Evolution of my colored pencil swatches

My early attempts at color matching were done by holding pencils up to the flower or plant that I was drawing, leaning in close and then closing one eye to get the most accurate read possible. What I thought was color matching was really just guessing… So I read about using color swatches – I know! Duh!

On a swatch I drew the pencil light to hard to see the full range of a color. That along with the name/number of the color created the swatch.

colored pencil swatch - combined

pencil swatch the 'old' way

An artist friend of mine helped me see that this swatch, while an improvement over eyeballing it, still wasn’t ideal because on my swatch the colors were too close together and so each color was influencing the one butted up next to it. Also, how was I to add colors to my swatch as I got more pencils? Hmm…

So now the new swatch looks like this:

individual color swatches

color swatches the 'new' way

These new swatches still show the same information for each pencil but, being individual cards, they can be seen without their neighboring color interfering. This swatch can also be added to easily with each new pencil I get! Much better!

color swatch on key chain

color swatch success!


Thanksgiving Bagel Feast!

This is our second year of a new tradition – bagels, cream cheese, lox and capers for Thanksgiving breakfast. This breakfast creates no mess in the kitchen, few dishes and full bellies to hold us until dinner (we’re lunch skippers on this day…).
Yesterday I did all of my shopping a little late and 😦 the bagel store was already closed. Oh no! I would have to make bagels. So much for not messing up the kitchen. I found a good recipe on food.com – The Real New York Bagel Recipe and followed it pretty well.

NY Bagels (makes a dozen)

Last night I made a sponge which sits for 2 hours until you get little bubbles in the dough (tells you its rising). I used 1 tsp active dry yeast, 4 cups bread flour and 2 cups water…. I waited for 2 hours…no bubbles…another half hour…no bubbles…another….hmm. Turns out you need to ‘activate’ active dry yeast in a little warm water. Once its a little frothy you can use it.
I tossed the first batch and started again.
New York Bagels- take 2!
This sponge looked much better – so active!

bagel sponge

bagel sponge

Next I put it in the stand mixer and put 3 more cups of bread flour, another 1/2 tsp of yeast (activated – fool me once!), 2 tsp salt and a Tbsp of brown sugar (other recipes as for malt…but this was the only recipe that called for something already in my house – just to give you some insight into my recipe selection process process).

After 5 minutes of mixing, I chopped it into 12 pieces and then covered with plastic wrap again to let the dough recover from being thrown about.
twelve pieces of dough

Half an hour later I took each piece and poked a hole in the middle of it and twirled it around my index finger like a little finger hula hoop. Voila – it looks like a bagel!
bagel dough rings
I let the little rings rest up again and stuck the whole thing in the fridge until this morning.

Today this went sooo fast! I boiled water with 1 Tbsp baking soda and dropped these doughy bagels in the water for 2-3 minutes (flipping them halfway thru). They got all puffy and wow!
puffy boiled bagel

Next they all went on a cookie sheet and baked at 450 for something like 30 minutes. Well, the recipe said 5 minutes…then another 5-10 minutes…but mine took much longer bit longer because I was opening the door way too often for the oven to stay hot).

Bad over door habits and rookie yeast move aside, the kitchen now has this tangy, doughy smell, the windows are steamed up, and we have bagels!
New York bagels

botanical art for beginners

I got hooked on colored pencils on my last vacation. I painted a red onion and was surprised at how well the color came out even though I’d blended a bazillion colors together. This wouldn’t happen with paint. With paint, too many colors always turns into mud.
I looked around online for some instruction and found the amazing Ann Swan. She’s not only a great botanical artist, but she also describes her craft in a way that a novice like myself can digest.
I read the articles on her website and purchased her book, Botanical Portraits with Colored Pencils.
I spent the day today drawing my neighbors rose hip plant. This took me about 4 hours total.

1. asked the neighbor if i could pick these rose hips. I can’t really draw from a photo as well as I can from a real plant. Photos lack something – depth? not sure what it is – but when I draw from a photo it looks flat.



2. did a loose sketch. this was hard because with botanical art I guess you’re supposed to try to draw things true to size. There are probably exceptions to that, but I’m new to this so I don’t know all the rules.

rosehip sketch

first sketch of rosehips

3. shaded with grey colored pencils. I had no idea this was a step! apparently it’s a very important one. I’m new to this, ok? Don’t roll your eyes.

shaded rosehips

first layer is grey shading

4. layer colored pencil over this now… wowza. shading in grey first made such a difference!

shading rosehip leaves

shading with greens...

shadign rosehips red

...and reds...

5. after I colored in the rest I used a blending pencil. its like a colored pencil with no color. it smushes the colored pencil into the paper more so that it looks, well, blended. it is supposed to look more like paint when you do this…but mine looks like pencil still. I’m sure there’s something I’m not understanding about that step…but I was still happy with the outcome – Rosehips Neighborus

neighbors rosehips


Here comes the fruit!

