Sunday, April 16, 2017

Bodacious bunnies wish you a happy Easter

These darling little bunnies were made by Beatrix Potter, from her  book 'The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies', published in 1909. Sure—they look adorable here but any gardner will tell you that rabbits are quite a nuisance in the the garden! 


Here's a bunny sunbathing in my veggie garden. Rascal!

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Color Inspiration— scrumptious garden


I'm still dreaming of spring, and until ours arrives I'll have to settle for colorful photos and paintings of flora. American artist Childe Hassam painted these sorts of wonderfully detailed paintings, of the seaside and of gardens. This is one painting he produced in a friend's garden on the Isles of Shoals. I love the delicate splashes of color against the greens and blues, which really help the background recede. To me this garden is scrumptious—truly, truly scrumptious.

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

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Bouquets to tide us over

Here in New England, our spring is a bit slow in emerging this year, so here are several incredibly beautiful bouquet paintings from centuries past to help tide us over until the earth explodes with color. Look at the scrumptious colors and the details! One interesting fact about these sorts of flower paintings is that a tulip would never be in bloom at the same time as, say, a larkspur or a rose. Artistic license was at play, as the artist included flowers from spring, summer and autumn. The little insects that these artists included in these paintings are a delightful surprise—butterflies, dragonflies, snails, and ladybugs, to name a few. Can you spot them?

This 19th-century watercolor,
 by Antoine Jules Pelletier

Bouquet of flowers placed on a pedestal in stone, with a dragonfly
by Abraham Mignon

Flowers in a Vase
by Paulus Theodorus van Brussel, 1792

Still Life of Flowers, by Ambrosious Bosschaert, 1620s

Cornelis Van Spaendonck

Still Life of Flowers, by Ambrosious Bosschaert, 1620s

Here is one more—Contemporary painter Yana Movchan has embraced this style of floral still life painting quite successfully. Here, his Bouquet with Gladiolus has that old-world charm, right down to the little snail climbing up a leaf on the left side of the canvas. See it?

Bouquet with Gladiolus, Yana Movchan, 1980

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Foolery, sir...

Foolery, sir, does walk about the orb 
like the sun, it shines everywhere. 

~ William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night 

Hans Hanberg in 1568

Mother Nature is playing an April Fools trick on us today with a spring snowstorm. When will spring ever arrive? This beautiful etching of a fool was made by Hans Hanberg in 1568. He is resting his chin on his right hand, wearing a chain with a large medallion, with a fly on his fool's cap. I'm pretty sure he is looking for signs of spring!

The Fool By Heinrich Vogtherr, 1513-1568
  Print made by Hans Hanberg 1568

After Pieter Jansz Date 1638-1678

Print by Franz Isaac Brun (1555-1610)

Print made by Franz Isaac Brun (1555-1610)

Print by Franz Isaac Brun (1555-1610)

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Hello Spring!

We made it through the winter! I'm excited to smell the earth warm up, to hear the birds singing and to see the trees and flowers come to life. 

Monday, February 20, 2017

Let the sun shine in!

I love that citrus season falls mercifully in the middle of our deep, dark winter days—just when we can all use a blast of vitamin C. What better way to brighten up a morning than with a sunshiny plate of colorful citrus fruits? Here, I sprinkled crunchy, salty pistachio nuts over a mélange of citrus fruits, including white grapefruit, blood oranges, CaraCara oranges, meyer lemons and kumquats. Let the sun shine in!

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Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Have in hands

Hands in classical portraiture hold more than mere objects. They can also hold secrets and reveal stories of place, time or social class. Hand gestures can have myriad meanings in religious art, or amorous meanings in later portrait art. The classic Napoleonic 'hand in waistcoat' pose in men's portraiture harkened back to classical times when it was considered bad manners to speak with an arm outside of one's toga. And once upon a time a woman's hand fan was an instrument of communication for her. Her freedom of speech was highly restricted otherwise, so this was very clever indeed. 

(click to see larger view) 

There was an entire slew of secret messages in fan language. For example, to fan slowly meant that the woman was saying I am married. No doubt this this was done somewhat surreptitiously, to a prospective paramour.  If a woman were to hold her hand on her left cheek it mean that she was saying no; to let the fan slide on her cheek, it meant I want you, and if she held the fan on her left ear it meant I want you to leave me alone.  

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Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Day dreaming of Paris

I wonder what Paris would be like to visit around Christmastime? Surely the macarons from Laduree would taste better than in springtime.... or autumn. Must visit in winter one of these years.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Good night, sweet dahlias

I have this crazy routine for putting my dahlias to bed for the winter. The process takes a whole week. First I make sure that each plant is labeled (kind and color, temporarily tagged on the stem with a twisty tie) before the last frost hits, because once the leaves turn black and the flowers die off I'd never know my Emory Pauls from my Chloe Janaes. I wait until the frost so that the leaves have all the time they can to send energy down to the tubers, which will actually grow eyes over the winter (the way a potato tuber does). When the frost hits, that's my cue to dig up my dahlia plants. I carefully dig them out of the ground, hose the dirt from the tubers, and line them up on the grass by kind with their specific labels all ready to attach. Then I cut off their lush green tops. Off with their heads! 

Here are the labels, all ready to attach to the bags that they each will go into. You can still see some of the names stamped onto the dahlia  tubers from the sellers, and all the new tuber growth. Some experts say to discard the 'mother tuber', and break apart your tubers at this point, but I always overwinter the tubers as they are, and divide them in the spring. I can see where they eyes have sprouted over the winter.  

