Thursday, October 31, 2013

Color Inspiration—spiders + junipers

This beautiful photo, taken by my neighbor Mark, is quite appropriate today since it's Halloween, and it shows the amazing web work of several spiders on a juniper shrub. I say it all the time, but color inspiration really is everywhere. The early morning dew on the webs look lavender, which is beautiful against the blueish junipers.  photo, Mark Tries

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

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Gooseneck gourds

A gaggle of gooseneck gourds at 
Russell Orchards in Ipswich, MA.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Website overhaul

Dan gave my painting website an overhaul recently. He redesigned the layout, including the addition of a feed from this blog to the home page (the blog also feeds to Facebook now). Nifty, huh?! It's clean and easy to navigate, and if you haven't been there for a while please go and visit. The best part: The site is now mobile-friendly: Dan used "responsive web design" techniques so it adapts to devices of all sizes, and the site no longer uses Flash, so it can be viewed on iPads, iPhones, etc. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Three blind mice

The artist who made these adorable standing mice is Johnny Ward, from Seattle, WA. He uses some sort of alchemistic chemistry using concrete and lye to achieve the interesting patina effect on them. Check out his website here. When I first saw the mice in the True North Gallery in Hamilton I knew I had to purchase not just one but three of them. They stand outside on my steps but I suppose I'll need to bring them inside for the winter.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Haystack in winter marsh

Haystack in Winter Marsh,  4 x 6

POSTSCRIPT: SOLD  at the 2013 Castle Hill Show, 
Private collection, Waltham, MA

This is another small work that was essentially a riff on a much larger piece I painted a few years ago, but with a slight bird's-eye view perspective (see bottom painting below). The painting is of a haystack on a marsh on Rt. 1 in Newbury, MA. It's a busy road but the scene is serene. I also painted a similar view in summer in shades of yellows, which is now in a private collection in Palm Beach, Florida.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Autumn marsh

Autumn Marsh, 4 x 6

This new work is a very small canvas—teeny weenie actually. I painted it mind for the upcoming Crane Estate Art Show & Sale, which has a smaller works room this year. I really love the colors, the atmospheric perspective, and the overall mood of it. I used the sfumato painting style, which is the technique of allowing tones and colors to gradually blend and shade into each other, resulting in a somewhat hazy effect.

This painting sold at the 2013 Castle Hill Show, 
and is now in a private collection in Rowley, MA

Friday, October 25, 2013

Pumpkin sformato

This savory pumpkin sformato is garnished with the very last zucchini blossom of the season from my humble little veggie garden. All summer long I chopped the blossoms up into salads, and also stuffed and fried them. So until next year, thank you, Signore Zucco—Mr. Zucchini.

To make the sformato (which means to unmold, as in custard) I used this recipe as a starting point but then cut way down to only make enough for two small sformatos. Essentially I made a quick little béchamel sauce, added pumpkin puree (from a can, I admit it!), then added Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese plus seasoning. The combination of pumpkin and parm-reg cheese make for intense flavors, and add to that a drizzle of pumpkin oil and it makes for a party in your mouth. So there are four kind of pumpkiny elements here—the pureed pumpkin in the sformato, the zucchini blossom, the pumpkin seeds for crunch, and the pumpkin oil. If I had thought of it, a roasted pumpkin wedge would have made for five elements from the pumpkin family. In any case, it was delicious.

 Check out my pea sformato from last spring here.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Wild again

Another volunteer late bloomer in the garden! In the film Out of Africa, Meryl Streep's character (Baroness Karen Blixen) says about her coffee plantation "Every time I turn my back it seems to want to go wild again." I feel that way about my garden. This cosmos plant is a delight and the least of my worries... I'm really talking about the Virginia creeper, bittersweet, poison ivy, creeping Charlie, and grapevine... etc. that grows wild and out of control.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Borlotti bean bruschetta

I grew some Italian borlotti beans this summer! Aren't they pretty, all speckled with pink? They're super easy to grow, high in fiber and delicious. These beans are also known as cranberry beans or French beans. They are shelling beans, and excellent in soups, salads or on their own.

The Italians know a thing or two about cooking beans and I found a good Tuscan bean recipe in Bon Appetit mag to cook these fresh borlotti beansOnce they have cooked this way they lose their beautiful pink specks but gain an incredibly creamy texture and rich flavors. 

