Tuesday, October 27, 2009

New Poetry Anthology from Incarnate Muse Press

Incarnate Muse Press is delighted to announce that the new poetry manuscript is finalized and ready to go to the printer!

I know the editors are pretty doggone happy to be able to say this
. It has been a long road to getting this one done, fraught with various personal impediments and many complete computer failures. (Now totally solved...I hope!)

This anthology is The Venomed Kiss,
Poems of Childhood Emotional and Psychological Abuse. It is not light reading. As Perie Longo, the poet and therapist who wrote our forward stated, "These poems are heartbreaking." But they are also often healing and redemptive.

Many thanks to Edward McGuire for all his computer and formatting work and sharp eye as we proofed and re-proofed this MS.

Michelle and I,
editors of Incarnate Muse Press

Friday, October 23, 2009

Mixed Media Collage Artist Darcy Altaville

She Dreamed of Houses
print available from Etsy

Darcy Altaville of artnjoy combines traditional and digital collage techniques to come up with these fun and colorful mixed media collage paintings.

I asked her a few questions about her art, her techniques and inspiration:

What inspires you to create and/or how did you start out?

I have always created art since I was a child, encouraged by my Dad who was an artist in his spare time. We needed an extra income while raising my three kids, and so I decided to put my art on line, after hearing how wonderful etsy is. I do prints of my work so that they can be affordable and enjoyed by the masses, not just people who have tons of money to spend on original art.
I mostly get inspired by emotions, music, words and the colors they evoke.

Tell a little about your art process and technique.

The process is ever changing. But I have always loved Mixed Media Collage work. Just getting down and dirty with paint, paper and everything else at hand. Which probably accounts for some of the diversity in my work!
I recently expanded into doing Artful Paper Gifts and Goodies, since my hub was out of work for quite some time and we have been hanging by threads.
It's a way of providing my artful touch to pretty, functional, and affordable items that people can use everyday. Important in these economical times.

When asked for thoughts about or the inspiration for one of her pieces of art, Darcy commented on "The Gift" pictured below:

Oh my images just sort of evolve and take on a life of their own. "The Gift" started off with the iconical head and evolved from there into a presence that I felt was somewhat spiritual. I came across the words "The Gift; Sent Forth By God's Blessing" in an old hymnal and they seemed to fit perfect. It also touches me personally, because I feel that God has always watched out for me and has continued to Bless me, even during these tough times.

Darcy was raised in Manhattan, NY and went to Art School. "Though I never really pursued my art on a any professional level. Sounds cliche, but I got married and was blessed with three wonderful, kind, talented children who are always encouraging about my artful endeavors. I now live in Pennsylvania, where my days are pretty much that of a typical Mom. Though as my kids always remind me...I'm anything but. I guess I'm a bit more colorful, eccentric and out of the box...pretty much like my Mixed Media Art!

"I also love to read, listen to music and eat sushi! Though these days, Frozed Lo mein is a staple on the menu! The life of an almost starving artist and her family. Filled with ups n downs, and art, but always blessed!"

Darcy's work can be found and purchased from her Etsy shop.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Spring Moonfall glass mosaic mirror

This 24x24" glass mosaic mirror is now at the Artful Hand in Fort Worth. Actually, I am writing this blog post from my Flicker site. I had no idea you could do that, and I just got the 2 sites linked. I had intended to add a link to the Artful Hand gallery, which is on 7th Street in the Cultural District. We'll see how this Flicker to Blogspot posting works.

The mirror is photo-edited out as white, as are all the little rectangular pieces at the top and bottom which are also mirror, and just don't photograph very well.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Pecan Time in Texas

The pecans are starting to fall in my front yard. This is always one of the sure signs of autumn here.

The pecan is the state tree of Texas. My tree's limbs have been bending down toward the lawn under the burden of their fruit. It is going to be a good year for pecans.

I have a little pecan nutritional info from the Texas Pecan Growers Association:

Pecans Offer Good Nutrition
  • 90% of the fats in pecans are unsaturated (about 60% monounsaturated/30% polyunsaturated)
  • A serving of pecans (30g) provides about 25 percent more oleic acid than a serving of olive oil (one tablespoon)
  • Pecans are cholesterol free
  • Pecans are sodium free
  • Pecans are fiber-rich
  • Pecans are a valuable plant protein source
  • Pecans have more than 19 vitamins & minerals
  • They are an excellent source of gamma tocopherol, an important type of vitamin E
  • They contain concentrated amounts of natural plant sterols, touted for their cholesterol-lowering ability
  • Pecans contain a variety of phytochemicals
  • Nuts are recommended by the American Heart Association and U.S. Dietary Guidelines as a desirable source of heart-healthy unsaturated fat.
Pecans can double the cholesterol-lowering effectiveness of a traditional heart-healthy diet, according to a study published in The Journal of Nutrition, September 2001.

