Monday, October 29, 2012

Inspiration Monday: David Knowlton

It's cold. Snow is blowing horizontally. The view from my window is definitely wintery. We're waiting for more snow and wind tonight as Hurricane Sandy hits the coast. So I looked within for inspiration today - within my house that is - and was struck by a cold wintery scene of David Knowlton's that I purchased about 10 years ago.

Silent Sunset, acrylic
by David Knowlton

I enjoy David's work because of his attention to detail and because many of his paintings are of places and landscapes that are familiar to me: the Shenandoah Valley, New England, Pennsylvania...

Dawn's Early Light
(Nubble Light House)
acrylic  by David Knowlton

I also love the way his choice of colors really makes you feel the temperature of the painting: a cold winter
sunset, a chilly blue morning, or a cool fall day.  His use of color adds a sensory dimension to his paintings.

Cool Hollow, acrylic
by David Knowlton

(All images are the works of David Knowlton. Visit David's website to see more of  his work 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, October 26, 2012

Friday Food: Ginger Cream Cake

I love spicy ginger and molasses cookies and gingerbread, but I really only have a taste for these flavors during the cooler months, maybe because I associate the flavors with the holidays. It's gotten cooler out now, so it's time to bring out the spices! This Ginger Cream Cake has a nice zippy flavor with a smooth creamy frosting. I've had this recipe for quite a while - it's been a long time since I glued recipes to index cards - so I don't know what magazine it came from now. My guess is that it's an early 1990s Good Housekeeping recipe. Don't worry about the coffee - it adds body to the cake, but there's enough spice going on that it doesn't have a coffee flavor. It's yummy!


Ginger Cream Cake

1 cup sugar
1 cup butter
2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
1 Tbsp ground cloves
1 Tbsp ground ginger
2 eggs
1/2 cup molasses
1 cup boiling coffee

Frosting:
1/2 cup butter
3 oz reduced fat cream cheese
2 cups confectioner's sugar
2 tsp vanilla

Cream together sugar and butter in a large bowl. Add flour, salt, baking soda, and spices and blend. Add eggs and molasses, mix. Blend in coffee.
Pour into a 13"x9"x2" baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Cool.
For frosting, cream butter and cream cheese together; add sugar and vanilla. Spread over bars.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Inspiration Wednesday: Library of Virginia Literary Awards

Sorry to move Inspiration Monday to Inspiration Wednesday this week, but I've been a bit busy in all areas of life this month. It seems like everything came due at once. I'm hoping to have a chance to breathe a bit next week. Until then, I'll keep on at a breakneck pace and see how much I can get done! Enough about that though and on to the inspiration....

I usually focus on art as inspiration, but this week I was inspired by writers: novelists, non-fiction writers, and poets. As you may remember from an earlier blog post, I am a writer myself and my book, Lost Communities of Virginia, was up for a Library of Virginia People's Choice Award. Saturday was the big day when all of the Literary Award finalists were honored at a luncheon and the winners were announced at a dinner.


First the big news: I won! My book won the People's Choice Award for Non-Fiction! Woo hoo! While that was certainly inspirational, it's not my inspiration for today. It was meeting the other fiction, non-fiction, and poetry finalists. It was meeting writers hoping for their first big break at the luncheon that we shared with the James River Writer's Conference. It was meeting big name authors like David Baldacci, Adriana Trigiani, and Tom Robbins. It was hearing the other winner's acceptance speeches.


Mostly though, it was hearing Tom Robbins talk about writing. He talked about how a sentence should sound good as well as read well. He talked about his writing process: he spends hours on a single sentence and doesn't go on to the next until he is happy with the words he has chosen. Rather than puzzling over many drafts of a book, he writes a single draft, but that draft takes 3 or 4 years to write. He said that if you don't enjoy what you are writing and the story you are telling, you shouldn't be writing. He said to write for yourself and not for the money. His spoken sentences were colorful. He was inspirational. He made me want to write the novel I started in a class a few years ago!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Friday Food: Steak Marinade

I don't often plan ahead enough to marinate anything, but we found a good steak the other day and it was the weekend so the steaks got marinated. We don't have a grill at the moment so we broiled the steaks. They were actually much rarer than the photo shows - this was the microwaved leftovers. I was hungry and forgot to take a photo when the steaks were done. I think this would work on chicken too. Enjoy!


Steak Marinade

1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp cider vinegar
1 Tbsp honey
2 tsp minced garlic
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

In a large resealable plastic bag, combine ingredients, add steaks. Seal bag and turn to coat; refrigerate for 2-4 hours. Drain and discard marinade before grilling steaks.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Inspiration Monday: Donna Estabrooks

We came upon Donna Estabrooks' work at the Art and Soul Gallery in Ogunquit, Maine while we were on vacation recently. I enjoyed the bright colors, whimsical subjects, and words of inspiration.

"Listen to your inner kitten",
acrylic and spray paint on canvas
by Donna Estabrooks

Donna uses unexpected items as stencils for patterns that are spray painted on the canvas to add interest. You can see it on the chest of the larger cat and the dots in the background. Look for the same pattern in the painting below.

