Saturday, September 26, 2015

Winding road, Isle of Skye, Scotland

Here's another quick watercolor sketch that I made today. The wild heather growing on the hillsides here is glorious! We've enjoyed weaving along the serpenting, single-track roads here, and wonder, as always, what's around the next corner?

Great Scot!


I've been a bit enchanted with these Scottish Highland cows since forever ago, and of course they are ubiquitous here in Scotland.... and also the sheep. There are zillions of sheep here!

Thursday, September 24, 2015


Love the somber sound of bagpipes!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

London (and Scotland) calling!

We're heading over to the other side of the big Pond! Some of the activities we have planed in London involve visiting as many museums as our feet can take, seeing David Suchet (you Poirot fans know precisely who I mean) as Lady Bracknell in The Importance of Being Earnest (one of my fave Oscar Wild plays), seeing a play at Will's Globe Theater, hitting bits of the London Design Festival, and whatever other serendipitous magic comes our way. I strongly suspect that at some point pints of ale may be involved. After a few days of fast city life, we'll take a train up to Edinburgh, hop in a car and explore the mystical Scotland countryside. I'll check in from time to time with photos and perhaps some roadside watercolor sketches.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Gifts from the garden!

Those little yellow pear tomatoes 
are my fave. I've picked zillions of 
them this summer!

Monday, August 3, 2015

August morning

August Morning  4 x 6" 

I saw the Van Gogh exhibit at the Clark Art Museum in Williamstown earlier this week, and Vincent's Green Wheat Fields painting (shown below) directly influenced this small en plein air painting that I made yesterday.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

The color squash blossom!

Inspired by... the color squash blossom. 

The Veuve Clicquot balloons are festive,
and I love Cecil Beaton's advice.... 
Be daring, be different!

To see more colors, click on the "color blocks" label below.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Quinoa salad with Thai peanut dressing

Okay, so what isn't good with Thai peanut sauce?! Slathered on soba noodles or grilled chicken perhaps? How about swirling some of that yummy peanut sauce over a bed of good-for-you protein rich quinoa and crunchy veggies and cashews? This colorful salad has been floating around the blogs-osphere and Pinterest for a few years now, and I got a chance to taste a version of it when my cousin Jean brought a big bowl of it to the annual 4th of July party. Delicious!

Prep all of the ingredients beforehand, 
then combine them at the last moment to
keep this salad crisp.

Salad Ingredients:
¾ cup uncooked quinoa
2 cups purple cabbage, shredded or thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, diced or juliennned
½ purple onion, diced or in long half moons
¼ cup green onions, diced
1 cup carrots diced, shredded, or juliennned
½ cup cilantro leaves, chopped
½ cup cashew halves or peanuts 
Fresh lime to squeeze over 

Thai peanut dressing ingredients:
¼ cup peanut butter
1 tablespoon honey (or agave nectar)
3 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon coconut oil
1/4 teaspoon dried chili peppers
2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
2 tablespoons water

Cook quinoa—Rinse quinoa under running cold water in fine mesh strainer (this helps get out that bitter outer coating). In a medium saucepan, bring 1 ½ cups of water to a boil. Add in quinoa and bring mixture to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low and let simmer for 15 minutes or until quinoa has absorbed all of the water. Remove from heat, place in large bowl and mix with a few tablespoons of the peanut dressing. Use as much or as little of the peanut dressing as you desire. I go light and add a bit more over the entire salad later.

Veggies—Cut and prep all your veggies while your quinoa is simmering away.

Thai peanut dressingAdd peanut butter and honey to a medium microwave safe bowl and heat in microwave for 20 seconds. Add in soy sauce, rice vinegar, and sesame and coconut oils, chili peppers, and freshly grated ginger, and stir until mixture is smooth and creamy. Then stir in a water to thin a bit.

Assemble saladIn a big bowl, or individual salad bowls, add in purple cabbage red pepper, purple onion,  carrots, and cilantro, and finally, the quinoa. Mix the salad, drizzle a little more dressing on top, then garnish with the cashews and green onions. Serve chilled (or at room temperature) with lime wedges. A splash of lime really brightens and balances the flavors of the heavy peanut sauce.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Perusing through Persian books

I was researching Persian books for a book that I am designing for work and came upon these beautiful illuminated Persian book pages. I have no idea what the calligraphic script writings mean, but like the gloriously rich Irish illuminated manuscripts (such as the Book of Kells), these Persian books were probably created to document and spread the word of their religion. Whatever their meaning, their calligraphy, decorative borders, and color palettes are lovely.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The fruit always ripe

“If it could only be like this always –
always summer, always alone, 
the fruit always ripe and 
Aloysius in a good temper...”

 ― Evelyn Waugh
Brideshead Revisited

Monday, June 15, 2015

Van Gogh's "almighty beautiful"...