Year before last we had a bumper crop of pecans. I made several pecan pies, both to give away and to provide the family Thanksgiving pecan pies. But, ya know, I'm not that crazy about pecan pie. I mean, it's not all yucky like pumpkin pie, but it's not my favorite. But I love pecans in salads (great lightly toasted with field greens and goat cheese), in cookies, toffee, and casseroles and stir fries.

Here is a recipe from the Texas Pecan Growers Association.

Mama's Texas Pecan Cheesecake

Submitted by Kim Ritchie of Wylie Texas


1-cup flour

1/4-cup sugar

1/2-teaspoon vanilla

1 egg yolk

1/4-cup butter, softened

1/2-cup Texas Pecans, chopped


5 packages (8oz) cream cheese

1 3/4-cup sugar

3-tablespoons flour

Zest of one lemon

Zest of one orange

1/4-teaspoon vanilla

5 eggs + 2 egg yolks


1/4-cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

15 nice looking pecan halves

For crust, combine flour, Texas Pecans and sugar. Make a well in center. Blend in yolk, vanilla and butter. Mix well. Press mixture in bottom and up sides of greased 9 or 10-inch spring form pan. Press pecan halves down into top of crust on side of pan so that they stand up in a ring around top of crust. Set aside.

For filling, in large mixing bowl, blend cheese, sugar, flour, zest, and vanilla. Beat in eggs and yolks one at a time. Beat until smooth. Pour into crust, Draw circle in the center of cheesecake. Using the 15 or so pecan halves that you picked out because they were so beautiful, make a ring of pecan halves touching the outside of the circle. Sprinkle mini chips inside the circle. (The finished result should resemble a sunflower.) Bake 10 minutes at 450°. Reduce oven temperature to 250° and bake 1 hour. Cool 2 hours in oven with door ajar.

Serves 12-16

(This sounds great. Might have to try this instead of the traditional pecan pie.)

And go here for a great sounding recipe from Food and Wine Magazine. I have often made many variations of glazed and spiced pecans, some more savory, more candied, or spicy.

"The pecan, which grows best in warm climates, is beloved in the South. At parties, Southerners often set out giant bowls of spiced nuts like the ones here, deliciously seasoned with cayenne, cinnamon and brown sugar."

Friday, October 9, 2009

Imagine Peace and Whimsical Art

Imagine all the people living life in Peace.

Happy John Lennon's birthday to all. I was just wondering if it is just coincidence that the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded today (or at least the news of it came out this morning.) Either way, accident or intent, I like it.

Yesterday and today I have been working on a new series of small collages. The idea came to me in the wee hours of the morning when, as usual, sleep was elusive. I was picturing whimsical images full of trees, leaves, flora and fauna, light-hearted fairly simple pictures done with painted and drawn backgrounds in happy colors.

Of course I still have the camera to computer problem, so I can't post photos of what I've come up with so far.

So, I plugged "whimsical" into the ETSY search engine under the category Art: Mixed Media and came up with this cute print from an original painting by Sascalia.

Just thinking

You can find lots more of her prints at her Esty shop.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Potato Salad alla Italiana

As a foodie, it's a little embarrassing to admit this, but i love potato salad. Now, a lot of (dry, gummy, bland, boring) potato salads I'd just as well do without, but I am a fan of a good potato salad. Is it too horribly immodest to say that MY potato salad is my favorite?? Maybe not, because I did not come up with the recipe by myself. I read it in the FW paper many! years ago, made it once, more or less following the directions. A number of years lapsed (my kids are not big potato salad fans). Then I wanted to make the potato salad. Of course, the recipe was nowhere to be found. So, I made it up.

I recently brought this dish to a church social dinner. When I came in from the patio, Edward slid up beside me, and said he had just heard someone gush, "That potato salad is out of this world!!"

This has olive oil, so healthy for you, replacing most of the mayo...I think I have made it with no mayo as well, but soy or vegan mayo can be used too.

This is only a "Kinda" recipe, but you'll get the basic idea.

