Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Bellini

Buoni cari mattina! (Good morning darlings!) Today's Saturday Sipper is a cocktail that was invented in the original Harry's Bar in Venice, Italy by Guiseppe Cipriani. It's made with luscious, ripe summer peaches and Italian Prosecco. Peaches and Prosecco? How bad can that be?

Apparently the blushing pink hue of this peach drink reminded Cipriani of the color of the togas that 15th-century Venetian artist Giovanni Bellini often painted. (Such as the one shown below), so that's how it got its name. The tasty concoction will set you back around 20 Euros at Harry's Bar, but you can make one on the cheap here in the USA, where white peaches are in season, although you won't have the romantic Venetian backdrop. I've put a little twist on the classic Bellini by adding a judicious dash of lemon thyme infused simply syrup. 

2 oz white peach puree*
6 oz Prosecco
1 tablespoon lemon thyme infused simple syrup
fresh peaches for garnishing

Basically this drink one party peach puree to 3 parts Prosecco per drink. Add peach puree, lemon thyme infused simple syrup into two, well-chilled glasses. Top with Prosecco, add peach slices and lemon thyme sprigs for garnish, and dream about Bellini, Tintoretto, Cannaletto, Titian, and all those other Venetian painters. 

Makes two peachy Bellinis!

*To make the silky sweet peach juice, slice 2 peaches (preferably white, but whatever you can find) into segments, remove the pit, and place into a blender skin and all. Whizz it up to a pulp, and strain through a strainer. There's your juice. Refrigerate the puree until it is very cold. As an alternative to fresh peaches, which I admit feels a little wrong, you can always just use this Bellini juice and mix it with Prosecco.

Click to see more Saturday Sippers!

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Rue Montorgueil in Paris

Claude Monet's The Rue Montorgueil in Paris 

Being somewhat of a Francophile, I couldn't possibly let Bastille Day pass without some sort of nod to their chosen day of liberté, égalité, fraternité (freedom, equality, brotherhood"). Oui, Bastille Day. And what better way to do this than with a French flag painting. Ok, not just any old French flag painting—this masterpiece is by French impressionist Claude Monet.

The Rue Montorgueil was painted on June 30th, 1878 for a festival declared that year by the government celebrating "peace and work," and was intended to be a symbol of France’s recovery after the defeat of 1870. Viva la France! 

See more famous flag paintings 
by clicking here(mostly American!)

Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Celery French 75

Mon cheri, this week's Saturday Sipper is a nod to Bastille Day, which will be celebrated Monday the 14th in France. This cocktail has an unusual name—oui, nest pas? The Martha Stewart Website says this: 

The ultrasmooth French 75 cocktail  is named
 for an equally ultrasmooth 75-millimeter artillery cannon
 used in World War I. In this version, 
the alluring blend of gin and sparkling wine gets 
an aromatic herbal lift from celery-infused syrup.

Okay, I couldn't have said that any better. Traditionally this drink does not include this celery simple syrup, but I like flirting with anything unusual, so I had to try Martha's version. Essentially this tastes like a lemonade for grown ups!


2 tbsp. celery simple syrup*
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 oz gin
6 oz Prosecco
baby celery leaves and lemon peel for garnishing

In each of your two chilled champagne glasses, add 1 tablespoon of the celery simple syrup, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, and 1/2 ounce gin in a champagne glass. Top off with champagne or sparkling wine or prosecco, or whatever you have that's bubbly! Swirl to mix. And the denouement?… why, a sprig of celery leaves and a lemon rind, pourquoi des cours!

Makes two mouth puckering Celery French 75s!

*To make the celery simple syrup—Add equal parts, (1/2 cup each) of sugar and water to a saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat for about 5 minutes, or until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat; add celery leaves, and let it infuse until it cools, about a half hour. Pour syrup through a fine sieve into a bowl, and discard leaves. What's left behind is a beautiful, pale chartruse colored sweet syrup. Chill in the fridge until you are ready to use. Make plenty, this will be a summer fave!

Click to see more Saturday Sippers!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Watermelon + feta salad

Watermelon and feta salads are the perfect combo of sweet and salty. This rustic salad also has some refreshing mint strips on top. You can drizzle this duo with olive oil for a more savory mouth feel, or with balsamic vinegar to give it some extra kick, but I like it plain sometimes, just like this. Check out these watermelon and feta salads from previous posts I've done:

(click to see post)

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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Color inspiration—juicy watermelon!

Nothing says summer like juicy, refreshing watermelon! 
Love those scrumptious shades of pink and green.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

The rhubarb mojito

It's rhubarb season, so this week's Saturday Sipper celebrates this crazy beautiful plant with a rhubarb infused libation. This Rhubarb Mojito is pretty much like a regular mojito, but the simple syrup was infused with chopped bits of rhubarb. The sugar balances the tart rhubarb and it's sweet and summery.

