Monday, December 31, 2012

The Best Of Belize


Xunantunich

Every year I frame a grouping of travel photos.  And my Belize photos might be the most colorful and adventurous to date.  I never tire of looking at them.  That is the great thing about blogs.  You can share travel photos with the world.  And unlike some friends and family who would rather stick wooden tooth picks under neath their finger nails than look at your travel photos, there are some people out in the vast internet universe that might actually enjoy them.   I know you are out there...  


Hopkins


Baby Iguana


Cahel Pech and some Belizian Snow!


Five Sisters


Tikal 


Dean on horseback


Aracari


Tikal

Tikal is actually in Guatemala.  Belize it or not.



Friday, December 28, 2012

Everything old is new again!


I decided to have a little fun with the theme this week over at www.illustrationfriday.com  What's new?  Well, I did this piece back in 1998.  I signed it with my maiden name.  And even dated it.  There is no getting around the fact that it is old.  But I've never posted it online on a website or blog.  So it is new.  Go figure.  

One of my future goals is to create a website for more of my fine art pieces.  It would be great if I could share them with the public.  And it would also be great if I was willing and able to create more.  I guess that will be my resolution for 2013.  

This piece is called, "Tails"  I named it that because the tails were my favorite part of the painting.  It is also the way my husband and I decide on where to have dinner some nights.  Heads or tails.  But that is another story...

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Salted Caramel Stuffed Crinkle Cookies


I made another Pinterest recipe.  My husband loved chocolate crinkle cookies when he was a kid.  So when I saw this caramel version, I surprised him with some on Christmas.  He is trying to cut down on sugar.  So I used Splenda for the cookie dough.  They turned out great.  The caramel and powdered sugar were the real deal though.  If I were a better and more patient food photographer I would snap a photo of an open cookie with caramel melting out onto the plate.  But you'll just have to use your imagination!

Here is the recipe...with sugar.


Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
10 tbsp salted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

2 dozen caramels (such as Kraft), unwrapped (Rolos would also be good)
coarse sea salt
3/4 cup powdered sugar

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a mixing bowl whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt, set aside. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fit with a paddle attachment, whip together butter, granulated sugar and light-brown sugar on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add in eggs one at a time, stirring after each addition until combine. Mix in vanilla. With mixer set on low speed, slowly add in dry ingredients and mix just until combine. 
Scoop dough out 2 tbsp at a time and roll into a ball. Press one caramel into the center, sprinkle top of caramel with a small pinch of coarse sea salt then fold cookie dough around caramel and salt (make sure the caramel is fully covered with dough around all sides). Shape into a ball once more then roll in powdered sugar*. Align cookies on Silpat lined or buttered cookie sheets and bake in preheated oven 11 - 13 minutes. Allow to cool on cookie sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool (note that the caramel will set after it cools, I liked these cookies best warm for soft gooey caramel). Store in an airtight container.

*I gave my cookies a generous coating of the powdered sugar before baking, but when they baked a lot of the powdered sugar baked and dissolved into the cookie anyway. So I found you can coat the top again with powdered sugar after baking (which is not pictured) to get a prettier cookie. If doing so roll in powdered sugar once before baking (doesn't need to be generously), then bake them and allow to cool and dip the tops of cookies in a fresh batch of powdered sugar (so there is no cross contamination) and shake off some of the excess. If you want to do it that way I would recommend using 1/2 cup powdered sugar for rolling before baking and reserve 1/4 cup in a separate bowl to dip and coat the tops after baking.

So if you haven't eaten too many Christmas cookies this season, try these!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas!


Some of my favorite ornaments...


Have you wrapped all your gifts yet?  

This is an easy idea I scoped out on Pinterest.  Take a marker and draw a face on a brown paper bag.  And glue a puff ball in the center for a nose.  Unfortunately I can't place these under the tree because my cat Hana is obsessed with chewing the handles of paper bags.


I finally used my illustration Meow, Meow Christmas on my Holiday cards.  So lastly, I'm sending greetings and best wishes to all my blogging friends.  To everyone that is online on Christmas Eve that is!

Merry Christmas!


Friday, December 21, 2012

Maui Sunset

click to enlarge

The new www.illustrationfriday.com theme is glow.  And I know most people are probably picking Christmas themed art with warmth, sparkles and light.  Not me.  I decided on a Maui Sunset.  Hawaii is president Obama's Christmas choice after all. 