Italian Influenced Potato Salad

red potatoes, 2-3 (or more) lbs, trimmed for spots and cut in rough chunks

Bring to boil in salted water with a 3-4 in sprig of fresh rosemary (reserve the tender end leaves), or a dash of dry Italian seasonings, or a little of both.

In the meantime:

chop 3-5 cloves of garlic, place in the bowl you will mixed the whole salad in, add olive oil, evoo, the reserved rosemary, that you have diced, and a few chopped leaves of fresh rosemary, or a few dashes of dried Italian seasoning.

Microwave oil, garlic and herbs for a couple of minutes in mixing bowl. (The garlic has quite a bite in this; if it seems like too much, you can reduce the amount, or cook it longer.) Add minced reserved rosemary tips, chopped fresh oregano to hot oil mix. Drain potatoes and add hot to the oil, add a spoon or so of pickle relish or chopped pickles (for traditional potato salad feel), a spoon or so of whole grain mustard, I like to add a little finely chopped celery...a touch of celery salt or minced lovage would also do. Add some mayo, regular, soy, vegan, or not at all. Add a little fresh chopped oregano and basil, or more dried Italian seasonings, a few grinds of pepper, and salt to taste. Add fresh basil if you have it at end. Mix gently.

Can refrigerate and serve later at a picnic or potluck. I admit, I like it best at room temperature or even a little warm.

Tonight this is a side dish for Ribz. A fabulous vegan recipe from Susan at the blog Fat Free Vegan Kitchen. My 11-year old is very enthusiastically making this recipe tonight. She made it the last time, with maybe a little more guidance from me. (She did at the beginning of the addition of this recipe to our dining repertoire, ask that it be re-named...BBQ strips was one of her suggestions. I have to admit that the word Ribz/ribs is awfully graphically anatomical.

Ha! My child, thinking about the sauce, and then searing, stage of the ribz, and putting out various ramikins for bbq sauce experiments, just said to me, "Stand back! And let me work my magic!" Love it!

I am also utilizing zucchini and a bit of the small yellow squash from the farmers market in a recipe from a Mediteranean cookbook for zucchini fritters. They look great!

Happy eating all!!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Fall Gardening Season and Bountiful Produce at the Market.

We are really looking forward to the fall growing season. Our garden this summer was not so great, except for the herbs and peppers. It was an awful year for tomatoes. We tried growing two of our plants in the much praised upside down containers, and they produced nothing, nada. One problem may be that we already had our tomato plants before we got the hanging planters (and the directions), so we put the long gangly heirloom tomatoes, German Stripe and Cherokee Purple, in instead of the smaller bush type tomatoes that were recommended. Also, I think the water delivery system didn't work so well, and I have taken the water receptacle completely out of the planter with the worse dryness problem. Now that tomato is soaking up all our early fall rain directly.

The tomatoes in the ground are looking great, all green and refreshed with the plentiful rain and full of little green tomatoes, especially the Goliath, another heirloom we picked up at a stand in a front yard in a little rural town, Comanche, TX, I think. Edward, R, my mom and I wandered around the small yard picking out lots of herbs and vegetable starts, then put our money in a box on the porch. I love small towns. Okra is reviving as well, and one branch of a yellow bell pepper plant broke from the weight of all the peppers.

The rain has been great, but it has wreaked havoc with the delicate seedlings of fall greens plantings, like spinach and arugula...have had to reseed a couple of times.

I saved seeds from a butternut squash we had for dinner a while back and the vines are hearty with blooms and little tiny green squashes. When I saw how well those seedlings were doing, I did the same with another grocery store veggie, an acorn squash, which is still small but healthy. I am just counting on our long Texas growing season to get it through to production before a freeze.

I'm not sure that we will be getting anything but a lot of pretty blooms, all male apparently, from the yellow squash I transplanted in mid August, but the bees are enjoying them. Last week, during a break in the thunderstorms, I watched a honey bee walk around inside one squash blossom, her head and half her body completely covered with pollen.

In the meantime, while we are waiting on our own Fall produce, we are enjoying lots and lots of locally grown veggies from the Cowtown Farmers Market.

Here is some of what is fresh and available this week this week:
Baby Vegetables
Garlic and Onion
Cucumbers: Picklers, Slicers
Lima Beans
Crenshaw, Israel, Honeydew
Onions: Red, White and Yellow

Last week I got asparagus, pears and a basket with a mix of slender zucchini and yellow squash, the trip before, tomatoes, lovely Touch of Lavender eggplants (they have many varieties), and more of the little squash. This weekend I found a recipe in a Mediterranean cookbook for zucchini fritters that look wonderful.