It’s official! We’ve got yard food! First, we’ve got a great Italian plum tree and the plums on it are mere HOURS away from being ripe enough to eat.

Italian plum from the yard

This plum is about the size of a raquetball...kid you not.

By the end of the summer I’ll probably know a million ways to prepare Italian plums because I’ll have thousands of them (I can actually hear them dropping on the ground outside right now) but for starters I might make the Plum Cake Tatin from Barfoot in Paris.

Just across the yard from the plum tree is our first ever tomato plant. We opted for a single cherry tomato plant, just to wade into the water. Most of the tomatoes are still green, but the other morning I saw this little guy!

first cherry tomato

the first tomato

The nice thing about cherry tomatoes is that for a while at least we’ll just be able to pop them on salads. If we get overrun with them later, we can freeze them and add them to warm dishes in the winter and reminisce about our first summer garden 🙂


I stopped into Cline Glass looking for a stained glass lampshade. Turns out they don’t sell those there, but they do sell glass to people who make stained glass lampshades and they do offer classes to people who might want to learn stained glass so that they can eventually make their own stained glass lampshades.


So I started the class in late June. 3 hours a night once a week where we learned to cut, grind, foil, flux, solder and, oh yes, bleed.

On the first night of class we just practiced cutting random pieces of glass, which sounds easy, but there’s a finesse to it that apparently you acquire over time…

art glass shards

Be careful! This stuff is sharp!

While I cut my finger three times that night, it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience! At the end of the night I had successfully cut out glass using my practice pattern (note piece #5 in the pattern – it comes up again):
stained glass test patter

practice pattern

The next class was where we picked our projects. I picked a cute, but rather complicated squirrel pattern. It was 25 pieces, lots of curves, and not a realistic pick for a first project. But, my sweet, squirrel-loving dog had just passed the weekend before and when I saw that pattern I thought it a sign from BEYOND that I was meant to make the squirrel. My instructor, Becky, was probably reluctant to talk me out of using that pattern because I was a little weepy when I told her why I chose it.

Cut..cut…grind…grind… With laser focus I cut out my little squirrel parts. I did not cut my finger even once.

Here is a picture of all of the pieces after I cut them. Remember piece # 5 in my practice pattern? That’s a complicated cut (for a newbie) and similar to my squirrel arm. It took me SIX times to cut it out without breaking the arm off in the process!

squirrel pieces cut out

squirrel cuts

In the last class we took our foiled projects and soldered them. And I got to walk out of class with my first finished stained glass piece! Ta-dah!

stained glass squirrel


Cime di licious!

When friends go out of town you graciously step up to feed the cat, take in the mail, etc. Little did we know that one of our ‘tasks’ was to take the farm fresh veggies our friends get delivered and use them ourselves!
I have always wondered what these basket of treats would be like. Would it just be something like 12 pounds of chard? Well… happy to say it was fabulous! The best part is that you often don’t know how to cook what you get – so, you get to learn something new. Believe me – something new in the kitchen is ALWAYS appreciated.
Our particular basket of goodies came from Pumpkin Ridge Gardens. They offer a subscription service for veggies direct from their farm – located just outside of Portland.
I knew most of the goodies in the basket by sight (though the kale had me stumped until I looked at the sheet that came with the basket). The other I still couldn’t wrap my mind around even after reading its name ‘cime di rapa’
A quick Google and I found several recipes. Most were around a dish that had cime di rapa/ orecchiette pasta as the two ingredients. All recipes said that the stems were blech. so…here’s my take!
1. Get the cime di rapa on a cutting board so you can cut it from the stems!
cime di rapa
2. Put the pasta on and then put the cime di rapa in with the boiling pasta (towards the last 6 minutes or so…) – This step felt wrong but it worked!
cime di rapa in the pasta water
3. In a saute pan put some garlic cloves and a little red peper flakes.
4. Then put the strained pasta/cime di rapa in the saute pan too! (wait! that’s not orechiette! I know, right? I only had some rigatoni around but it was good!)
cime di rapa and pasta in the saute pan
5. grate a little romano over the top and serve!
dinner is served
This was so easy and delicious!

What have we here?

A couple of weeks back I purchased three interesting arts & crafts frames.
three arts & crafts picture frames
They had neat old pictures from Venice, Italy, but I really just wanted the frames…so I set about taking the pictures out..which involved pulling old rusty nails from the back that had been there for maybe 80 years?…old venice photo
When I got the pictures out I found these painted boards which were used to hold the photos in place!
painted crestcrest2
and the last one which is the most complete and has a date – 1902.

So now I am so interested!! Where are these from? They’re all different views of the same crest. ‘l’union fait la force’ (strength through unity) is the motto for Belgium and the lion is like a Belgian lion…but its wearing a little crest of its own which I can’t place. Also, the right side of the crest has a LOT of different things on it… what does it mean? so fun trying to figure this out 🙂 any ideas?