Monday, February 27, 2012

Inspiration Monday: Tugboat Printshop

The woodcuts of Tugboat Printshop are amazingly inspirational on so many levels. The detail. The color. The imagination. The size. The amount of time that must go into carving the blocks. Wow!

"Homemade Boat" in the Life of Leisure Series by Tugboat Printshop

I enjoy the next print because of basket prints I make and the woven nature of the home depicted.

"Living Room" in the Life of Leisure Series by Tugboat Printshop

It's also exciting to see the blocks used to create detailed multi-colored prints like these.

A woodcut block from the forthcoming "Garden" print by Tugboat Printshop

(All images are the works of  Tugboat Printshop. Visit their website to see more of their works and more detail or click on the links above. 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, February 24, 2012

Friday Food: French Toast Casserole

They were forecasting our first snow of the season last weekend so it seemed a great time for something sweet and sticky for breakfast. This recipe requires thinking ahead because it's one of those "breakfast-before" casseroles that needs to sit overnight in the refrigerator before baking in the morning. It was perfect for a cold snowy day!

This recipe makes 2 servings and fits in a 13x9x2 dish (depending of course on the size of your bread).  I used my own homemade Amish Bread which is a wheat bread, but you could use any type you like from French bread to cinnamon raisin.

French Toast Casserole

4 slices bread, cut in half
3 eggs
3 Tbsp real maple syrup
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups milk
1 tsp cinnamon, heaping if you love cinnamon like I do

Place bread in a greased 13x9x2 baking dish.
Mix remaining ingredients and pour over bread.
Dot with butter and sprinkle more cinnamon on top.
Refrigerate 4 to 36 hours.
Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until bread is puffy and browned.
Serve with maple syrup.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

That Darn Cat Print!

As many of you know, I lost the Smiling Cat recently. I decided to make a lino cut in her memory that would capture her jaunty self as she walked off to her next home. I had a photo to work from and felt less sad as I cut the linoleum. 

Unfortunately, I can't get the darn thing to print as I'd like! I'm happy with the way the carving turned out, but I can't get the background to print uniformly. I used Jack Richeson Easy-to-Cut Lino that I received for Christmas and I think that is the culprit since I haven't changed anything else in my process. The linoleum was easy to carve and I think it would be fine if I carved away the background, but the linoleum itself seems to have some imperfections and doesn't seem to hold the ink well. The result is a rather frustrating splotchiness of the background when I hand-pull the prints.

I tried new oil-based ink, both soft and hard brayers, a baren and a wooden spoon, and several different kinds of paper. The humidity is low, so that may be having some effect, but I've printed in winter before so I don't think that's it. The soft brayer created a uniform fuzziness to the background that I think I can be happy with as long as the Smiling Cat is crisp and clear. But I won't be using the rest of the Jack Richeson lino I have on anything that doesn't have a lot of whitespace!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Inspiration Monday: Snow

We finally had this winter's first snow storm yesterday with 6 inches of heavy wet snow laying on branches and grass, creating a white winter wonderland. My inspiration is usually other artists, but snow makes me appreciate the landscape in a different way, enhancing lines and suppressing shadows. It removes color from the equation, forcing you to view the scene in black and white and shades of grays (or blues when the sun comes out).

Everyday things that you forget to notice on a typical day become more prominent.

Views become more dramatic and the light becomes bright and clear. I tend towards black and white in my linocuts, but I don't always take the time to look at my surroundings with the same critical view. The snow helps you to see the most important details of a scene.

(All images are my own.)

Friday, February 17, 2012

Friday Food: Easy Baked Apples

I'm a big fan of apples in most any form so this is one of my go-to side dish recipes. I usually don't have the 8 apples it calls for, but it works equally as well with fewer apples. You can adjust the sweetness and spices and even how long you cook it depending on your taste and how squishy you like your apples. You could throw in some walnuts and raisins for variety. You could replace the sugar with the fake stuff if you'd like. I use these baked apples in place of applesauce with pork or to add flavor to plain yogurt.

Easy Baked Apples

10 cups sliced peeled tart apples (about 8 medium Granny Smith's work)
1/3 cup sugar
2 Tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp ground cinnamon (heaping)

Place apples in a 2.5 quart microwave-safe bowl.
Combine the sugar, cornstarch, and cinnamon. Sprinkle over apples and toss to coat.
Cover and microwave on high until apples are tender, checking after 5 minutes. (If you use fewer apples, it may only take 5 minutes, but it depends on the wattage of your microwave. Cooking them longer won't hurt them, it will just make them saucier.)

Monday, February 13, 2012

Inspiration Monday: Robert Courtright

When we visited the Art Museum of Myrtle Beach last spring, they had an exhibit of the works of Robert Courtright's collage constructions and masks. This was a traveling exhibit mounted by the South Carolina State Museum of a highly regarded South Carolina artist.  I think I was drawn to his work by its use of color.

Collage RC009 - Robert Courtright

These are simple constructions of squares of painted paper, mounted to a wood panel. The paper is hand-made and the paint laid to create the texture in each square. Printmaking techniques appear too in text and collograph.