The beans are simmered in olive oil along with garlic cloves, tomatoes and sage leaves. The cooked beans are good to eat on their own, scooped out of the oil, but I put them on a toasted piece of ciabatta bread to make borlotti bean bruschettas. (The word bruscchetta is from the Italian word bruscare, which means to char.) I topped them with fried sage leaves and roasted mini plum tomatoes. Don't toss the garlic oil... it can be used to drizzle on other things too... pastas perhaps?

Below is what the beans look like 
after an hour or so in a 350° oven... 
not as pretty, but mighty tasty!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Extreme gardening

Time for me to wrap up all those projects in the yard and put the garden to bed for the winter. I've had a finger injury that kept me from digging in the dirt, so I'm behind more than usual for this time of year. I need to cross many things off my list before the cold weather sets in. Then I can retire these garden gloves for the season, which are worn through with holes. I go through around 6 pairs of garden gloves each season, and Dan breaks at least a rake and a shovel each year too. Oh, and loppers too. We're extreme gardeners and hard on our tools!!

Shown below is a wheelbarrow full of plant divisions that still need to be planted. (I dug them up divided them before the aforementioned finger injury.) Waiting patiently in the wheelbarrow there's some lovely fern, August Moon hosta with lime green leaves, and all gold hakonechloa grass. I also have a trunk load of tulip bulbs to plant. I'd better get busy!

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Gryphon

The Gryphon, 6 x 8

The theme of this year's upcoming Crane Estate Art Show & Sale (The weekend of November 8th) is "Shifting Perspectives," so that inspired me to paint his Gryphon in the cinematic Dutch angle. The mysterious gryphon, or 'griffin' as Castle Hill refers to it, is half eagle, half lion, and is one of two almost identical statues that flank the back doors of the estate that overlooks the grand allée that runs down to the sea. The mythological creatures were made by artist Paul Manship. This painting is a small canvas so I kept it simple and didn't go into too much detail.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Dance of the Cherry Trees

Dance of the Cherry Trees, 30 x 30

This new work is of the volunteer cherry trees in my neighbor's yard. All those vertical tree trunks remind me of dancers, and this time of year—when their leaves fall off and float to the ground—they also look like dancing fairies!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Russell Orchards

Autumn is a great time to visit Russell Orchards in neighboring Ipswich, MA. You can smell those delicious apple cider doughnuts as soon as you pull into the parking lot! And they repurpose the oil used to make them into bio-deisel fuel that powers their farm tractors. We didn't pick apples this visit, but we did buy several types of their apples from the overflowing bins—so crisp and sweet! And of course we can never leave there without a few of those naughty apple cider doughnuts.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A fiery path

Fiery Path, Halibut Point, 30 x 30

This new work I painted is of a path at Halibut Point State Park in nearby Rockport, MA. The big draw there is always the massive old granite quarries and the rocky shoreline, but some of the pathways are also quite beguiling and mysterious.

Postscript: I framed this painting in a floating frame made of chestnut colored pecan wood, which really compliments the painting nicely. I put it in the Crane Estate Show and Sale but it didn't sell, and is still available. Christmas present? Write for pricing.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Surprise sunflower

This late season sunflower just popped up in our front yard, probably from a seed dropped by a bird flying overhead or from a greedy chipmunk. What a nice surprise to see in the chilly October sunshine! And how lucky for the bees to have some late bloomers to gather pollen from.

photos, Dan Ryan

Saturday, October 12, 2013

A très fab chèvre

A loaf of bread, a jug of wine, a superb French cheese, and thou. Well isn't how the saying goes? This cheese made by Nettle Meadow was made with the milk from goats who have been lucky enough to graze on wild nettles, raspberry leaves, kelp, comfrey, garlic, barley and goldenrod (that's what the label says anyhow), then mold ripened and black ash drizzled. It's a beautiful artisan cheese and perfect with that loaf of bread and jug of wine.

photos, Dan Ryan

Friday, October 11, 2013

Dreamy colors

I am seriously in love with the gorgeous lavender blue colors that Russian artist Bato Dugarzhapov used in these paintingsThey are the colors I dream about. See more of his paintings here.

Thursday, October 10, 2013


This rustic and colorful frittata—baked in square cast iron pans—includes purple Peruvian potatoes, zucchini, baby plum tomatoes, purple onions, cheddar cheese and chives. To make it I scrambled 4 eggs in a bowl with fork, added salt and pepper, grated cheddar cheese and chives, then poured the mix between two well buttered cast iron pans. I cooked the eggs on the stovetop for less than a minute each, just so they barely start to set. Then I added the zucchini, potatoes, tomatoes and onions, then baked in a 350° oven for around 15 minutes. I wish you could have seen how puffy the eggs were when they first came out of the oven—like a soufflé! Good for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

photo, Diane Carnevale

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

A panoply of pumpkins!

