Saturday, December 13, 2014

"Moonlight" - 18" x 18" Acrylic Painting Progress

swan head detail WM

Here are some in progress photos of my latest piece, "Moonlight" which I started on September 28, 2014 and finished on November 27, 2014.

I didn't have an agenda for this piece as far as the subject when I started, but I did want to stick with a limited color palette. I tend to thrown a lot of color on my pieces (which I love, obviously) but this was a way to challenge myself and see what would come.

swan paint palette WM
My limited palette

About halfway through, I walked into my art room with the lights off, so the only light coming in was pre-sunrise glow. It was then that I saw the swan and I went from there.

I'm thrilled with the results. This is 18" x 18" piece on 2" deep canvas with sides painted red. That doesn't show up in these images, but it adds a nice finishing touch.


This is when I saw the swan and decided the direction to take it.

moonlight_2 detail1

moonlight_2 detail2

moonlight_2 detail3

After I decided on the swan, I got started on the body and other details. 

I created more contrast, added more branch imagery and played with movement and flow.

The finished piece with refined details and repeating dot pattern

I hope you enjoyed seeing my process with this piece. I'm smitten with it and look forward to more limited palette painting.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Fall Leaves - Free Images

 Leaves 1 (direct link to Dropbox file)

How's it going, fabulous peeps? I went for a walk yesterday as it was finally decent enough to do so. I saw so many beautiful leaves and I just couldn’t help picking some up along the way. I wondered how they would scan, and the answer is, they look AWESOME! I just had to share them with you. I’ve made them transparent PNG files, so you can layer them on othe backgrounds, or if you want to get fancy, you can pull individual leaves out using Photoshop or equivalent.

Leaves 2 (direct link to Dropbox file)

Use these however you want. GO NUTS. And feel free to put links in the comments so we can see your fab creations. Just be forewarned - these are large images (about 11MB each).

Happy Fall!

p.s. Check out Flickr for a few individual images.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Blog Rewind - Pumpkin Yeast Bread 3 Ways

It's hard to believe I wrote this three years ago, but with Fall in the air, it seems like a good time to bring it back. Here's a repost from October 2011:


One batch of bread dough, three different-yet-similar final breads. Brace yourself for a post of epic proportions. I'm not even kidding. This thing is LOOOONG. Ready? OK, good. Let's get to it.

I'll keep the words to a minimum because 1) I took a ridiculous amount of pictures so they'll take up a ton space and 2) let's face it, you'd *rather* look at (mostly) pretty pictures {I apologize in advance for the large number of blurry pics} and get to the good stuff, anyway — the recipes!

Let's start with the base — the dough.

pumpking dough-overflowing

It's vigorous. I hope you've got a big bowl.
("I hope you've got a big trunk, 'cause I'm gonna put my BIKE in it." Name that movie.)

Pumpkin Yeast Bread
adapted from King Arthur Flour

1/2 cup warm water
2 Tbsp SAF instant yeast or 2 packets of rapid rise yeast
2/3 cup warm (NOT HOT) whole milk (or 2%)
2 large eggs, beaten
1-1/2 cups canned pumpkin (This is *almost* the entire 15oz can. I was tempted to just use it all. If you do, you'll just need to adjust the amount of flour needed.)
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 cup dark brown sugar (can use light if you want, I just wanted a more robust flavor)
2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp cinnamon*
1/2 heaping tsp ginger*
1/2 tsp cardamom*
1/4 - 1/2 tsp ground cloves*
1/8 tsp nutmeg*
4 cups bread flour
2+ cups whole wheat flour

*I'm very willy-nilly with my spices. I just sort of toss them in until it seems like the right amount, so these measurements are approximate. I know, not exactly helpful. Use what YOU like and how much you like. Remember this makes 2 LARGE or three good-size loaves, so what might seem like too much probably isn't. I LOVE cinnamon so I tend to go crazy with it. Disclaimer over.

In bowl of stand mixer, add 4 cups of bread flour, yeast, salt, spices. Mix until blended. Add water, milk, eggs, pumpkin, oil, and sugar. Beat well about 2 minutes. Add whole wheat flour, 1/4 cup at a time until the dough comes together and switch to the dough hook. Knead until the dough clears the sides (you'll need to scrape them down once or twice) adding just a little bit of flour at a time. The dough will eventually clear the bottom as well. The dough should be slightly tacky but not sticky and should be fairly smooth. This will take about 10 minutes all told.

Put dough in a large, oiled bowl, turning once to coat. Cover with plastic wrap (spray the wrap with oil so that the dough won't stick when it BLOWS UP. *ahem*) and put it in a warm spot to blow up double, about 1 hour.

