the crystal, and the sweet tea is served in a mason jar, with it's raised words, ridged threading at the top, etc.  All of those details will make for a more challenging (and hopefully more impressive) piece of work.  I have the show already in mind that I will enter the new piece in.  How else will I keep myself motivated to work on it?  I'll keep you posted!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Cookies On a Stick, Almost Too Pretty To Eat

Here's a little project I am pulling out of the archives.  I made these fancy cookies some time ago, but was reminded of them recently by way of a request to make more, since Valentine's Day is right around the corner.  When I originally dreamed these up, someone had asked me to make.... oh.... any old cookie with some kind of Valentine theme, for an event at my local art gallery.  I had several heart shaped cookie cutters, and debated using them adorned with some girly touches in pink and white.  But that seemed too expected.  Something with roses on them, perhaps? .... same ol' same ol'.  Well, finally I imagined this chocolate-dipped strawberry cookie, and it seemed to have the right of degree of difficulty.  (What do I always say?  "Expect complications!")

First things first.... the dough.  When doing cutouts, it's necessary to use a dough recipe that will keep its shape during baking.  Some cookies end up swelling so much that you barely recognize the intended shape.  The dough recipe I've used for a few years now is not my own concoction.  I admit I found it online, and it works so well that I need to search no further.  It keeps its shape very well during baking, and it also tastes great!  Since I scribbled down the recipe years ago, I can't recall the source.  I don't make any claims of creating this recipe, and wish I could give credit where it's due.  Sorry about that.

Once you've conquered the dough recipe (which is listed at the end of this post), the cutting and baking is very standard.  Just keep the dough chilled, returning it to the fridge when necessary, and after rolling and cutting out, put the tray of unbaked cookies back in the fridge for an additional 20-30 minutes to rechill them before popping the cookies into the oven.  This also helps them keep their shape while baking.

*Helpful tip*   To get even dough thickness when rolling it out, use something raised on each side of the dough for your rolling pin to rest on.  I use square wooden dowel pieces.  These are available in a variety of sizes from home improvement stores, as well as most hobby shops.  I lay out parchment paper first, then the wooden sticks, with the dough in between, and top it off with more parchment.  For smaller cookies, I roll out the dough to about a quarter of an inch thickness.  Larger cookies, or ones baked on sticks, should be about 5/16" to 3/8".  That's about what I've opted for here.

Now comes the cutouts.  I'm using a scallop-edged heart-shaped cutter, which closely resembles the outline of a strawberry.

So far, so good, right?  Now, cut out the shapes of dough, and let's stick these cookies!  Press the cookie stick into the dough (as pictured below) so that it does not get submerged lower than the surface of the dough.  The side facing up, at this point, is the bottom (back) of the cookie, so right now, there is only dough in front of  the stick.  We'll add more in back of the stick to secure it.  Did ya follow that?  The stick should only take up about half of the cookie's thickness, but if it's pressed down so that it's centered in that thickness, there would be too shallow of an amount of cookie in front of, and behind, the stick, and it would likely break when handled.

Don't worry about having a naked stick... We're about to patch some more dough over that exposed part.

Place a piece of cookie dough to cover the stick, press down slightly, and smooth it out with your fingers.

The dough will be mounded slightly, but that's expected.   The alternative would be to have less dough on both sides of the stick, making the cookie fragile.  You don't want the cookie to break apart while someone is eating it. Another alternative would be to have a thicker cookie all over, but it would start to be heavier than you'd want.  The edges and bottom might brown too much while you're getting the centers baked enough.  I wouldn't attempt a cookie thicker than 3/8" unless it was a cookie cake (with no stick).

Okay, so we're almost ready to bake.  But remember, don't skimp on the final trip to the fridge.  Chilling the tray of cookies will greatly improve your odds of keeping the shape intact.  Once the cookies have re-hardened in the fridge, I like to flip them over at this stage, so they're right side up.  I could've done that earlier, but they're much easier to handle when they're colder, and you don't risk so much 'mis-shapen-ness' in the process.

This is the back of the cookie after baking, and it really doesn't look all that bad where it was patched.

Now comes the tedious part!  I decided to put 'seeds' all over my strawberries, so that required tiny dots of a dull gold color of royal icing.  This is the part that never seemed to end, even though I was only making two dozen cookies.

Now we get colorful!  The red icing will flow around all the seeds and start to swallow them up.  The thinned down flow icing will be somewhat self-leveling, but using a toothpick helps to guide it into nooks and crannies better.  First, I outline each cookie with a red line of a thicker consistency (the same consistency as the seeds).  You don't want the perimeter to flow!

Generally I complete one step, stage, or color on ALL cookies before moving on, but in this next step, it was necessary to start the flowing red icing, quickly insert some white to give the appearance of glossy highlights, and then go back to the red, finishing the outer part of the cookies.  If I waited until the red was all in place, it would've started to develop a crust on the surface, and I would've made a real mess trying to insert the white highlight.

The white icing looks very random and sloppy, but that was intentional.  I'm considering making a cookie that is decorated to look like water highlights.  Something like this:

Image result for reflections on water

Hmmmm.  So where were we?  Filling in the rest of the flowing red parts of the strawberry cookies.