The market is open on Wednesday and Saturday. On Saturday they also have fresh bread and baked goods from a local baker, locally roasted coffee, and goat cheese from two nearby dairy farms. "Everything sold is either grown, raised or produced within 150 miles of Fort Worth."

(Photo note: Due to computer or camera or cable glitches, I cannot load my own photos to the computer, so these came from elsewhere: the plant pics from usda.gov and the farmers market photo was borrowed from their website...I don't think they'll mind.)

Friday, August 21, 2009

Of Summer Rain, Fennel, Almost-Butterflies and Italian fried Sage

We had the most wonderful storm in the early morning. Any good rain in Texas in August is cause for celebration, and this was a full out thunderstorm with impressive crashing and lashing during the pre-dawn to dawn hours. I went outside an hour or more after the rain had stopped and smelled the anise-y, ouzo, almost-licorice scent of fennel.

I intended to gather seeds and pull up the remaining overgrown and spent fennel in my garden several days ago, but when I went out to do it, I found a plump little visitor.

Swallowtail caterpillar on fennel

At that moment he was munching on the dried seeds and not the fronds, but the next day he had moved on to the greenery. He is still on a branch today, and this afternoon I finally gathered some of the fennel seeds. We are hoping he makes his cocoon and transforms in our garden.

I now have a little baggy of fennel seeds and am thinking of the lentil and vegetable soup I made several times last summer, fragrant with cumin and fennel seed.

So many of the seeds have already dropped that we're sure to have a jungle of fennel seedlings this fall!

Tonight, though, I'm focusing on another herb in my garden: sage. I am going to make a maiden attempt at an Italian preparation of sage leaves, battered and fried...very simple. I have read about this in a number of books about Italy, and especially in cookbooks and books about food and Italian food festivals, but have never had it. The recipe I plan to use for reference is from Marlena de Blasi's memoir, A Thousand Days in Tuscany. Little more than flour, beer and sea salt, the batter can also be used for squash blossoms and other edilbe flowers and delicate vegetables. I have no idea what Italian beer is like, but Edward's fancy ale will have to do.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Little Paintings and the Art Piano

Before I get to the paintings, I want to share this picture. I was so excited yesterday when I saw this hanging from the arbor. It doesn't look like much now, but these little fuzzy buds are the promise for a huge overgrown arbor full of fragrant purple clusters.

I painted small yesterday. Three 6x6x1.5 inch canvases. They went pretty well, and I hardly stressed over the painting at all. That might have something to do with the small size, but I think that staying in the art mode and having painted just a few days ago helps quite a bit.

That size canvas is just so cute.


Here they are inside after Edward and R had their way with them. I agree that they work fine this way too, but I had to insist that the last one stay with the blue on top. (Okay, I admit it, it looks not horribly wrong with the blue on the right edge as well.)

The art piano

I just had to take a pic of my piano covered in some recent paintings. And with a relaxed Edmund Hillary the crowning touch on top.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Harbingers of Spring: The Garden

A profusion of daffodils
I believe they have peaked.

I just had to share these pictures of the signs of spring in our yard. Nevermind that it was 28 degrees night before last, today we broke 80. Spring it is!

Hyacinths perfume the air by the front door.
It's hard to go by these without bending down for a closer sniff.

In the vegetable garden, the chard and two heads of romaine look vibrant and robust. The fennel is progressing, slowly but nicely. And the first several spinach seedlings have broken ground!! Arugula seedlings are plentiful but still very small. Edward's (many) onion sets have thickened and greened and look very healthy...I suspect he'll wait till they all are large and bulbous and roast them in the fire pit. (Love fire-roasted veggies; won't be eating those.)

By the way, happy Mardi Gras to all, but what a silly time to be giving up things, just when nature's bounty is starting to swell and remind us of how wonderful it is to be alive and be in the flesh!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Mom and Daughter Painting Time on the Deck

Last week I spent a warm day out on the deck painting. This canvas is 28x20. I haven't been able to come up with a title yet.

After school R had no homework and spent some time with me, painting these 3 canvas boards. The one on the left is a conservatory with telescope looking out into space, inspired by the lecture we attended a week ago by astrophysicist, Neil Tyson. It was fun, interesting, thought-provoking. During the walk to school the next morning, R was planning the colonization of Mars.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Asian and Middle Eastern - Two Must -Taste Little Restaurants in Fort Worth

I spent the day Wednesday painting outside on the deck. A real joy. But I haven't liked any of the photos of artwork I have taken lately, so today I am going to write about food. Specifically, about two fabulous small restaurants in Fort Worth.