Get ready for the FUN to begin.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Pumpking dough-divided

I divided this beast into three pieces, each weighing in around 20.5 ounces.

With the first piece, I made the easiest of the three — pull-apart bread. (Keep the other two covered while you work so they don't dry out.)

Pumpkin pull apart steps

Roll, slather, cut, layer, cut, stack, put in pan. Wait....

Pumpking pull apart-proofed

Told you it was vigorous. Here's the pan of pull-apart bread after about 45min to an hour. HUGE and ready for the oven.

Pumpkin pull apart bottom

Oh, gracious. Would you LOOK at the bottom of that bread. Dreamy.

Pumpkin pull apart baked

And here's the crunchy, sweet, cinnamon-y top. Equally dreamy.

Pumpkin Pull-Apart Bread
1/3 pumpkin bread dough
1/4 cup brown sugar, loosely packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
6 Tbsp butter, melted, divided

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray loaf pan with cooking spray, coating entire inside.
Using 1/3 of the pumpkin dough, pat into rectangle and roll out to approximately 18" x 10" or thereabouts. Mix together sugars and cinnamon in small bowl. Spread about 4 Tbsp of the melted butter over dough and cover completely with sugar mixture, reserving a tablespoon or two for topping.

Cut in half lengthwise and stack the two strips. Cut stacked strips in 2" sections. Stack these and place in well greased loaf pan. Drizzle remaining butter over the loaf and sprinkle reserved sugar over the top. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until top crest the pan about 1/2" to 1", about 45 minutes.

Bake approximately 30-40 minutes, until internal temp of bread is 190°F. Top will get dark. Cover after 20 minutes to prevent it from burning or getting too dark.

Remove from oven and let rest on wire rack just a minute or two. Run knife around edges of pan to make sure it's not sticking, then turn out onto foil or parchment paper. Let it sit there for a minute or so to let the gooey goodness distribute a bit.  Flip again so the top is upright. Let cool slightly (5-10 minutes) before diving in. The sugar will be HOT and basically like caramel (oh, yeah) so it's easy to burn your fingers if you start devouring immediately. It'll be worth the wait.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Next up: Monkey Bread. But not just any old monkey bread. Oh, no. This is...

Cream Cheese Stuffed Pumpkin Monkey Bread

Did you're eyes just flutter and roll to the back of your head like you were going to pass out? It's ok. Mine did when I had the idea for this, then it was all I could do not to laugh like a mad scientist. "EUREKA! Bwah HA HA HAAAAAA!" *drumming tips of fingers together* I was just sure it was going to be amazing. I was right.

You're going to mix up a block of cream cheese with powdered sugar and spices.

cream cheese mixture

Then you roll out the dough in no particular size, just roll it to about 1/4" thickness but no more than that. Thinner is ok.

Pumpkin MB squares

Then cut into 1-1/2" to 2" squares. Cover most of the dough, then get to work. I'm not going to lie. This is time consuming, but oh so worth it.

Pumpkin MB squares-cc filling


Pumpkin MB shaping


Pumpkin MB coating

And repeat with all of the dough. Put in a greased bundt pan, cover and let rise...

Pumpkin MB in pan-proofed
Pumpkin MB in pan-detail


Pumpkin MB baked-detail

Nearly pass out again when you turn this out onto a serving plate...

Pumpkin monkey bread

Then bliss out when you take your first bite...

Pumpkin monkey bread-bite

It's best cooled to warm-not-hot. So, if you can resist, let it sit about 30 minutes.

Pumpkin monkey bread-crumb

Cream Cheese Stuffed Pumpkin Monkey Bread
8oz (1 pkg) cream cheese
1 cup powdered sugar
1 heaping tsp cinnamon

1/3 pumpkin bread dough
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
dash nutmeg
any other spices you like - ginger, cloves, cardamom - go crazy
1 stick butter, melted

Spray bundt pan with cooking spray, coating entire insides well.
Filling: In medium bowl mix all ingredients until smooth. I used my hand mixer, but you can mix by hand with a spoon, just make sure the cream cheese is room temp - it'll be easier that way.
Coating: Melt butter in small bowl. Mix sugars and spices in another small bowl. Grab a slotted spoon and a large regular spoon.
Roll dough to approx 1/4" thick but not more than that. Thinner is ok. Cut into squares, covering dough as you work. Place a dollop of cream cheese mixture in the center of the square then pull edges of dough around the filling, sealing as best you can. Roll into smooth-ish ball shape and put in butter. Scoop out with slotted spoon and tap on edge of bowl to drain excess. Drop into sugar bowl, turning to coat with regular spoon. Place in prepared bundt pan. Repeat with remaining dough layering the coated pieces as you go. You'll end up with extra cream cheese, butter and sugar mix. No worries. You'll use them in the next bread. OR if you're only making this bread, save them to slather on pancakes or toast!