Green Wheat Fields, Auvres

I'm extremely excited to see the Van Gogh and Nature show at the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, MA. I'm an unabashed Vincent Van Gogh fan, and I've visited Arles and Saint Rémy, two of his favorite painting spots in Provence, and been lucky enough to experience that amazing Provençal light that he loved so much. The painting above is one of my favorites because I find those green and blue swirling colors in the field absolutely delicious. Its home is usually at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C, so I'm thrilled to be able to see it up close and in person. The show runs from June 14 to September 13.

 Of Arles, Van Gogh wrote:
“I find nature here is almighty beautiful.”

A Wheatfield with Cypresses

This is another Van Gogh favorite of mine. 
This painting usually lives at the National Gallery in London.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Art in the Barn, 2015

Autumn Flush  10 x 10 

Here is a sneak peek at the two of the three oil paintings I have in the annual Essex County Greenbelt's juried 'Art in the Barn' show this weekend The group show is three days only—Friday, Saturday and Sunday, June 12–14. There will be loads of paintings, pottery, jewelry, and huge yard sculptures to peruse and purchase. And if that isn't all cool enough, there will be a wine and cheese reception Friday night with beer and taqueria trucks all weekendThe ECG is "...the region’s most effective champion of land conservation, working to conserve the farmland, wildlife habitat and scenic landscapes of Essex County, " so any art that you buy supports the beautiful ECGA open spaces of the North Shore. Hope you can make it!

Hog Island, Ipswich  10 x 10 

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Color Inspiration—wisteria

Our wisteria is in bloom! 
Those blossoms are pretty gorgeous, and the bees love them too. 

To see more colors, click on the red "color inspirationlabel below.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Hello May!

So nice to see you again, May, it's been a while. I think you are the most magical month in the garden…. birds and squirrels are singing and doing their courting dances, the plants and flowers are waking up from their long winter slumbers, the air warms up and we can really smell the earth! Thank you May, for your glorious spring gifts.

Yellow Magnolia Blossom 48" x 30"  

My yellow magnolia tree, Madam Butterflies, is loaded with buds just about ready to bloom. Trees are blooming a little late this year because of our brutal winter. Here is giant painting I made several years ago of one of the magnolia blossoms.

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Sunday, April 19, 2015

The breath of the cherry blossoms...

I went down to
mingle my breath
with the breath
of the cherry blossoms.

—Toi Derricotte, 1941

Monday, April 13, 2015

Chocolaty chocolate tart

How have never mentioned this utterly divine and wickedly chocolate glazed chocolate tart before? (The recipe comes from Bon Appetite magazine.) See those three layers? It's a trio of buttery chocolate, topped with whipped chocolate mousse, cloaked with chocolate ganache. That's three kinds of chocolate experiences on one tart! It's rich, and I've made it at least a dozen times and always get rave reviews. I don't change a thing on the BA recipe and like to serve it with slightly sweetened freshly whipped cream and raaaahhhhspbreeess. And if you have some fresh, edible pansies, even better.

INGREDIENTS for crust:
9 (5- by 2 1/4-inch) chocolate graham crackers (not chocolate-covered), finely ground (1 cup)
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup sugarFor filling:
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
9 ounces bittersweet chocolate (not more than 65% cacao if marked), chopped
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon saltFor glaze:
2 tablespoon heavy cream
1 3/4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 teaspoon light corn syrup
1 tablespoon warm water

a 9-inch round fluted tart pan (1 inch deep)

Make crust:
Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.

Stir together all ingredients and press evenly onto bottom and 3/4 inch up side of tart pan. Bake until firm, about 10 minutes. Cool on a rack 15 to 20 minutes

Make filling:
Bring cream to a boil, then pour over chocolate in a bowl and let stand 5 minutes. Gently stir until smooth. Whisk together eggs, vanilla, and salt in another bowl, then stir into melted chocolate.

Pour filling into cooled crust. Bake until filling is set about 3 inches from edge but center is still wobbly, 20 to 25 minutes. (Center will continue to set as tart cools.) Cool completely in pan on rack, about 1 hour.

Make glaze:
Bring cream to a boil and remove from heat. Stir in chocolate until smooth. Stir in corn syrup, then warm water.

Pour glaze onto tart, then tilt and rotate tart so glaze coats top evenly. Let stand until glaze is set, about 1 hour... if you can!

NOTE: This tarts keeps well for several days—just make sure to glaze it while it's still warm.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Color inspiration—a melange of blues

This magnificent melange of blues is a sky detail from Vincent Van Gogh's View of the Roofs of Paris. It's so modern—and crazy to believe that it was painting in 1886. The colors, texture and overall intensity are very inspiring.