Celaborelle is a Phoenician (Lebanese) restaurant in an old house on Hemphill, near Magnolia and the hospital district. I love restaurants in old houses, so full of character!

from the website: Celaborelle has been serving the Dallas/Fort Worth area with the best in Middle Eastern cuisine since 1997. Well known to be one of the world's healthiest, Lebanese food is something of a mystery to many people. Celaborelle provides you with an authentic, eye-opening mezze experience--a multitude of small dishes for one low price, which amounts to a tour of Lebanese cuisine, always fresh, always delicious. Whether you're a meat eater, vegetarian, or vegan, if you're an expert in Lebanese cuisine or a total newcomer, you will have a wonderful feast at Celaborelle. From our buffet line to our live action cooking station, which is all included in the buffet price, you can expect one of the best home-cooked meals you've ever had! And if you're in a hurry and need to order take-out, we offer a menu representing all our choices.

The buffet is definitely the best deal here at $8.95, less for children. In addition to the appetizers and many vegetable, meat and combination dishes on the buffet, it also also includes beef or lamb kabobs cooked fresh to order and the best made fresh for you falafel in Dallas-Fort Worth, perfectly crisp on the outside and tender, steaming and fragrant inside. I think I could come in and just have falafel with a side of olives and feta and be happy. But then I would miss out on the amazing melt-in-your-mouth eggplant, and that would be a shame. Batinjan mtabal, a charbroiled eggplant and tahini spread like babaganouj, is pleasingly garlicky and should not be missed. This place is a mecca for vegetarians or vegans, but also satisfies meat-eaters. We took our friends recently, a meat-eating family of four, and tested that. My 11-tear old daughter loves this place and is especially pleased with all the little dessert offerings, about half of which are some variation of baklava. Edward likes the pudding-like cake with rosewater. I'll just have another falafel.

Celaborelle has been closed for a few months or more a couple of times, but we are recommending it to everyone, dragging our friends in for dinner and hoping to help keep them in business. Bring your own bottle.

After seeing the baby ducks and squealing piglets at the Stock Show a couple of weeks ago, we drove around looking for some good (not-BBQ, non-cornydog, non-funnel cake) food for dinner, and we happened upon Thai Tina's, just outside downtown. It is the most non-descript building in a, well "unassuming" is putting it mildly, area. We would never have considered stopping, but when Edward read the name off the building, I said, Wait. I think I just saw that mentioned. And leafed through the FW Weekly I'd just picked up, which described it as "marvelous, authentic Thai food." We had to try it, and it did not disappoint. I had a perfect rendition of green curry with cocnut milk, vegetables and tofu, which I settled on remarkably quickly from the extensive menu. Most of the menu items come with the option of meats, seafood or tofu, something I have been seeing more and more, and which makes it really easy for people to order a variety when they have special diets, or just to get what they like. R looked carefully at the menu for quite a while, then announced that she couldn't find the California rolls. She was a little confused about what kind of Asian restaurant we were in, or expecting a pan-Asian menu. She then looked at the kid's menu and ordered the cheese sticks with fries. Well, Edward was wearing the smart daddy hat, because he then ordered the Pad Thai with tofu, mild, which he immediately gave R a sample of. She finished the meal standing at his shoulder with her chopsticks.

Monday our friend Marvin was in town from New York. We had introduced him to Celaborelle on his last visit, but when we called ahead, they were closed, so Thai Tina's it was. Several other friends joined us, including the family we had taken to Celaborelle last time, who had never tried Thai before. They shared the Pineapple Fried Rice with pork and liked it so much they ordered a second plate. Two appetizer sampler platters were quickly polished off. I ordered a variation of the curry I had last time; I couldn't help it, it was so good. (Next time I want to try the Grilled Salmon, served over avocado panang sauce, topped with steamed asparagus...if I can bypass the curry.) R had the same Pad Thai dish her dad had ordered before and pretty much demolished it herself. We were an even mix of vegetarians and carnivores, and everyone loved the place, even the three kids. Tina came to visit the table before we ordered and then came back to chat and check on us. We also hear that she makes a mean martini.

No website that I could find, but the address is 703 N. Henderson.

(NOTE: This review was done at the old location. The new address is 600 Commerce Street, Downtown Fort Worth.)