"Juicy", acrylic and spray paint on canvas
by Donna Estabrooks

Inspiration to try new things, broad strokes are wonderful, don't be afraid of color, and get back to my Daring Adventures in Paint book!

"My Love",
acrylic, collage, spray paint, silver leaf, and glitter on canvas
by Donna Estabrooks
(All images are the works of Donna Estabrooks. Visit Donna's website to see more of her work 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, October 12, 2012

Friday Food: Chocolate Mousse

It's been one of those weeks. A lot to do has blossomed exponentially into too much to do. I tripped and fell earlier in the week and have been nursing 2 jammed fingers that make it hard to type. Despite the fingers, I did manage to finish 27 origami stars for consignment, but I've still got prints to frame, cards to package, and jewelry to resin. I happened to have some heavy cream in the fridge leftover from another recipe, so it was a perfect week to indulge in some Chocolate Mousse. Mmmmm....chocolate....


Chocolate Mousse

6 oz. semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
1 oz unsweetened chocolate
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup confectioner's sugar
Sweetened whipped cream

Combine chocolate and milk in a glass bowl. Microwave for 2 minutes. Stir until well combined. Mix in vanilla. Let the chocolate mixture stand until cool to the touch, but still smooth and liquid.
Beat the heavy cream and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer just until stiff peaks form. Fold the cooled chocolate mixture into the whipped cream. Don't worry about differing streaks of color.
Spoon mousse into 6 wine goblets or dessert dishes and chill, covered with plastic wrap. Can be made one day ahead.
Serve with a dollop of sweetened whipped cream.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Inspiration Monday: The Ocean (Part II)

I live in the mountains and I love the unpredictableness of the landscape. It is forever changing with the light, season, weather, time of day...the scene is never the same. But as much as I love the mountains, I love the ocean even more. The smells, the sounds, the salt air, the large expanses of beach, the opportunity to just sit and watch the ever-changing surf. We went to North Myrtle Beach this spring and it was my inspiration that week - I even painted the scene for the Get Your Paint On class I was taking at the time. And while Myrtle Beach is fine, it meets all the criteria for a wonderful visit, it's well, a little boring.

I grew up going to the beach in Maine where there are rocks for the waves to crash over and the ocean seems to be a bit rougher. We spent the last weekend of September in Maine. It rained most of the time while we were there so we didn't to see the full moon on the water or a sunrise, but the power of the high tide enhanced by the storm and the moon's phase was beautiful, as was the stormy gray color pallet.


The power of the ocean and nature draws you to the shore. The salt air is filled with spray. The sound of the waves crashing is louder. The danger and beauty of the sea is much more apparent.


Rather than just sand and shells, there are boulders, stones, seaweed, and creatures in the tidal pools. The sound of stones ebbing and flowing with the tide is peaceful, yet powerful.


The Maine ocean is most always accessible and not hidden behind a row of high-rise hotels. There are plenty of opportunities to be inspired and scenes to paint. I can't wait to go back.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Friday Food: Maple Walnut Chicken & Cheddar Apple Rice

I come from the land of sweet maple syrup, orchard fresh apples, and sharp white cheddar cheese. We happened to visit that land last week (it's called New Hampshire), so this recipe is a perfect reminder of those culinary bounties. Unfortunately, where I live now, it's harder to find good cheddar and I'm a bit mortified to have had to use bland yellow cheddar for this recipe. Don't do that. Find sharp white cheddar. And use real maple syrup, not the sticky stuff that passes for pancake syrup in some circles. It costs more and may be harder to find, but you'll be glad you made the extra effort.

This recipe came from a magazine, but I'm not sure which one. Maybe Yankee? You'll notice the photo is missing the walnuts, only because I didn't have any on hand. The recipe is yummy with or without the walnuts and the rice would be great comfort food on it's own or as a side dish to a different meal.


Maple Walnut Chicken & Cheddar Apple Rice

1 cup walnut halves
2 Tbsp butter
1 1/4 cups long-grain wild rice
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 apple - peeled, seeded, and chopped
1/2 tsp dill
Salt and coarsely ground black pepper
6 oz sharp white cheddar cheese, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 lbs chicken breasts
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup maple syrup

Preheat oven to 325. Spread walnuts on baking sheet and roast until well toasted and fragrant, 10-12 minutes.
In a large saucepan with a tight-fitting lid, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the rice and toast for several minutes. Add 2 cups chicken broth and bring to a boil, then lower the heat, cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the apple and simmer for 8 minutes. Stir 1/4 cup chicken stock, dill, and 1/4 tsp salt into the rice during the last minute of cooking. Turn off the heat and let the rice stand for 1-2 minutes before fluffing with a fork. Transfer to a serving dish and stir in the cheese.
In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the chicken to the skillet and cook, turning once, until browned, about 10 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a platter.
Add vinegar to the skillet. Cook, scraping the pan drippings, then add the remaining 1/4 cup chicken stock, the maple syrup, and black pepper to taste. Cook until thickened, about 1 minute. Add the chicken and walnuts and spoon with the sauce. Loosely cover the pan with foil and simmer for 5 minutes.
Serve the chicken, sauce, and nuts with the rice alongside.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Inspiration Monday: Fall in the Mountains

Today's inspiration is the colors, reflections, smells, and peace of fall. Enough said.