 Maybe I should do more Christmas themed illustrations.  Although I did a whole book about the baby Jesus and his animal admirers just last year.  But if left to my own devices glowing and bright might be pushing it.  Here is what I might do.....  Crazy Cat Christmas, The Night Before The Tree Fell On Santa Paws, The Santa Paws Clause and The Cat Who Ate My Christmas Cookies.  Oh my!  Plus the sequel, The Cat Who Puked On Christmas. Yes, those illustrations sound like me. 

Just saying.

   Have you checked out all the amazing black and white art over at the 2013 Tomie dePaola Contest ?  Illustrators were asked to depict scenes from Little Women, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer or The Yearling.  I chose The Yearling.  Mine is somewhere towards the bottom.  Be sure to stop by and check it out!  

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Reindeer Gear


Hmmm.  Who is worthy of being Santa's new reindeer this year?  Akua?  No.  He's been nice, but a little naughty.  He has chewed some major T.P. this year.  He hogs the sofa, sits on the kitchen counters, paws desperately at the bedroom door when we are trying to sleep and has forgotten proper litter box etiquette.  The covering part.  



What about Hana?  She is so naughty that Santa left her resume in the junk mail folder.  Her precocious and pesty attitude could win her a starring role on an annoying kitty reality show.   He knows that she would never do anything he wanted.  Even when it is one of the highest Christmas honors.  Pulling a sleigh.



Together they are abominable.


Hmmm, what about the neighbor's dog?  She is shy.  But I think she has been nice.  And dogs love to work like a team.  I bet Santa could mold her into the purrrrrfect new recruit.

 Have you checked out all the amazing black and white art over at the 2013 Tomie dePaola Contest ?  Illustrators were asked to depict scenes from Little Women, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer or The Yearling.  I chose The Yearling.  Mine is somewhere towards the bottom.  Be sure to stop by and check it out!  

And check out all the cats at www.gattinamycats.blogspot.com as well.






Sunday, December 16, 2012

Snow Day


Snow is a very appropriate theme for www.illustrationfriday.com this week.  We are buried in it here in Minnesota.  When I saw the IF theme today I thought this was my only snow related illustration.  But I actually found a few more.  One even combined snow and Christmas.  I used it on this year's Christmas card.    Maybe I tried to block out the memory of snow on it from my mind.  It is not my favorite form of water after all.  Bah Humbug!  And the other image I found with snow I've already bookmarked for next year's card.  So how could I forget about all that snow? Well, today I'm sticking with this humble piece.  

It depicts the time worn joke of dogs getting the upper hand over cats.  Not at my house. 

Have you checked out all the amazing black and white art over at the 2013 Tomie dePaola Contest ?  Illustrators were asked to depict scenes from Little Women, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer or The Yearling.  I chose The Yearling.  Mine is somewhere towards the bottom.  Be sure to stop by and check it out!  

P.S. I set up this post Friday morning before the school tragedy unfolded.  I didn't have the heart to post it.  It seemed like we all needed to hold our breath and wait to exhale.  But with a heavy heart I'm getting back to my normal schedule.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Southwestern Pizza with Black Bean and Corn Relish

This is another favorite pizza.  As always it starts with the crust.  And for that recipe go to my labels under pizza.  And look for my meal on death row post.  Ha!  


First you brush your favorite taco sauce on the pre-baked crust.  Then add a taco cheese mix and your favorite chorizo or taco meat.  Bake for 10 minutes at 450.  Then sprinkle with some fresh cilantro.  


Then the fun part.  When you serve it you add the pre-made relish.  Here's what is in that...

1 can Black beans (rinsed and drained)
1/2 -1 cup fresh cooked corn
 1 small chopped tomato
1 small chopped onion
1 chopped pepper (whatever kind you like)
1 tsp (or more) toasted cumin seeds
1/4 -1/2 tsp cumin powder
1/4 tsp garlic salt
1/2 -1 tsp sugar
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp lime juice

Combine these ingredients and serve with your pizza.  Fiesta time!



Monday, December 10, 2012

An Apple Today


Every year I commit to a new green pledge.  Usually they are simple and pretty easy to stick to.  A couple years ago I decided to stop purchasing gift wrap.  I reuse wrapping paper, brown paper bags and newspaper comics.  This year I discovered a new super easy Holiday craft thanks to Pinterest.  On Pinterest someone used torn pages from a book to decoupage round ornaments with.  They looked so sophisticated with silver glitter.  

But I'm not very sophisticated.  Ha!  Plus I didn't want to destroy any books.  So I used more newspaper comics.  Gotta love Snoopy.  And I already had some old boring plastic apple ornaments.  I may have gotten a little glitter crazy.  But you get the drift.  It's just decoupage.  So easy a kid can do it.  

