Friday, March 30, 2012

Friday Food: Double Chocolate Chip Mint Cookies

So tell me, did you see the name of these cookies and close your eyes and say "Mmmmm....." like I did? Chocolate and mint is one of my favorite combinations. We have some friends coming over this evening so I thought we should have something sweet for them. I was looking through Better Homes & Gardens and this recipe in a McCormick spice ad jumped out at me. As usual, I didn't follow the recipe exactly so I'll give you my version (with shortcuts), but the original recipe is here.

Double Chocolate Chip Mint Cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp peppermint extract
2 cups flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Melt butter in microwave for 1 minute. Add sugars and mix well.
Add eggs and peppermint extract. Mix well.
Add flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix well.
Stir in chocolate chips and walnuts.
Drop dough by rounded spoonfuls onto greased baking sheets.
Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until cookies are set. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes. Remove to wire racks and cool completely.
Makes 5 dozen.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Peak Into My Studio

We live in a 1913 house that is constantly in a state of flux. We're renovating/rehabilitating/restoring - you name it. And since we're doing the work ourselves, it's a slow process because, well, we have real jobs and a life. The house was owned by the town doctor who had his office in one of the front rooms which has a leaded glass window and its own front door. First we thought this would be the library, but we built that elsewhere. Then we thought it would be the dining room, but it's too far from the kitchen. So last summer we made the decision to turn the room into my office/studio. The outside door gives us the flexibility to have an open studio or see clients without having them traipse through our living space.

After years of creativity, I have lots of art and craft supplies, but I didn't have a good place to store them so I could get to them easily. With my new office in mind, I put my architecture background to work and designed a massive storage cabinet.

We bought all the supplies after Christmas and my husband built it for me. Then I painted. And painted. And painted. And finally got a great storage space!

The good news is: having everything at my fingertips is working like a charm! The bad news is: despite weeding out things I know I won't use again, I have even more supplies. My husband is in the process of building another cabinet for me. Stay tuned for the results!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Inspiration Monday: Axis Maps

I have a confession to make: I am a map junky. I love maps. Old maps. New maps. Big maps. Small maps. Your usual cartographic maps and those that are anything but usual. I also love typography and words. That's what makes these maps by Axis Maps so great: they combine my love of maps with my love of typography. What's not to love?

Washington, DC typographic map by Axis Maps

San Francisco typographic map by Axis Maps
Manhattan typographic map by Axis Maps
(All images are the works of Axis Maps. Visit the typographic map section of their website to see more maps like these 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, March 23, 2012

Friday Food: Pinterest

It's been a busy week of travel and meetings. We were away last weekend and haven't been home in the evenings to cook dinner, so I haven't made anything good and photogenic for this week's Friday Food feature. I do, however, have a Recipes to Try board on Pinterest with some yummy looking and sounding treats. In looking at the board, it appears that I'm most attracted to sweets but, since I prefer to bake rather than cook, I knew that already. In lieu of my own recipes, here's 3 from my Pinterest board that I'd like to try soon. (Note: these aren't for the faint of calories!):

Monday, March 19, 2012

Inspiration Monday: Spring!

I don't know about you, but Spring is always inspiring to me. The brighter light, the chirping birds, the color of the blooming flowers added to the gray landscape, a touch of green... I move from the blacks, grays, browns, and dark colors I favor in winter to a more colorful palette of yellows, purples, pinks, greens, and other springy colors, mimicking the long-awaited flowers. I photograph every natural thing as if I had never seen it before, with the idea that the photos will one day be inspiration for my art.

The tiny lilac blooms hold promise of the profusion of flowers and heady smell to come.

There are the happy mysteries that I don't remember planting or seeing last year, and that I'm not sure what they are or where they came from.

Though I hate to cut them, I love to bring flowers inside - especially daffodils with their sunny little heads. How can you have a bad day with daffodils on your desk?

Friday, March 16, 2012

Friday Food: No Bake Cookies

Where I grew up, these were No Bake Cookies or maybe No Bake Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies but they go by different names depending on where you live. In this part of the South, they're known as Preacher Cookies, supposedly because if the preacher showed up unannounced, you could whip up a batch of these cookies in no time. That same quality worked well for me this busy week.

There are different variations using evaporated milk instead of regular milk, more peanut butter, less oats, etc. In fact, my husband and I have 2 different recipes that came from our respective childhoods. Mine says, "Add nuts, raisins, coconut, etc. to taste," but that just seems wrong to me. And be sure to use quick oats and not regular oats for the proper consistency.

No Bake Cookies

Put into saucepan:
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup milk
1 stick butter
3 Tbsp cocoa powder

Boil 1 minute. Remove from heat and add:
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla
3 cups quick oats

Drop onto wax paper.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Inspiration Monday: Paul Hastings

We saw Paul Hastings' oil paintings at a special exhibit at the Old Rock School in Valdese, North Carolina last summer. He exhibited in Valdese because of his family connection and we visited his exhibit because our family connection to him. We would have enjoyed the exhibit regardless. I appreciate that he became an artist later in life and is now pursuing his passion.

Among Friends by Paul Hastings

As with many of the artists I have featured on Inspiration Monday, I'm drawn to the simplicity and color of his paintings.

Out of the Box by Paul Hastings

There is a peacefulness to his subjects that also makes you feel part of the tranquil scene.

Sounds of Silence by Paul Hastings

(All images are the works of  Paul Hastings. Visit his 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, March 9, 2012

Friday Food: French Chicken/Broccoli Casserole

This is one of my favorites, but I must admit that my husband doesn't particularly like it. I'm not really sure why. I think he might be afraid of the blatant broccoli in it.  I like the cheesiness of it (the sharper the cheddar the better!) - it feels warm and inviting to me. The original recipe came from Taste Of Home, quite a long time ago now, but, as always, I've made a few adjustments. You can replace the white wine with chicken broth if you prefer. Enjoy!

French Chicken/Broccoli Casserole

1-12oz bag frozen broccoli florets
2 lbs cooked chicken, skinned, boned, torn or cut into large pieces

1/3 cup butter
1/4 cup cornstarch, dissolved in 3/4 cup white wine
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 cups milk
8 oz grated sharp cheddar cheese

Combine the frozen broccoli and chicken and place in a greased 13" x 9" x 2" baking dish. Set aside.
In a saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Add dissolved cornstarch, seasoning, and milk. Cook until thickened.
Add cheese. Stir until melted.
Pour warm sauce over the chicken and broccoli.
Bake at 350 degrees for about 35 minutes or until bubbly.
Yield: 6 servings.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Preparing for the Jury II

I submitted 5 pieces to the 'Round the Mountain jury at Heartwood again, this time in the Fiber Art category. I've been making some embroidery hoop art using a fabric sample book I acquired at a yard sale and various techniques (needle beading, embroidery, applique, ribbon embroidery) and decided to have it juried. I also threw in a credit card/coin purse decorated with buttons. My perfectionist tendencies tell me that my creations might not be quite what the jury is looking for, but I needed to step outside of my comfort zone and try something new. I'll find out the results later this week, but in the mean time, you can see what I entered below. None are in my Etsy shop yet, but will be as soon as I make some more. I'm taking a short break after spending all last week getting ready for the jury.