2 oz Bacardi white rum
2 oz freshly rhubarb simple syrup*
1/2 lime
dash of cinnamon and a grating of fresh nutmeg
club soda to top off
frosty ice

Between two glasses, add rum, rhubarb simple syrup, lime juice, cinnamon, nutmeg, and mint leaves. Muddle a bit with a wooden muddler to release the mint essence. Add ice and top off with club soda. Garnish with rhubarb stalk, sip, then say, ahhh, I love summer!  

*For the rhubarb single syrup—In a small pot, combine the 3/4 cup chopped rhubarb, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 cup water, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to moderately low and simmer until slightly thickened and bright pink in color, about 20 minutes. Let the syrup cool then pour through a fine-mesh sieve set over a bowl. Press down gently and discard the solids. The rhubarb simple syrup can be made in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week, if you can resist that long!

Makes two minty-licious rhubarb mojitos!

Click to see more Saturday Sippers!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Georgia on my Mind

Georgia on My Mind  8 x 10  

This painting was a commission piece for a couple who is getting married in Georgia. I kept thinking of those long allées of live oak trees—dripping with Spanish moss—and thought it would represent Georgia nicely. What a nice unique gift to give to someone!


The newly married couple loved their new painting! Nice to see a painting of mine with its new owners. That's Victoria's Secret model Lindsay Ellingson in the middle, with her new husband, Sean Clayton, on the right, and my cousin Susan Hatch is in the one in the gorgeous flowered dress. Wishing Lindsay and Sean years of connubial bliss!!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Color inspiration— Peaches

The aroma of fresh, summertime peaches is the absolute epitome of summertime to me. The peaches above, painted by Claude Monet in 1883, are light and lovely, and must have smelled heavenly. By contrast, Paul Gauguin's peach paintings (below) look brooding and moody.

Peach, by Kim Blair

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Persimmon pathway

Persimmon Pathway  8 x 8 

This new work is something a little different for me. My neighbors (Mark and Maggie) just returned from a trip out west. They had sent this photo when they were on a hike in Arizona and I was inspired to paint the scene for them as a surprise souvenir of their trip. I have been out west in Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and lived in Taos, New Mexico for several years—so I know and love the landscape there. That orangey red soil is amazing!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Rebecca

The "Saturday Sipper" is back! Each Saturday throughout the summer we'll explore a panoply of crazy and exotic combinations of libations to shake, swizzle, and sip our way to autumn. Come along with us, won't you? Click to see our Saturday Sippers from last year!

This first Saturday Sipper is named after my fabulous cousin Becky who not only introduced us to Hendrick's Gin—as distinguished and unique as she herself is—but she also introduced us to this citrusy mix of grapefruit juice and Hendrick's. Becky is just jetting back from Lake Maggiore and Venice, Italy with her husband and three kids (Not sure how she managed to rendezvous with George Clooney with them around, wink wink!) We added a splash of St. Germain to this mix, a très exotic cordial made with the elderflower blossoms to ultimately make a perfect balance of sweet, citrusy and tart. We also just happened to have a flowering black lace (sambucus) elderberry shrub in our yard, so the timing of this drink was paramount indeed. Stay cool and welcome home Rebecca, this one's for you!

2 oz Hendrick's Gin
6 oz freshly squeezed ruby red grapefruit juice
splash of St. Germain in each glass
frosty ice

Put ice in two glasses, add gin, grapefruit juice, St. Germaine, and mix with spoon. Garnish with grapefruit peel and elderberry blossom if you happen to have a flowering shrub nearby! Watch out darlings, this one goes down easy.

Makes two mouth puckering Rebeccas!

Friday, June 27, 2014


Lately on Pinterest I've been studying details of classic portraits. For example take a close look at Nicolas de Largillière's Portrait of a Woman painted in 1749. I don't know about you but I get goosebumps looking at this kind of painting detail! The story starts with a single shiny dropped pearl. See the turquoise and green in there? So well painted. And think about it, they probably didn't have plastic pearls made in China back in the 1700's—these were no doubt the real deal. 

Then zoom out a bit more... to see two more round pearls flanking the dropped one. Look closely at the shiny and bulbous cluster of pearls, the amazingly rich golden ribbon and beaded criss-crossed brocade on iridescent, creamy silver cloth, and the intricate, filagree lace. Isn't it all stunning?

 Zoom out a bit more… mmm, now you see more of that beautiful fabric, and a hint of cinnabar colored silk fabric down on the lower right, which is reflected in the woman's lustrous dress.