Now I have a couple links to share.  The first is a link to this year's Tomie de Paola contest.  At www.scbwicontest.blogspot.com  I illustrated an excerpt from, "The Yearling" in pencil.  Wish me luck!

And I also have a link for Leontien at A Rural Journal  Holiday cards are being sent to brighten her Holiday season as she battles cancer.   

Friday, December 7, 2012

Explore Your Inner Cheeken


I thought that my doomed hiking poultry illustration would be the best choice for the www.illustrationfriday.com theme explore.  Turkey Lurkey, Goosey Loosey, Ducky Daddles, Cocky Locky, Henny Penny and Chicken Licken are all out looking for the King.  They have the misguided idea that he can keep the sky from falling.  As if.  I wonder if the king is a peacock?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Fried Chocolate Wontons


I always make these when I have leftover wonton wrappers.  Here I placed a Dove chocolate in the center because I had them leftover from Halloween.  But use whatever chocolate you like.  Take a brush and wipe the edges with an egg wash. 



Place another wonton wrapper on top and seal the edges.  Sorry about my ugly cutting board!


Fry the wontons in a deep skillet of peanut oil heated to 375.  They will be done in seconds.  Use metal tongs to flip the wontons to brown the other side.

Place the fried wontons on a paper towel and sprinkle with powdered sugar.  That's it!

Enjoy.

Monday, December 3, 2012

A Cat Tale For Christmas


I decided to tell a little story today.  It is inspired by current events and the infamous saying, "Lost kitten down by the grain bins."  My husband spouts this go to phrase all the time.  Well, the lost kitten all started with this soft looking kitten pile in the first photo.  We used to visit my Dad once a month on the farm.  And he had a little surprise for us on this visit.  The farm Momma kitty had birthed a secret batch in one of our old campers.  Our farm was one of those farms that look like a lost island of misfit toys.  Except the toys were cars, campers and farm equipment.  Do you see the black kitten in the mix?  We could tell right away that he was the big man on campus.


Well, we went back to Minneapolis and another month passes by.  It was time to visit the farm once again.  But Dad had warned us that another farmer had volunteered to take on the whole litter.  Even Momma kitty.  So there would be no kittens to play with on this visit.  What?????  


But "Blackie" had other plans. Shortly after the whole family was adopted and taken away my Dad heard some quiet mewing down by the grain bins.  Sure enough Blackie turned out to be an escape artist.  He just left Mom and all his siblings and struck out on his own.  I guess Dad had a new pet whether he wanted one or not.  And we had a kitten to play with!


Ida did not like this new whirlwind.  He was like a wild cat.  He had a spirit that could barely be tamed.  Except at nap time.


I love this old photo of Blackie and Dad.  Sadly Blackie was hit by a car shortly after this photo was taken.  He was a wild and crazy lovable little guy.  And he created the saying that rings in my ears to this day.  Lost kitten down by the grain bins.  My husband even says it to me if I don't understand what he is saying.  Or I'm not listening...

So what does this have to do with current events?  Well, my husband seems to be in a lost cat phase.  He tried to chase one down that he "thought" was lost at Lake Harriet this Summer.  And then the other night there was Oliver.

We were walking at Lake Nokomis after dark when an orange cat comes running out from under a weeping willow tree.  He runs right up to us for some attention.  Of course the first thought that crosses my husband's head is we have a "lost" cat on our hands.  He had a collar, but it was too dark for us to read.  So we carried him a block.    (Yes, a whole block and he didn't squirm at all)  And held him under a street light to read his tag.  Oliver just happened to live right on the street we were on.  Imagine that.  Well, we'd carried him this far.  So we decided to finish the job.  We took him just a few houses down to his home.  One cat saved....a million to go.

Lost kitten down by the grain bins.

For more cats visit www.gattinamycats.blogspot.com    



Friday, November 30, 2012

Big Kitty Stretch

click to enlarge

I fell in love with this sofa years ago.  And it was like a muse.  I painted numerous dogs and cats lounging around on it.  I was doing art fairs at the time.  And none of my work was scanned and saved.  I was just selling the originals.  So some of my favorites are dog gone.  

Stretch is the theme of the day at www.illustrationfriday.com

And I have some news.  Lisa over at Adventures in Blue Ridge Mountain Living and Arnoldo at A Blog To Read, Explore and Create won my illustrated book giveaway!  Thanks for playing guys. I always enjoy my visits to their happy and creative blogs.  







Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Dark Chocolate Pumpkin Swirl Bundt Cake



This is my first downloaded pinterest recipe.  I know a lot of people collect food porn photos. The kind of professionally decorated and unachievable food perfection only prepared by Martha types.  But I only pin food photos and links that I might actually make.  Someday...  Here is the recipe:

Cake:
  • 1 1/4 cups pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, softened*
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 3/4 cups cake flour, divided
  • 3 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tsp. baking powder, divided
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda, divided
  • 1 tsp. salt, divided
  • 3/4 cup Dutch-processed unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 1/3 cup regular or low-fat buttermilk, divided
Cream Cheese Glaze:
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 4 oz. (1/2 cup) regular or low-fat cream cheese
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 3-4 tbsp. milk (or more if you want a thinner glaze)
Process
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F). Rub a 10 inch tube pan or 12-cup bundt pan with butter (or spritz with cooking spray) and dust with 1 tbsp. flour until the interior is covered. Tap lightly to shake loose extra flour. Set aside.
  2. Spread pumpkin puree over two layers of paper towels and press two more layers on top. Let sit for 10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large mixer bowl cream butter until light. Add both sugars in a steady stream and mix on medium for about 5 minutes.
  4. Add eggs, one at time, mixing well after each. Add in vanilla.
  5. Transfer half of the mixture into another large bowl (another mixer bowl would be helpful, but any large bowl will work). Set aside.
  6. Scape the pumpkin off of the paper towel and add it to the first bowl. Mix well.
  7. In a smaller bowl combine 1 3/4 cup flour, pumpkin pie spice, 1/2 tsp. baking soda, 1/4 tsp. baking powder and 1/2 tsp. salt.
  8. Add half of the flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture and mix well. Mix in 1/3 cup buttermilk. Then add the remaining flour and mix until combined. Set aside.
  9. In the smaller bowl combine 1 cup flour, 3/4 cup cocoa, 1/2 tsp. baking soda, 1/4 tsp. baking powder and 1/2 tsp. salt.
  10. Add half of the flour/cocoa mixture to the other large bowl and mix well with a whisk or your mixer. Mix in 1 cup of buttermilk. Then add the remaining flour and mix until combined.
  11. Spoon 1/3 of the pumpkin batter into your prepared pan. Drop heaping spoonfuls of the chocolate batter around the pan (not completely covering all the pumpkin). Spoon in the remaining pumpkin and chocolate batters. Gently swirl a knife around the pan several times.
  12. Bake for 45-55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs (make sure you’re checking in both the pumpkin and chocolate parts, I noticed large chocolate sections needed a few additional minutes). Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then remove from pan and cool for another 10 minutes on a rack.
  13. Meanwhile, to make the glaze, mix powdered sugar and cream cheese until well blended. Beat in vanilla and milk, 1 tbsp. at time. Drizzle on the warm cake. Let cake cool completely.
Sharon's notes:  I reduced the sugars to 3/4 cup for each batter.  And also glazed it with a chocolate ganache instead (not shown)  For my Ganache you just bring around 1/3 cup of 1/2 and 1/2 just to a simmer.  Imediately remove from the heat and add around 2/3 cup bittersweet or semi sweet chocolate chips.  Stir until smooth and glossy.  Then glaze your cake.  


Enjoy!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Feather Inspiration...


I thought my latest sewing project would be the perfect follow up to last week's bird post. I'd been planning to make a new purse all Summer.  Then my husband picked up this blue jay feather in our yard and inspiration finally struck.

My Webe purse did not have enough pockets.  And you can never have too many pockets I say.  Plus it didn't survive the wash.  But I used it as a pattern of sorts.  And I used the pillow shams from my old denim love seat for fabric.  We gave away the love seat when we redecorated our house.  But the pillow shams were brand new and had never been used.  My denim pockets rug is the backdrop for this post! Of course, I didn't do this project on my own.  There is never a shortage of help.  The feline variety.

Making pockets.

I used a piece of fabric that my Mom gave me a long time ago for the contrasting top.  I sewed the two pieces together for a purse front and back.

Pockets.  I drew the loop pattern on the denim with colored pencil.

I painted my inspiration feather on with fabric paint.  Then ironed it to seal the deal.

Then I sewed the pockets on the back.

I sewed on the feather emblem.

I sewed the pockets onto the lining fabric.  I had this fabric on hand from some curtains I made a long time ago.  In fact, I didn't buy one thing for this whole project.  Not even the zipper! 

Here I'm sewing on the strap. It is also made from an old curtain.

The inside.  I used the zipper from one of the pillow shams.  



So far I LOVE this purse.  It is so light weight and handy with all those pockets.  Now I just need another feather to inspire a Winter purse.  I'm thinking cardinal...