Then I place the tubers into plastic mesh bags, like you'd get with bags of potatoes or lemons. (You can find these mesh bags in all sorts of colors on Amazon here. ) Sometimes the tubers get broken off from the mother tuber clumps and this is a nice way to keep the family of tubers all together. My husband says that these tuber filled mesh bags look like chickens. They do, actually. I do not bother with anti fungal powder, but this would be the time to do that.

Then I dry the dahlia tubers out for a week or so, preferably with the tubers upside down so any moisture from the cut stem will drain out. Then off they go into a ventilated box for the winter, where they stay on my porch. Where you store your dahlia tubers must have a constant temperature of between 32° and 50°, and the moisture should not be too dry or too damp. It's a little tricky, but worth the effort. I check on the dahlias every month or so to make sure there is no fungus on the tubers. I am excited for next spring, when I can put these chickens back into the ground.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Crane Estate art show & sale—2016

Magnolia 40 x 40" 

This coming weekend is the Trustees of Reservations annual juried Crane Estate art show & sale! With over 300 pieces of original art, it's a nice chance to visit and view "... art highlighting the beauty of North Shore's landscapes and landmarks." The theme of this year's show is called the Spirit of the Garden, so I have submitted the 4 floral paintings shown here. They range in size from very large (the 40 x 40" white magnolia shown above) to very small (the 4 x 4" yellow magnolia shown below).  

The show is free and open to the public from 10AM to 4PM Saturday and Sunday (November 5th and 6th) There is also a preview garden party soirée Friday night November 4th from 7 to 10 PM, and the ticket price includes an open bar, catered hors d'oeuvres, and live music. They throw a good bash, so hope to see you there. 

Spring Magnolia 10 x 10"

Madam Butterfly 4 x 4"

Even without the awesome art show, the Crane Estate is beautiful to visit this time of year, magically perched on a hillside that overlooks the Atlantic ocean. The kids can run wild and the adults can pop inside to see the paintings, then you can take a long walk on Crane's Beach, or stop into Russell Orchards on the way home for some apples or cider donuts. 

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Roasted tomato soup

I roasted up the very last of the tomatoes from my garden to make a smoky and creamy soup. I'll freeze up most of it, because won't it be nice to sip on this soup on a cold, snowy wintry day to remind me of  summer days? Here is how to make this soup: 

Cut all tomatoes in half lengthwise (or quarter them, if they are super large), and place cut side up on a sheet pan lined with aluminum foil and drizzled with olive oil. Salt and pepper the tomatoes and add fresh thyme leaves if you have some. Place into a 375° oven and roast for about an hour. The end result will be intensely flavored tomatoes with a slight bit of char on them.

Then cut up and sauté a diced medium onion and 3 cloves of minced garlic in a tablespoon of butter. When onions are clear, add in the roasted tomatoes, 2 cups of homemade chicken stock (or small can of low sodium chicken stock), 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, a day of liquid smoke, and a half cup of fat free half and half. If you have smoked pimento, add a teaspoon for more smokey flavor. Salt and pepper to taste, and cook for about five minutes. Carefully use an immersion blender or pour soup into a blender to wiz the soup into a smooth consistency. If you prefer a chunkier soup texture reserve some tomatoes, roughly chop them and badd back into the soup after blending. Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with a dollop of crème fraîche (or Greek yogurt or even sour cream), a drizzle of olive oil and a spring of thyme. Of course, half of a buttery, gooey, grilled cheese sandwich would be marvelous with this soup!

You may also like: 
recipe post from a few years ago where I explained my philosophy 
about tomato soups. This post was published on Tastespotting


Saturday, October 1, 2016

October garden bounty

It's delightful that my garden is still producing—even in October—when the high sunshine days are long gone. I adore the golden Patty Pan squashes. I hollow out and fill the larger ones with scrumptious goodies (corn, onion, Gruyere cheese, thyme, and a squeeze of lemon. etc.) then bake in the oven, and the large Bradywine tomatoes are smashing in a BLT, but it's the explosively sweet flavor of those little Sun Gold tomatoes that have absolutely seduced me this year. And they're super easy to grow. 

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Good to the last bite

This divine macaron was served to us at Ladurèe on the Champs-Élysées. Funny story about this dessert... We were having our lunch and the waiter had erroneously delivered my Caesar salad avec poulet, instead of sans poulet, as I had specified, so to make amends for the mix up he delivered to us this luscious Ispahan macaron (with a hint of rose water, lychee cream, and fresh raspberries).  Apology blissfully accepted.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Adoring the Magi

Bucket list update: We are back in Paris after a 24-hour whirlwind trip to Florence, where I finally viewed the very magnificent, insanely colorful and breathtakingly beautiful Adoration of the Magi fresco located in the Palazzo Medici Riccardi, painted by Benozzo Gozzoli. Do you need a moment to parse that sentence? Phew, that's a lot of vowels and Zs. The Palazzo was closed the last time I was in Florence. Click on the link below to read a bit more about this sublime masterpiece, and the back story of my previous attempts to view it.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Once more, with feeling!

After our May visit to Paris we decided that there's so much more to see and do there that we just had to go back one more time. After a quick connection in Iceland, on we go to Paris for eight days.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Color Inspiration—greens + irises

I really do see the world in colors. It's thrilling to me when I come across two seemingly disparate images within a few days' time—in this case, a photo of edible greens and a painting of a patch of irises in a garden—that both comprise a very similar color palette. In my next garden painting, I'll just have to use these sublime colors. 
Claude Monet's 'Irises'

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