Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A Quilt For a Friend

A friend and co-worker lost her husband 2 years ago in February. Because she's an artist and quilter, another friend had the idea of making a friendship quilt to show her that we all love her, support her, and are there for her. We finally gave the quilt to her at a reception several weeks ago. 50 friends made squares for the quilt. Since not all of us knew how to quilt, the result is a wonderful combination of traditionally quilted squares, paintings, embroidery, cross stitch, drawings, and applique. The square I contributed was my first foray into ribbon embroidery

Despite all of the different colors and techniques, the blue borders bring the quilt together into a cohesive whole. Just as Maxine's friends from various areas of her life came together to create a single cocoon of love in her time of loss and need.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Inspiration Monday: Lynn Boggess

We ran across the oil paintings of Lynn Boggess at the Cooper Gallery in Lewisburg, West Virginia and were mesmerized. His paintings are very large and draw you into the scenes that they portray: the beauty of nature.
Lynn Boggess

You can almost feel the spray of the water and hear the full river rushing.

Lynn Boggess

He makes many of his paintings plein air and with a trowel, rather than a paint brush. The effect is stunning. I found myself looking back to his paintings as we toured the gallery, the pull was so strong.

Lynn Boggess
(All images are the works of Lynn Boggess. Be sure to check out his website for more prints. The works featured on Inspiration Monday are those that I enjoy and I have not been compensated in any way to include them on my blog.)

Friday, January 27, 2012

Friday Food: Cheesy Tortellini and Ham

I seldom follow recipes exactly. I usually either don't have all of the ingredients or something in the recipe doesn't appeal to my palate. I can generally figure out which part of the recipe shouldn't be messed with and leave that alone while I substitute the ingredients that play a supporting part. In this recipe, I don't change the cheesy sauce, but depending on what's in the fridge, I may use chicken instead of ham, a different vegetable than broccoli, canned tomato or frozen broccoli instead of fresh, and more vegetables than the recipe calls for. This recipe has been made lighter by Healthy Cooking magazine, but still has the taste and feel of something with more calories.

Cheesy Tortellini and Ham

9 oz cheese tortellini
1 c. fresh broccoli
1/4 c. butter
1/4 c. flour
1 c. milk
1 1/2 c. cubed ham
4 oz. reduced fat cream cheese
1/2 c. grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp pepper
1 medium tomato, seeded and chopped

Cook tortellini in saucepan according to package directions. Add broccoli during last 5 minutes of cooking. Drain.

Melt butter in large skillet over medium heat. Stir in flour until smooth, gradually add milk. Bring to a boil. Cook and stir 1 minute or until thickened.

Add ham, cheeses, basil, garlic powder, and pepper. Cook and stir until cream cheese is melted. Stir in tomato. Add tortellini and broccoli. Stir and heat through.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Beaded Hearts & Embroidery Hoop Art

If you've been reading my blog for a while, you may remember that I took a needle beading class last spring and made a bracelet using right angle weave. Well, as I predicted, those little beads can be addictive. I did end up going back to the bead shop for some red and green beads. While I only finished a couple of Christmas ornaments, making them gave me the idea to make a heart. And, well, that heart became the quest for the perfectly proportioned heart that didn't take me forever to make and before I knew it I had 5 hearts.

I knew from my experience with the Christmas ornaments, that the beads were too flimsy to stand alone and needed some type of backing. I thought about framing them in embroidery hoops and remembered that I had bought two fabric sample books at a yard sale this summer thinking I must be able to do something with them. Well, here was that something!

I'm pretty pleased with how they came out and expect I may gravitate towards more needle arts to complement my linoleum block prints.  To see more photos or purchase the hearts for that special someone, please visit my Etsy shop.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Inspiration Monday: Black Bear Fine Art

When I was a child, we spent a week during each summer in Ogunquit, Maine. I enjoyed the sun, the beach, and the seafood, but wasn't such a big fan of browsing the shops back then. Now, when we visit family in New Hampshire during the summer, we usually try to spend at least a day in Ogunquit. This fall, we walked the Marginal Way from Ogunquit Beach to Perkins Cove, had lunch, and wandered around the galleries and shops there. We walked back into town via Shore Road and stumbled upon Black Bear Fine Art.

Marginal Way, Ogunquit, Maine, reduction woodcut by Don Gorvett

Printmaker, Don Gorvett, was in the gallery and showed us the huge wood block he was carving and his press. His work is beautiful and quite large: most are at least 20" x 30".