Now, for some reason, I failed to photograph the steps where I added the green leaves and the chocolate dipped effect.  You can make your own chocolate or use the melty pieces.  Anything that results in a hardened shell of chocolate will work.  Then a zig-zag drizzle of white icing makes them look like the fancy strawberries they sell in the stores around Valentine's Day.  And finally, arrange the sticks in a bouquet, and you have an impressive looking presentation.  The cookies were a big hit at my gallery event.  I replaced the cookies in the bouquet, as they were taken.

*Another helpful tip*-   Provide cellophane treat bags when offering any ornately decorated cookie.  I found that many people claimed the cookies were too pretty to eat, and they wanted to save them for later.  People carried their cookies all over the art stroll (great advertisement for our gallery, by the way), and treat bags (or at the very least, zip-loc bags) kept them better protected.

Okay, here's that dough recipe:

Keep-Their-Shape  Cut-Out Sugar Cookie

1 C. Unsalted butter, softened
2 oz. Cream cheese, room temperature
1 C. Sugar
1 Large egg
1 t. Pure vanilla extract (I prefer vanilla paste)
1/2 t. Almond extract
1 t. Lemon zest
3 C. All-purpose flour
1 1/2 t. Baking powder
1/2 t. Salt

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter, cream cheese and sugar.  Beat a couple minutes until light and fluffy.  Then beat in the egg, vanilla, almond extract and lemon zest.

In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder and salt.  Gradually add these dry ingredients to the mixer bowl with the butter mixture.  When well incorporated, divide dough in half and form two balls.  Roll each ball of dough between two sheets of parchment paper to a thickness of 1/2".  Refrigerate dough for at least an hour.  On parchment paper (or silicone baking sheet), re-roll your dough to the desired thickness for cutting out your shapes, insert cookie sticks (if using) and pop the tray of unbaked cookies back in the fridge.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees while the dough is chilling.  Bake cookies 8-12 minutes (depending on their thickness.  Cookies on sticks should be baked slightly longer than ones without.  This recipe makes a tender cookie, but still hard enough to stay intact on the stick.  They are not chewy.  Let cookies cool completely before icing.  Enjoy! 

Monday, January 8, 2018


Everyone uses the word 'resolution' this time of year.  Most of us make New Year's Resolutions each and every year, and, if you're honest with yourself, you'll admit that they're usually the same ones over and over again, aren't they?  Wait a minute.... Maybe that's why the word starts with 'RE' ?  Hmmm, I never quite thought of it that way.  So, we address problems in our lives, and figure there might be solutions for them, based on something we could do as a correction or adjustment.  Then year after year, new attempts to generate these same solutions are just repeated.  I'm not in charge of the dictionary, but I'm pretty sure I've come up with a better way to define the term resolution, (and it should be hyphenated).

At any rate, here I go again, attempting to improve on some of the same areas as last year.

Exhale..... lose weight, get organized, be nicer to everyone, be generous and unselfish, blah, blah, blah...  These things hardly count.  Aren't these things I should always care about?  Let's pretend I didn't just list them as resolutions.  I'm just going to single out another goal to work on, one that you'll believe when I say "I MEAN IT!"

In my house, projects are notorious for being started and often not being finished.  Maybe one in four are seen to completion.  See?  Right there!  Did you notice how I phrased that?  I didn't even take the blame for this problem, but credited my projects for having a mind of their own.  What I should've said is, "I start projects all the time, and I often don't finish them!"  Now, that's a step in the right direction. 

In order to continue making progress, I am vowing to work on an old project in between each new project.  Sometimes, new work comes with a deadline all its own, and those may be out of my control, but for the most part, I'd like to insert old projects in my schedule, and check some of these old gems off my list.

First up, a not-so-old project, but one I stalled out on nonetheless.  I'm dusting off the 11x14 panel of a graphite drawing I started last fall.  Meet 'Enduring the Countdown':

I'm sure you can't blame me for working on this dude's more interesting areas and leaving his tedious knitted hat alone!  Why does it have to be knitted?  (I ask myself that a LOT!)  Well, it's more challenging, and when done correctly, it'll elevate this piece to new heights, so I haven't talked myself out of it yet.  Given that I am going to render the outer areas in a sloppy scribbled style, I want everything inside the middle square to seem as realistic as I can manage.  Neither hand is done yet, but the one on the left is closer.  I don't believe the skull needs any more work.

To add a degree of difficulty to my resolutions, not only will I hope to start cleaning up my Old Project list, I will be attempting to spend time every single day MAKING something, whether it be new or old.  Maybe it'll just be dinner, but if I can be creative while I'm at it, I'll tell ya about it.  I should think this would give me plenty to blog about, if properly documented.  So to put additional pressure on myself, let's just assume that I'll blog much more often, as if this exercise is an important part in keeping me motivated (instead of intimidated... yeah, right!).  And, in keeping with the nature of the symptoms of multiple creativity disorder, these blog posts may not be in chronological order, and they may hop all over the place media-wise, but they surely will show some finished work now and then.  I am resolute in this goal.  Be back soon!