Drizzle a little bit of butter over the pan of dough and sprinkle on a bit more sugar, too. Cover and let rise about 45 min.

Bake in 350°F oven 40-45 minutes or until internal temp is 190°F. Cover the pan with foil if it's getting too dark.

Remove from oven and run knife around all the edges. Grab a large plate or serving platter. Place on top of the bundt pan. With one hand on the bottom of the plate and the other holding the pan (with an oven mitt or towel) flip them together keeping bundt pan on top of the plate. Let the weight of the bread pull it it from the pan. You might need to tap it a bit. Slowly pull the pan off the bread and marvel and what you've just created. TA-DA!!!

Let cool about 30 minutes before eating. I know you're not going to, but that's OK. I didn't either. But it DID taste better once it cooled a bit. Bring this to Thanksgiving or your next get together. Be prepared for the deluge of compliments and the "OMG-this-is-amazing" you'll receive.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Are you still with me? I'm so glad. We're almost done and this one is super simple because we've got everything ready to go since we're using the leftovers from the other bread(s).

Pumpkin Cinn Swirl bread-shape

Roll, slather, sprinkle, rollup, seal, plop in pan, wait...


Pumpkin Cinn Swirl bread-crumb

Realize you didn't roll the dough tightly enough...

Pumpkin Cinn Swirl bread-void

Then shrug your shoulders and eat it anyway 'cause it's AWESOME.

Cinnamon Cream Cheese Swirl Pumpkin Bread
Basically, this is a straight up cinnamon swirl bread but you use the cream cheese mixture in place of butter. Easy peasy. So if you take away anything from this post, just try this with your favorite cinnamon swirl bread recipe. You'll thank me.

1/3 Pumpkin bread dough
Cinnamon Sugar mix
Cream Cheese mixture (cream cheese, powdered sugar, cinnamon)

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Spray loaf pan with cooking spray.
Roll out dough to approximately 10" x 10". Smooth cream cheese mixture over dough then evenly sprinkle cinnamon sugar mix. Roll dough pulling tightly to avoid gaping voids. Smooth edge into roll then pinch the ends to seal and tuck under. Place in greased pan, cover and let rise about 45 min or until dough crests edge of pan. Bake until internal temp is 190°F about 35-40 minutes, or until it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.

Remove and place on cooling rack. Immediately turn out of pan on to rack. let cool before slicing and serving. Bread will smash and mush if you try to cut it while hot. This is really good toasted and I'm guessing it would make out-of-this-world French toast. Give it a shot!

WHEW! You made it all the way through. What a trooper. If you try any (or all) of these recipes, please let me know. I'd love to hear about it in the comments or shoot me an email.

ADDENDUM: I've linked this post up to the Red Star yeast Holiday Recipe Swap. Come join the fun at the My Baking Addiction and GoodLife Eats Holiday Recipe Swap sponsored by Red Star Yeast.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Doodling with Sidewalk Chalk


driveway-towards garage

I had the best time doing this.


I'm definitely putting "make sidewalk art" on my schedule this week, even if I have to do just a little bit at a time. I posted some images on my Facebook wall and got some comments about how it was to bad it was going to rain. To me, though, one of the best things about this kind of art is that it's temporary. Ephemeral. Imperfect.

sidewalk-from upstairs wm

It doesn't matter what it looks like because it will be gone eventually, usually sooner than later. This washed away less than 24 hours later, and I smiled as the rain came down. It doesn't matter. It just means I get to do it again!


I highly recommend getting a tub of sidewalk chalk and going to town. Embrace your inner 6-year-old. Don't worry about what it's "supposed to" look like and just have FUN! No judgement, no inner perfectionist whispering in your ear. Let it go! Make a mess. I'm pretty sure you're going to love it!

chalk detail

Monday, September 1, 2014

PB&J Smoothie

PB&J smoothie top

The title is a bit of a monomer as there is no actually jelly in this smoothie, it's just what this particular smoothie combo tastes like. I've put peanut butter in my smoothies before, but found a new product this weekend that makes it even easier - powdered peanut butter. Who knew?

powdered PB

powdered PB-back
I'm sure others have seen this before, but I hadn't. It caught my eye on the top shelf of the PB selection and I just had to give it a try. I wasn't even thinking of it for smoothies at the time, but when I got home, a light bulb went off, and I had to give it a go.

It was perfect! The flavor is amazing and the easy of use can't be beat. I'm going to try it in baking, too. Ooh! And in oatmeal. So many possibilities!