Drawbridge, Perkins Cove, reduction woodcut by Don Gorvett

The subjects are familiar to me from living and vacationing the area. You can almost smell the sea air in many of them. His work is further inspiration to incorporate color into my prints and to try carving larger blocks.

Wentworth-by-the-Sea, Newcastle, NH, reduction woodcut by Don Gorvett
(All images are from Black Bear Fine Art and are the works of Don Gorvett. Be sure to check out his website for more prints. The works featured on Inspiration Monday are those that I enjoy and I have not been compensated in any way to include them on my blog.)

Friday, January 20, 2012

Friday Food: Amish Bread

I love homemade bread. I enjoy kneading the bread, smelling it baking, and buttering that first crusty end slice when it comes out of the oven. However, I usually don't have time for the entire make-it-from-scratch process, so I have a bread machine. I don't get the same satisfaction of kneading the bread, but it still smells and tastes homemade. I make a loaf of bread most weeks and haven't bought bread in a store in years.

Today's recipe is my own take on a recipe from a bread machine cookbook. You should be able to adapt it for the oven and for your own bread machine. For example, some machines may require more yeast and my bread machine suggests that the wet ingredients go in the pan first. If you have a bread machine, you know that sometimes the bread falls flat. This recipe is generally pretty reliable despite the fact that I use unbleached all-purpose flour instead of bread flour.

Amish Bread

9 oz warm water
1/4 cup olive oil
3 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2 1/4 cups bread flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast 

This makes a 1 1/2 pound loaf of bread.
The recipe calls for 3 1/4 cups bread flour. Rather than making white bread, I generally substitute up to 1 cup of whole wheat flour to give the bread more fiber.
Put it all in the bread machine pan, turn it on, and come back when it smells good!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Inspiration Monday: Jon Olsen Photography

One of our favorite stops on trips north to visit family is Sharon Arts Center's Gallery and Shop. They have juried arts and crafts from all sorts of mediums that provide a peaceful respite during an often busy trip. The shop carries the work of Jon Olsen Photography which I love for their subjects, clarity, and simplicity.

Five Trees, Jon Olsen Photography

We seldom get enough snow where I live now to create such beautiful photographs where the clutter of the ground disappears in a blanket of snow leaving simple forms against a background of gray and white.

Jon Olsen Photography

I've often tried to capture a similar photograph to the one above, but never had the right light and water conditions to create the shadows or number of old piers creating a path through the water.

Jon Olsen Photography

(All images are from Jon Olsen Photography. Be sure to check out his website for more photographs. The works featured on Inspiration Monday are those that I enjoy and I have not been compensated in any way to include them on my blog.)

Friday, January 13, 2012

Friday Food: Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies

My great aunt used to bake cookies for everyone at Christmas time. Somehow when she stopped being able to do it, I started. I'm don't think it was even a conscious effort on my part to replace her contribution. I've always enjoyed baking cookies and this was an easy way to have gifts available for co-workers, family, and anyone who might stop by during the holiday season. The cookies I bake are usually relatively easy to prepare: no rolling out dough, no cookie cutters, no spritzers, no elaborate frosting. I'm glad to roll cookie dough into balls, throw a dollop of frosting on top or between cookies, but all that other stuff seems to have a high frustration potential to me: the cookies would never be as pretty as in the photographs.

Since I don't do all that elaborate Christmassy stuff to my cookies, most of my recipes are appropriate year-round. This recipe is modified slightly from an old Taste of Home magazine and was a favorite of my father-in-laws so I make them for Christmas in memory of him.

Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies

1 cup butter
1 cup chunky peanut butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
3 eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup chunky peanut butter
3 cups confectioner's sugar
1 tsp vanilla
5 to 6 Tbsp milk

In a mixing bowl, cream the butter, peanut butter, and sugars. Add vanilla. Add eggs and beat well.
Combine flour, baking soda, and salt; add to creamed mixture.
Shape into 1 inch balls and place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets. Flatten to 3/8 inch thickness with a fork.
Bake at 375 degrees for 7-8 minutes or until golden. Cool on wire racks.
In a mixing bowl, beat filling ingredients until smooth. Spread on half of hte cookies and top each with another cookie.
Yield: About 4 dozen sandwiches, but it depends on how large you make the balls, I usually get about 6 dozen 1-1/2 inch diameter sandwiches.