Thai Tina's on Urbanspoon

Monday, February 9, 2009

Two More New Collages in Blue

Here are two more of the little collages I have been ding lately. I finally set up the tripod and photographed them, but I can tell that I need to go in and up the brightness a little more. I think all the adjusting and tinkering with the light and color values and whatnot to get my images to look right takes as much time as any thing else. I get really frustrated sometimes just trying to get the photo to look like the collage or painting. The white/silvery/grey areas on these pics are just a little too dark.

The collages are pleasing...you'll just have to trust me. ;-) Well, they are pleasing to me, but then they're blue; of course they are.

I'm making no art today. R is home today after being up a lot of the night being sick. She's feeling better and wanting to eat now. I'm thinking about all the cool vegetables we got at the Fiesta Mart (fabulous produce section!) yesterday and trying to decide on something bland and soothing to make for dinner tonight.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Almost Spring Garden!

The baby plants are in the gardening centers! This week we got packets of seedlings for broccoli and cauliflower (I think a cat or two nibbled on the leaves of these while they were in the house), as well as two different kinds of spinach seeds to try. Also, many, many tiny arugula seedlings have sprung up in the garden.
It is still very dry, and has been pretty windy, and watering is still necessary, as it has been all fall and winter.

Other signs of spring:

We have lots of hyacinths coming up.

And of first of the daffodils has burst into full bloom.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Collages : Two New with Red

I tried putting these collages on the scanner, and I have had good results doing that with small pieces of artwork before, but I think with as much time as I spent after tinkering with the images , I could have just set up the tripod and photographed them.

I'll still have to do that; the color tones or saturation or intensity...or something...isn't quite right.

These, like the previous four, are 6x6 inches on a 10x10 heavy watercolor paper.

Friday, January 30, 2009

New Collages

I've been painting for the past several months and not doing any collage making, but I guess I got the collage bug from artist Mary Buek, whose blog I read. She usually does paintings, and posts a picture of a daily piece of artwork. The last month or 2, she has been on a collage binge, and I have been looking at her experimentations and works of collage art almost everyday.

So, the last couple of days I got out lots of sheets and small bits of paper, including a number of painted and otherwise marked papers, and created some collages. The pictures are not very good, pretty bad actually, but show the general idea of what I am doing.

I made the mistake of using colors I like in the last two collages, and when I finished I started thinking, Hmm, I kinda like these. Bet they'd look nice framed and hanging in my living room.

I learned a long time ago to beware of making much blue jewelry; I always want to keep it.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Go Mosaic, Sand Mandalas and Making Matte Glass, I hope

I just had to post this picture of the mosaic that R made from the pieces of her Go game.

It isn't glued down, of course, so it is probably more correctly a Go mandala, like the sand mandalas often made and destroyed, usually by Tibetan Buddhist monks.

Also, this one wasn't destroyed by its creator, but, uh, messed up by me...but it had set out on the kitchen table for several days intact. I think that was pretty good. But R wasn't too thrilled when my sleeve drug across it.

Sand Mandala, Tibet 1993
photo by John Hill

Sand mandala created for the visit of the Dalai Lama 2008

from Wikipedia: Ritual destruction

The destruction of a sand mandala is also highly ceremonial. Even the deity syllables are removed in a specific order, along with the rest of the geometry until at last the mandala has been dismantled. The sand is collected in a jar which is then wrapped in silk and transported to a river (or any place with moving water), where it is released back into nature. For this reason, the materials keeping with the symbolism are never used twice.

Several months ago I was working on this mosaic and could never find the right pieces to fill in the background. I placed 2 orders for mosaic tiles that just wouldn't work. So, this morning I cut up some little pieces of white opaque to semi-opaque (it's a bit swirly) stained glass and put them in my daughter's long abandoned rock tumbler. I want all the glossy to go away. I can't wait to see what happens. If they won't work for this project, I'm sure I can use them for something else...just like all the other rejects I have stashed away somewhere in my studio.

(Mandala photos from Wikipedia articles "Mandala" and "Sand Mandala")

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Painting Angst: Process of a Work in Progress

Maybe it wasn't such a good idea to decide I would chronicle the progress of 2 paintings I was starting simultaneously Friday. Maybe it made me a little self-conscious and stilted, maybe a little bit more critical as I was painting.

Friday was an absolutely gorgeous day to be outside painting. It was 80 degrees, and I was on the deck barefoot and in a tank top, having shed my oversize paint shirt. (As a follow-up to my last post about Texas winter weather, I want to add that Saturday was a windy 31.)