To see more colors, click on the red "color inspirationlabel below.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Wooing spring

Arise, my darling,

my beautiful one, come with me.
See! The winter is past;
the rains are over and gone.
Flowers appear on the earth;
the season of singing has come,
the cooing of doves
is heard in our land.
The fig tree forms its early fruit;
the blossoming vines spread their fragrance.
Arise, come, my darling;
my beautiful one, come with me.

—Song of Solomon

Monday, April 6, 2015

Pink + green!

I think Lilly Pulitzer would have approved of the pink and green combo of these spring colored crostini. The bread slices (sliced bagels, in this case), were browned in olive oil in a saucepan, then topped with 2 separate dips. The pink crostini on the left is mix of a beet and goat cheese that was garnished with a tiny cube of beet, and the green crostini on the right is a mix of peas, ricotta and Parmesan cheese that was garnished with whole peas and pea shoots. Easy peasy!

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Color Inspiration— WM's Tapestry

Easter greetings! I adore the muted colors of William Morris's The Forest tapestry (most likely faded from it's original glorious colors). This handsome hare was featured on The Forest Tapestry—designed by William Morris in 1887 at Merton Abbey—and woven by Morris & Co.'s three most excellent senior weavers. The tapestry depicts scrolling acanthus leaves, a lion, peacock, hare and fox, all frolicking among wild flowers. Shown below is the entire tapestry.

Click to enlarge.

To see more colors, click on the red "color inspirationlabel below.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Russian red eggs

These richly colored eggs have a story behind them. Growing up in Beverly our Russian neighbor, Manishka Kotsovolos (married to a Greek man), would celebrate Russian Orthodox Easter every year  after our regular Easter. When we would arrive at her festive and aromatic home to celebrate the Russian Pascha—the Greek word for Easter—Manya would greet us with a hearty "Christos Anesti!" (Christ is risen!), and the feasting and celebrations would begin.

At the Pascha, the grown-ups would drink and laugh and talk with wonderful passion, and the kids would indulge in the many exotic Russian-Polish-Greek sweet treats that Manya had baked. And there, on the table, was always a giant bowl of these glorious ruby colored eggs that we—both children and adults—would play "Egg Wars" with. Two people, each holding an egg, smash the pointed or round ends of their two eggs together. The owner of the eggs that does not crack is the winner who goes on to the next round, and so on, until there is just one winner. Read more about Greek Egg Fighting here. Needless to say, there was a lot of egg salad the following week. Our family has since adopted this tradition for own own Easter celebrations.

So why do the Russian Orthodox dye their eggs red? Red symbolizes many things, but in this instance the Red is meant to represent the color of life and victory, and blood of Christ. Coloring Easter egg originated with the early Christians of Mesopotamia, who stained eggs red in memory of the blood of Christ. Read more about the history of Russian red eggs here.

Yummy red!

Here's how to make these crimson, blood red eggs: Dyed in onion skins and red food coloring, these eggs come out vibrant red every time. You may have to scrub your pots and pans a bit when the dying is complete.  After your eggs have come out of their red bath and are dry, lightly oil them with mineral or olive oil to give them a brilliant, luminous shine. Have fun!

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Thursday, April 2, 2015

Girl on Rocks

Girl on Rocks  9 x 12  Circa 1977 

For Throwback Thursday... here is a painting I made when I was just a wee lass of only 16!  For anyone who is curious, that's... cough, cough... around 37 years ago. I  knew that I was going to be an artist since around age 3, which explains why I was always pretty obsessive about my Crayola Crayons and construction paperIn Jr. high and high school I took drawing and painting classes at Montserrat College of Art and at The Sisters of Notre Dame in Ipswich. This painting proudly hangs on a wall in my mother's bedroom, and is definitely, absolutely not for sale. Ever.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Color Inspiration—Swiss chard

Swiss Chard is easy to grow and great in the garden for eating of course, but it also looks impressive en mass as a bold and colorful garden design element. Try planting some in your flower bed. Here they look nice and springy!

To see more colors, click on the red "color inspirationlabel below.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Speckled lilliputian wonders

Behold these speckled lilliputian wonders! True—they aren't plovers' eggs, but aren't these little quail eggs darling? My local Market Basket carries them. I love the varying dotted egg exterior, and how the inside of the shell is lined with that robin's eggs blue color. Quail eggs always remind me of that great scene in Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited when Sebastian Flyte treats Charles Ryder and other schoolmates to a feast that included champagne and plovers' eggs—an opulent and rare delicacy—at his room in Oxford.

"The first this year," they said. 
"Where do you get them?"

"Mummy sends them from Brideshead. 
They always lay early for her." 
When the eggs were done and we 
were eating lobster Newburg, 
the last guest arrived.

+ + +

"I’ve just counted them,” he said. 
“There were five each and two over,
 so I’m having the two. I’m 
unaccountably hungry to-day."