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 exhilarating too.

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

Drifting fog

Drifting 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 marsh walls 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!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Nasturtiums + black widow aphids

I was very excited to fill my two giant urns with mass plantings of gorgeous and colorful nasturtiums, but they were also attractive eye candy to the dreaded black widow aphid. Yup, they completely attacked the nasturtiums, which ended up in the "plant hospital" for most of the summer. I did manage to harvest tons of seeds for next year though.

Nasturtium blossoms

Nasturtium seeds!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Sim-chi— sauerkraut slaw

What's sim-chee, you wonder? Simulated Kimchi!! Let me explain. This bright, fresh and crunchy coleslaw was made with a combo of fresh cabbage, carrots, scallions, garlic chili sauce, orange juice and cilantro. And sauerkraut. Didn't see that coming, did you?

+ + + 

Here's the back story on the creation of this dish. After a recent case of asthmatic bronchitis, the antibiotics that I was put on wreaked havoc with the trillions of gorgeous gut flora I had grooving in my intestines. Plainly put, I had a sour stomach. So what's a girl to do? Being loath to pop a probiotic pill, I would much rather get my probiotics with nutritional foods, so I did some web research on reputable sites and found out all the good things I should be eating to replace that gut flora. Along with obvious things like yogurt and kefir, and plenty of fermentable fibers (starches like sweet potatoes!), the list includes fermented things like unpasturized sauerkraut and Korean Kimchi which helps make healthy flora throughout the digestive tract. Mmm... tempted yet?

Shredded raw cabbage already has phytonutrient antioxidants anti-inflammatory properties, rich in vitamins A, C, K and fiber, but when it is pickled this already awesome vegetable becomes a superfood! What's not to love? Dishes like sauerkraut and kimchi provide a high density source of a wide range of beneficial live bacteria which assist in the digestive process. Consuming a serving of sauerkraut can give your body as much of a health boost as many of those expensive probiotic drinks and supplements sold in stores. It was Saturday and I didn't feel like going to Whole Foods for a good jar of Kimchi, but I bought a good unpasturized bagged of sauerkraut and make a quick kimchi by mixing in garlic chili sauce and a few other ingredients. It's a real tasty coleslaw type of salad, and my tummy is slowly feeling better. A little too much information, but there you go!

It worked! After several days my tummy ache finally went away, 
which hopefully means my gut flora is back to normal. 
I am crediting Kefir and this delicious live Wildbrine sauerkraut 
that I bought from Whole Foods.

Love the package design!

Thursday, June 12, 2014


 Primavera  9 x 14 

Swaying grasses, warm spring breezes, the trickily of the water ebbing and flowing…. this is what keeps me coming back to Fox Creek to paint. It's particularly yummy in spring, with its first green flush.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Color inspiration—plum poppies

My purple "Patty's Plum" poppies are in bloom! 

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

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Art in the Barn, 2014

Halibut Point path  30 x 30

Here is a sneak peek at the 13 paintings I've submitted to the 25th annual Essex County Greenbelt's juried 'Art in the Barn' show this weekend—including 3 large paintings and 10 small, unframed paintings. The group show is three days only—Friday, Saturday and Sunday, June 12–15. There will be loads of paintings, pottery, jewelry, and sculpture to peruse and purchase. There will be a wine and cheese reception Friday night with food stands and live music! The 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!

Gloucester Marsh with Egret  6 x 12 

detail  from Gloucester Marsh

Manchester Marsh  6 x 9  

Smaller works