A note about blending: I splurged on a Vitamix blender for myself last Christmas and absolutely love it. I bought it directly from the company website as they offer reconditioned models and were running a sale on shipping. I got mine for $299 which is still a lot of money, but considerably less than new. Keep an eye out on the site for sales, and be open to getting a reconditioned one. It's an incredible blender.

PB&J smoothie
PB&J Smoothie
Please note that I don't measure anything when I make a smoothie. Dump and go is my motto - or something like that. It's a "little of this, little of that" method and generally whatever looks or sounds good at the time. I always have frozen fruit available. I don't like to use ice in my smoothies, so frozen fruit is the way to go. 

All measurements approximate. Add water as needed if it's too thick.

3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
2 tsp Powdered Peanut Butter
1/2 frozen banana
3/4 cup/handful frozen strawberries
3/4 cup frozen blueberries
1/2 tsp cinnamon (optional if you're not into cinnamon, but it tastes really good and is good for you!)
1/4 cup water (additional as needed, especially with a less powerful blender)

-Scoop protein powder
-sweetener, to taste
-big handful of spinach - you won't taste it, but it will add a ton of nutrition. Be warned-the color of your smoothie will look terrible. Purple + green = not pleasant 

Add all ingredients to blender, liquids first (although I add water last, so...)
Start on low speed, but quickly crank to high, and blend about 30 seconds (with powerful blender) or as long as it takes to get it smooth. 

Pour and enjoy! The combination of fruit and peanut butter makes you feel like a kid again, just like a PB&J sammich. Mmmmm... 

Saturday, July 26, 2014

How To Make a Tri-Fold Art Display

tri-fold panel

As promised, albeit much later than I anticipated, here is my "How To" on the tri-fold art display Dwight and I made for our first At Walk show back in May.

We researched a lot of ideas but landed on this as it was a great way to make use of ready-made parts.

menards-frame panels-500px
We bought three of these free standing storage rack frames. They were a good height saved us from making a frame.

We needed two pieces of pegboard for each frame because they come in 4' x 4' or 2' x 4' sizes but we needed 6' of board to completely cover the frames, so we bought six 2' x 4' sheets.
Panel assembly-parts

Next up: Hardware
Two hinges per connection = 4 hinges, plus plastic feet for the ends (6 total) and lots of 1" wood screws, which we already had on hand.

Finally, some black spray paint. We bought flat black paint and primer in one. I don't remember how many cans we ended up using, but it had to have been at least four. Obviously, you can use any color-and finish- you like!

First up, we sanded the frames. They were ROUGH. They weren't perfect after, but at least we didn't have to worry about getting maimed by giant splinters!
Panel assembly-sanding

Next we cut the pegboard so that we would have some place to screw them in. That is, we had to make sure that the pegboard could be fully supported by a crossmember.
Panel assembly-pegboard

We attached the pegboard to the frames, centering them as closely as we could. Because these frames are meant to hold a 24" board between the supports, the pegboard did not go from edge to edge. It's noticeable when the pieces are raw, but after they're painted, it's not a big deal. This also means that there are no screws along the sides, only horizontally along the cross members.
Panel assembly-pegboard-Dwight

We stood them on end, lining them up to make sure they would fold the right way, then added the hinges.
Panel assembly-hinges
Panel assembly-unpainted

Finally, it's painting time. My least favorite part. We have a well-worn tarp that has seen countless spray-painted projects and bares the scars! We grabbed the paint and had at it, trying to avoid being down wind, and hoping our hands wouldn't cramp up.
Panel assembly-ready to paint-Dwight
Panel assembly-1st coat paint
Panel assembly-1st coat paint-front

After it was completely painted and dry, Dwight added the plastic feet to protect whatever surface these would be on, and they make it much easier to move the screen around once it's up. (You can see them in the very first photo on this post.)

It works great indoors. We haven't tested it outside. I suspect it needs some bracing or strategically placed weights should there be any wind. While it looks fantastic and holds a lot of art, front and back, it does have a few drawback, size being the biggest. It's 6' tall and about 28" wide. Dwight has an Element and we're able to get it in there with the passenger seat all the way forward. Unless you have a similar vehicle or a truck, this is just too big to be hauling from show to show.

We ended up finding a much better solution for us, which I'll share in my next post. Ooooh, cliffhanger!

Supply list and costs
All of this is from Menards:

  • Frames – $11.99 ea x 3 = $35.97
  • Pegboard – $3.99 ea x 6 = $23.94
  • 3" hinges – $2.48 x 2 (2 per pack) = $4.96
  • Spray paint – $3.37 ea x 4 = $13.48
  • 6 plastic feet (can't find receipt)
  • Screws (we already had these)

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