Anyway, I thought it would be fun to track the stages of the two canvases. Here's what I got:

Making early color choices, starting to define areas with blocks of color

This is the beginning of the "Ahgg, I don't know if this is working" stage.
My little helper in right top corner, usually a skittish, fairly wary cat, was fascinated by the movement of the paint brush. Later she came up onto the canvas to play.

Well into the "I think I hate this painting, what can I do to fix it" stage.

I can see now that by this time, things had started to get better, forms had taken shape, I'd
made some good changes, but I think at the time I felt like the painting, as Edward put it, "was kicking your butt."
You can see that between this photo and the previous one, the kitten had been replaced by a glass of wine.

I had to walk away for a couple of hours, then I finally decided that this one is finished.

This one is close, but the amount of yellow at the very top near the left still bugs me and will probably be messed with some more. When I get out the paintbrush, who knows what else I may tweak...

It's almost 4 am (still kind of Saturday to me, since I only slept a few hours), and Edward leaves noon Sunday for a week in Iowa, so I am going to try to sleep some more now and be awake for his last few hours at home.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Winter or not? Texas Gardening and an Essay on the Hose

This is a confusing time for gardeners in Texas. My mother said this week, I just want to get out and buy some seeds and plant some plants. Yes, it is the middle of January, but with all the nice weather, who can blame her. It will be 80 degrees again today....BUT, then the winter wind will kick in and it should drop to 37 tonight and only get up to 45 tomorrow (Great weather for R's soccer game! Brr.)

Rapid changes and temperature drops notwithstanding, there are still some things that are doing great in the garden through the winter. The fennel is still growing, and we have carrots in the ground that we go out and pull as needed. We have Swiss chard, a little romaine, a few tiny mixed lettuces whose seeds were evidently taking their own time to sprout and several herbs that are thriving through whatever January throws at them, even the ice storm. Earlier this week I planted arugula, and we won't have to wait long for the tender young greens to come up. Arugula is the most instant gratification a gardener can get.

The one unexpected gardening problem is that I have to water, in January. I believe this is the driest fall and winter I have ever encountered. But, on the subject of watering, while going through documents on the computer yesterday, I ran across this little essay R wrote last year:

My Favorite Garden Tool

Every day when I get home from school, I run to the end of the hose to turn on the presser. Then I dash to the other end and point it at the beautiful birdbath in the middle of the garden and fill it to the brim. Then I direct my tool towards section one filled with lettuce, spinach, and cauliflower. I spray until the vegetables and their roots are completely moist. When I stand back and marvel at the work I do every day, I am pleased with the marvelous outcome of my work every day.

It's kind of funny, but you know, she's right. If you garden in Texas, your hose or water barrel IS your most important tool.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Hope, the Inaugural Address and Being Counted

This is Thursday, and I am still thinking about Tuesday's inauguration and the inaugural address.

The world watched us on Tuesday.
Image from Google satelite

My first thought is that I am still feeling kind of amazed that this has actually happened and that we now have Barack Obama as our president. Truly historic. I am glad that my daughter and her classmates were able to watch the inauguration at school. Of course, a week before the election, the students at her school chose Obama for president by a landslide. It appears they were ready for change even more than the entire country of adults were, and are.

I liked the inaugural address, and I appreciated that the president did not gloss over the seriousness of the situation in our country, but appealed to the citizens to use their strengths to work to overcome the current difficulties.

I liked that he called upon science and was excited to hear him promise to use wind and solar energy, saying not just that we can, but that we WILL do it:
We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. All this we will do.

But I think the thing that surprised and encouraged me the most was this:
For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

Watching the inauguration from work Edward immediately wrote on his Facebook page: Edward is happy to know that his president counts him as a citizen.

A couple of friends commented in agreement, but it is something that didn't make too big an impression if you are someone who has never ben marginalized by your government. A friend of ours wrote later that she had watched the whole speech, but had no idea what we were talking about. I responded: ...you just have probably have never had your president state outright that he doesn't even consider you a citizen or another say that you are unAmerican because of what you do or do not believe, so Obama's inclusion today did not make the same impression on you. Somehow, if you believe in Jehovah but not Jesus or Jesus but not Vishnu or in Buddhism but not Jehovah or Allah but not Jesus you are considered a more moral and decent and, evidently, valid person in this country than if you frankly state that you just can't believe in any of these supernatural deities or religions. Polls have found that regardless of experience and ability, people in this country are less likely to vote for an admitted atheist or agnostic than ANY other group. So, that President Obama in his inaugural address referred to the patchwork that makes our country strong and included "non-believers" was amazing and very heartening, and really quite a breakthrough. I'd almost say unprecedented, except that this non-believer/atheist hate and distrust is a fairly modern phenomenon in our country, as the founding fathers and the majority of our first several presidents were not Christians or even theists, but deists.
When Obama started his list of the different religions that make up our country, I stopped and held my breath, but didn't really expect or hope for what he said. When he included non-believer with Christian and Jew and the rest, that meant a lot to many of us.