Collage Construction (Joyce Series) - Robert Courtright

I am also attracted to his older (1950s) architectural collages where he used pieces of newspaper and other paper to essentially draw cityscapes and buildings in Europe. Though all of his works are very linear and somewhat expected, they place you a bit out of your comfort zone. His works inspire me to do the same.

Porta San Lorenzo, Rome - Robert Courtright

(All images are the works of  Robert Courtright.  Check out the book Robert Courtright: Collages, Collage Constructions and Masks, 1953-2008 to see more of his works or click on the links above. 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, February 10, 2012

Friday Food: Peanut Butter Bars

On the afternoons that I went to my grandmother's and great uncle's house after school, they always had a freezer full of yummy sweets that I got to choose from for my after school snack. Peanut Butter Bars were one of my favorites and seemed like a tasty treat to send them for Valentine's Day this year. The recipe was typed by my grandmother on both sides of an index card. These are best if a little underdone so that the bars are soft and squishy. Yum!

Peanut Butter Bars

1 cup crunchy peanut butter
2/3 cup butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups brown sugar
3 eggs
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt

Heat oven to 350 degrees. In large bowl cream peanut butter, butter, and vanilla. Beat in sugar. Add eggs. Blend in flour and salt. Spread in greased 13x9x2 baking pan. Bake 25 minutes. Cool.

1/4 cup butter, melted
2 cups confectioner's sugar
2 to 3 Tbsp cream (milk is okay in a pinch)
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla

Stir melted butter into sugar with cream; beat until smooth. Add salt and vanilla. Frost bars. Let set.

1 square unsweetened chocolate
1 Tbsp butter
1/2 tsp vanilla

Melt chocolate and butter together. Stir in vanilla. Drizzle over frosting.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Of Space

This post is about space. The space a companion animal can take up in your life. A space that is empty when that animal is gone. A space that will forever be in your heart for that animal no matter how many others pass through your life.

We lost the Smiling Cat this weekend. And for a little animal, she certainly took up a lot of physical space. There were the official beds, the unofficial beds, the perches, the laps, the tower, the food station, the litter box...lots of physical reminders and empty spaces where she once was. There's an interaction space that is missing too: hellos, goodbyes, visits, chats, feeding, cleaning...all ways we interacted with her and expectations we had to see her during the day. We can move the physical reminders and adjust the furniture. We can train ourselves to stop expecting the interactions. But the space in our hearts is harder to accommodate.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Inspiration Monday: Indian Hill Press

If you have read Yankee Magazine, you've seen the short poems signed "D.A.W." often accompanied by a simple linocut. The poems are wonderful, using 4 lines and a few short words to evoke a season or a moment in life.

Since the identity of D.A.W is kept a mystery in the magazine, I googled to find out more about the poet and the prints. I found the poet is Daniel Alan Waters of Indian Hill Press in West Tisbury, MA and several books of his poems and prints. I also found out that his whimsical prints are linocuts.

Remembering the Islander by Daniel Waters

Some are just plain black and white while others are in 2 or more colors. The simplicity and whimsy of the prints and poems are inspiration to carry to my own work.

Cat in the Grass by Daniel Waters
(All images are the works of  Daniel Waters and Indian Hill Press. 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.)

Saturday, February 4, 2012

RIP Smiling Cat

Oops!, a.k.a the Smiling Cat, passed away today at the age of 16 1/2 after a long and happy indoor cat life of sunbeams, cool summer breezes, cozy beds, and warm laps. She was born in New Hampshire and was discovered at the local Humane Society by two very loving people who gave her a wonderful home with lots of nooks and crannies to explore, and plenty of love, food, and sunlight. After 12 years, those people, her current peep's grandmother and great uncle, decided to move to a smaller home and Oops! moved 14 hours to Virginia with her new peeps in a pickup truck with the back filled with her toys and cat things.

While in Virginia, Oops! became the face of Smiling Cat Studio as the kitty always smiling in contentment because she was doing what she loved best. In the last several months, her health had declined, first with asthma and later with kidney disease. After a chat with her peeps, it was clear to all that Oops! was ready to move to her next home. She leaves her family in New Hampshire and family in Virginia to remember the joy, comfort, and love she gave them.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Friday Food: Taco Soup

Taco Soup is a go-to recipe for us during the winter. It comes in all different versions and can be made spicier with the addition of chili peppers, vegetarian if you leave out the ground beef, or heartier if you add more beans or more ground beef.  Try it as is, then add, subtract, or substitute ingredients to your taste!

Taco Soup

1 pound lean ground beef
1 can (15 oz) pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (15 oz) lima beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (15 oz) kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (15 oz) hominy, drained
1 can (15 oz) corn, drained
3 cans (14.5 oz each) diced tomatoes
1 package (1.25 oz) taco seasoning
1 package (1 oz) ranch dressing mix
1 1/2 cups water
Shredded cheddar cheese
Tortilla chips

In large Dutch oven or kettle, brown ground beef. Drain any fat. Add all remaining ingredients, but last two; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes. Top with cheese and serve with chips.