Zoom out a bit more… and you'll see the incredible tiny waist on this woman, her bodice wrapped so tightly across it she can probably hardly breathe! You see more of that cinnabar colored silk fabric that makes me swoon with envy, and more giant pearls here and there along with other details. 

Zoom out more... and you'll see Largillière's final full-sized painting. The woman's face seems so plain and conservative compared to her opulent dress. How old do you think she is? She has kept her figure for sure, but the powdered gray wigs they wore in those days throw me off trying to guess her age. Since you started backwards viewing the details of this painting, revealing more and more glorious bits long the way, you know that this visual journey all started with one… shiny… white... pearl.

Thursday, June 26, 2014


Windswept  8 x 10 

Apparently I can't stop painting our North Shore salt marshes. Can't you just feel the gusts of wind? Of course these golden colors speak to me, as do the beautiful salt marshes. Painting on a windy day can be messy, with bugs flying on my pallet and canvas, but it's enhilerating.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Golden morning!

Golden Morning 6 x 12 

My hope is that the warmth and stillness of this early morning marsh painting comes through to the viewer. To me it feels very zen and relaxing!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Wild mushroom agnolotti with brie sauce

These half moon shaped wild mushroom ravioli (store bought from Buitoni!) are filled with cremini and portobello mushrooms, garlic and two cheeses. I made a sexy sauce for them by sautéing shallots, shitake and baby bella mushrooms, then deglazing the pan with Marsala wine. The I added in a splash of heavy cream, a dollop of crème fraîche and some super thin slices of brie cheese to finish—which melted into the sauce. I garnished the plate with lemon thyme, and thyme and sage blossoms. It was divinely decadent!

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Monday, June 23, 2014

Through the fog

Through the fog 6 x 9 

This new marsh painting has a mystical quality to me—it's the kind of early morning fog that is haunting. Sometimes muted colors work best, although if you look closer at this painting, you'll see bits of reds and blues in the muddy walls n the marshes by the water's edge.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

A smörgåsbord of Scandinavian delights

In Scandinavian countries, Midsummer's Day is celebrated properly! Why we (in the U.S.A.) don't embrace this magical turning of the seasons with pagan summer rituals is a mystery to me. It's the longest day of the year and worth some serious merriment and jollification!! 

This morning, to welcome the start of summer,  I kissed the summer dawn (see yesterday's post), and tonight I wore a flower in my hair, toasted with Aquavit and other appropriate libations, and nibbled lazily on a Smörgåsbord of Scandinavian delights until the fireflies and fairies came out to play with me. Kippis and Skål! 

On the menu was: sweet orange picked beets and red onions, cucumbers and dill, ginger smoked salmon on lemon herbed cream cheese on rye bread, and warm herbed potato salad. We also had havarti and dill cheese, cumin gouda, and giant Swedish Wasa rye crackers.

Our Scandinavian smörgåsbord

We lit a raging bonfire!

For dessert,  we had a ravishing Swedish Midsummer Strawberry Meringue Layer Cake (similar to Eton Mess) made with cardamom meringue, whipped cream and the first batch of the juiciest, ripest, local strawberries. 

 Click here to read about our midsummer's celebration last year.

Friday, June 20, 2014

J'ai embrassé l'aube d'été

by Amanda Collins

J'ai embrassé l'aube d'été.

{ I have kissed the summer dawn. }

These two paintings embrace the warm colors of the summer solstice with warm, glowing colors that include venetian red, terra rosa, burnt sienna, russet, yellow and gold ochre, and cadmium orange. Today is the last day of spring and the summer solstice tomorrow is the day with the most hours of sunlight during the whole year. So tomorrow—at precisely 6:51 a.m.—I plan on kissing the summer dawn. Where will you be?

Spicy love child,  by Erin Ashley

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

French garden seed box

Listed among my "very favorite things" I would have to include this—my French garden seed box. In fact, my box of seeds in an old wine box is one of my favorite things too. Oh the possibilities. Usually these seeds are bought in the doldrums of winter and filled with promises of spring and renewal. Dan gave this to me one Christmas as a stocking stuffer, along with a very cool garden journal.  I've sowed some French radish, carrots and beet seeds, and they are growing away in my little French kitchen potager garden now! I'll keep you posted on the progress.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Baby pears

I pruned the wild shoots and sprouts on my espaliered pear tree the other morning. I do this routine several times during the season to keep it neat and tidy. Love those adorable baby pears from the pollinated blossoms of about a month ago. Saddest story ever though, were all the baby pears that I accidentally knocked off! That's about a dozen pears that won't get plump throughout the season. 

See photos of my espaliered pear tree throughout the seasons by clicking here!