Friday, January 9, 2009

First Painting of 2009

R says it goes the other way, horizontal. Of course she had a whole story about a house by the beach, or maybe on an island, with lots of detail about what all the elements are. I always enjoy her interpretations of art and her great imagination. My own thoughts on the different bits in the paintings and usually of the meaning or subject of the painting itself are almost always a lot more vague, more open ended.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Garden Clean-up, Winter Weather

We've been enjoying some of the most wonderful weather for the beginning of 2009.

On Friday, R and I went for a long walk, she in a little cotton skirt and I in sandals. About halfway through, R suggested we walk on the other side of the street...in the shade.

Saturday afternoon (82 degrees) Edward and I tackled the clearing of the garden, cutting down the big woody okra stalks and pulling up tomato vines, the eggplant and the poblano pepper, all of which had pulpy fruits that had been caught in an earlier freeze still hanging on them. We even found a few tiny red and green pear tomatoes protected under a cover of leaves.

Swiss chard, arugula, 2 small plants of romaine lettuce and fennel are growing in the garden, and we still have several carrots in the ground just waiting for when they are needed in the kitchen.

Edward and I worked in the garden until just after sundown, more than comfortable in t-shirts, and he in shorts, me in sandals.

So, obviously, it was time for a little sleet and freezing rain.

Monday afternoon, tiny iciles hung from every branch and twig.

Green leaves on the rosebush encased in ice

Poor little frosted fennel

R managed to get a perfect leaf imprint in ice


R went back to school today after 2 1/2 weeks of holiday madness, and I am hoping that I can get back to painting.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Cheese, Bread and Julia Child

Yummy cheese, photo from Zabar

Edward has good cheese karma; I have to start with that. He chose a lovely taleggio he had never tried to take to my mother's in October, and last night he came home from Central Market with this Alta Langa Cravanzina. It is from the Piedmont region of Italy and a lot like a brie, maybe a little earthier, maybe a little tangier...I don't know, it's hard to describe the difference. Very, very soft, very delicious.

From Zabar's in NYC: A delicate and lovely little round from the Italian Piedmonts; in the "paglia" family of cheeses, so named because they are aged on beds of straw (paglia = straw). Covered with a bloomy rind, the voluptuous paste is mild, creamy, buttery, and a little musty. Eat it quickly, otherwise it might run right off the table - not that something this good will be around for that long.

He also brought home a big, lovely pain de campagne, which was almost identical to the rustic bread, with a touch of rye, that I made from the America's Test Kitchen cookbook - still my best home baked bread effort.

My bread, also yummy

I may be thinking about matters of food and cooking more than usual (nahh), because I just finished Julia Child's memoir of her years in France, mostly Paris, (1948-54) and the trials and tribulations of cooking school, testing, writing and publishing her first cookbooks and the (accidental) beginning of her career as a TV chef. She and her husband didn't even have a television when she made her first TV appearances.

I love her absolute enjoyment of food, and the exacting detail that went into her preparation of her recipes - truly hundreds of hours of research and trials to perfect a single recipe that would be foolproof to American cooks and housewives of the 50s and 60s who knew nothing of French cooking but wanted to learn. And her sense of fun.

Unfortunately, I now want to buy most of her books, particularly From Julia Child's Kitchen, a cookbook that also includes comments and stories, my favorite kind. "Unfortunately", because I know most of these early books are full of recipes that I will NEVER make or eat, eel, tripe, brains, rabbits...crazy foods, foods that I wouldn't have considered cooking or eating even if I had not become a vegetarian and also just a lot of beef and chicken recipes and recipes heavy with absolutely perfected French sauces full of butter and cream. And now, even though the holidays are over, and I am ready to trim back on the cooking and eating and shed a few pounds, I am pretty sure that I will be researching the one or two Julia Child cookbooks that I simply must have.