Photo from Martha Stewaet Living

Inspired by... a panoply of pumpkins!

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

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The last slice

This was the last slice of sweet pear tart made with our homegrown pears. See all those different layers inside? It's basically the same as the French pear tart I made a few weeks back—with the pâte brisée crust, a layer of almond butter (freshly ground from Whole Foods that day!) and sliced almonds. But under those layers, right on the crust, I also added a layer of almond paste, which is much like marzipan but with more almonds. Good to the last flakey bite.

Monday, October 7, 2013

The color wheat

Inspired by... the color wheat.

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

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Think pink!

The upcoming Think Pink exhibit at the MFA just happens to coincide with October's Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The entire MFA building will be illuminated in pink (!!) and will run from October 3, 2013 to May 26, 2014. Shown below is a gorgeous pink silk taffeta 18th century doll's dress from the Elizabeth Day McCormick Collection. The blurb below is from the MFA.

Explore the changing meaning of pink in art and fashion
From pinking shears to pink ribbons, the color pink is associated with fashion and femininity; perhaps no other color has as much social significance and gender association. The fascinating exhibition “Think Pink” explores the history and changing meanings of the color as its popularity ebbed and flowed in fashion and visual culture from the 18th century to the present day. An interdisciplinary show drawing from across the MFA collections, “Think Pink” juxtaposes clothing, accessories, graphic illustrations, jewelry, and paintings to shed light on changes in style; the evolution of pink for girls, blue for boys; and advances in color technology. “Think Pink” includes a selection of dresses and accessories from the collection of the late Evelyn Lauder, who was instrumental in creating an awareness of breast cancer by choosing the color as a visual reference. 

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Coach class

We have quite a treat in Hamilton this weekend with a group of classic four-horse drawn coaches in town for North Shore Coaching Weekend. Dan and I checked them out yesterday (it was a bit rainier than forecast; sure made us appreciate our modern cars with heat — and roofs). The horses, carriages and riders were all quite striking trotting down the grassy paths at Appleton Farms. It's a shame it was raining, but it was a gorgeous sight anyway. A little later we watched the carriages parade down Bay Road in Hamilton. They looked quite natural in the rustic country setting of Appleton Farms, but they a bit looked anachronistic clippity-clopping on asphalt and past modern stop signs with automobiles on the road.

And right out of central casting ... the photos below just shows that if you put a top hat or bowler hat on anyone they are immediately transported to another age and time. The ladies and gents looked quite dapper, even in the rain.

The Coaching Weekend continues Saturday (with a drive to Bradley Palmer State Park) and Sunday (featuring a stint on our own street and a final stop at Myopia for the weekly polo match).

Friday, October 4, 2013

Pear and walnut salad

This is the last salad of my Pear Salad Week

Sliced pears, roasted walnuts, and nobs of robust Roquefort cheese float over a bed of baby romaine and frisee lettuces. The whole shebang is dressed with my very favorite autumn salad vinaigrette that I've been making for years. Props to Martha Stewart for the recipe, though please note that I reduce the apple cider by half in a saucepan to make it more intense. The vinaigrette works fab with apple and walnut salads too, so I always have a small container of it in the fridge this time of year when apples are freshly picked and abundant. A salad tossed with this vinaigrette is a perfect match with a cider glazed pork roast.

Autumn cider vinaigrette
1 shallot, minced
1 tablespoon apple cider (reduced by half)
2 tablespoons apple-cider vinegar
1/4 cup walnut oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper

I could keep going with these pear salads, of course—pears integrate easily into all sorts of sweet or savory meals. And although we've picked the last of our pears from the trees, we still have about a dozen ripening in a big wooden bowl. Hmmm... I see another French pear tart in our near future! Check out this unusual Cantaloupe, mango and pear slaw

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Warm caramelized pear salad

Pow... This pear salad has big flavors! Warm, caramelized pears with rosemary, creamy French feta cheese, and crispy prosciutto strips with baby arugula leaves. Ohh la laa delicious!

To caramelize pears, add 2 tbsp butter, 1/4 cup of sugar, a few sprigs of fresh rosemary, and 1/4 cup water to a pan. Simmer for 3-4 minutes, then add sliced pears (around 1/4 inch thick) and simmer slowly for another 5-8 minutes, until the syrup thickens and the pears are tender.