Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays!

This year I wasn't going to send out Christmas cards because I was tired and sick (and a little grouchy), but I couldn't help myself because I had this nice acorn drawing already done.  I drew the acorn for the September calendar drawing.  My goal had been to finish the calendar for Christmas presents. I only had October, November, and December left to do - but alas, I ran out of time.  However, I was happy that I got to use the drawing for my Christmas cards.

Below was a second color option for the cards.  George chose the red so that's what I printed, but I still loved the green and brown option.

I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays & Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Birding Journal

One of the reasons I haven't been blogging lately is that I have been working on this!  It is a birding journal for people to record what birds they see throughout the year.  It is filled with illustrations and various ways to record your bird sightings, plus lots of extra tidbits like suet recipes, birding hotspots, and tips to attract birds to your yard.

I am excited that you can now pre-order the Birding Journal on Amazon.  When it is officially available I will post some of the illustrations.  You can also order directly from the publisher's website -  Adventure Publications

If you know anyone who enjoys birdwatching let them know that Birding Journal - Through the Seasons will be available soon!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Mariachi Poppy

The past three months have been challenging, but I'm back! After two of my next door neighbor's houses burned down,50 illustrations and copy for a new book, an infected tooth (& extraction), a Thanksgiving trip to Rochester, and a nasty case of the flu, I am finally starting to feel normal again and I have lots to blog about!

This January my Dad is turning 70 and I did this invitation for his party. He has been really into karaoke lately and we often find him wandering around his house singing and strumming the toy guitars of his grandchildren. We are going to have a Mexican singer at his party too so I put him in a cute mariachi outfit.

Check back soon because there is a back log of blogs!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Cast Iron Insects

I started this collection over a year ago and have been slowly adding pieces.  I've been meaning to blog it for a while but the latest piece (longhorn beetle) was so cute it reminded me it was time.   The ant above is one of my favorites...I just love the ridges on it's little body and the body swivels around on top of the legs.

All of these piece have moving parts except the ladybug which was just too cute to resist.  The longhorn beetle is actually a boot jack and is double the size of the others.  You are supposed to place one foot on it's back and the other between the "horns" to help you pull your shoe off.  

What do I use these for you might ask?  I use them on the porch as weights for my tablecloths.  I do worry that they might leave rust stains so I usually put them on a coaster or tray.

OK, I know this isn't an insect, but I had to include it because it is part of the collection.  This was my very first piece.  I got this before I even started going to the flea markets.  I just love the expression on the face, the texture, and the Asian feel of it.  It is also a bell but the string broke.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Framed Fabric

Another flea market find inspired this project.  I found this flower tablecloth on the dollar table and I thought it would go well in my bedroom so I decided to find two other coordinating fabrics and frame them.  I got these frames at Ikea.  I really like how the lavender-blue and cream-tan go together. 

I was going to hang these in front of the bed but I found them to be too stimulating, so I moved them to bookshelves on the side of the bed.  I think I need to stare at a blank wall before I go to bed to quiet my mind - otherwise I will be up all night thinking about design projects!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Vintage Wood Bird Tray

I was so excited to find this tray at the Lawrenceburg flea market in Indiana a couple weekends ago.  It is so me! 

When I first picked it up and was considering buying it, I suddenly saw the moon hiding in the tray (you might have to click the image to see it better).  That totally convinced me - it is so subtle and beautiful the way it has worn down to the wood in places to make it look like clouds in front of the moon.  It makes me wonder if it was that way when it was brand new.  Intentional of not, it is lovely and I love the overall Asian flair and the scant brush strokes near the bottom.  It is amazing what treausres you can find at the flea market for less than five dollars!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Paver Patio

Now that the paver patio is finished I finally feel like the porch project is done!  If anyone ever needs a stone mason I really enjoyed working with Tim Hodge.  He did a great job and I cannot say enough good things about him.  Send me an email and I will send you his contact info. 

I did have a moment (no, let's say a day) of freak out when the pavers arrived and they looked very grey.  I even made a trip out to the paver store to check the color and it looked different than their sample.  But I am very happy with them in the end and now the mud pit is gone! 

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Tole Tray

I found this great tole tray a couple weeks ago at Duck Creek Antique Mall.  I have been totally addicted to folk prints lately and this orange-red tray caught my eye.  I looked up exactly what a tole trays are and apparently they are typically metal trays that have been enameled and decoratively painted with a colorful design heavily influenced by folk art.  The practice of enameling and painting has been widely practiced in Asia for centuries, but tole trays seem to have emerged around the 18th century, primarily among Scandinavian immigrants in New England.

I decided to hang it on the porch and it makes me happy every time I look up at it.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Homemade Tortillas!

George has been spoiling me rotten lately by making these homemade tortillas.  He got the recipe from my mom and in typical George fashion altered it a bit.  Instead of mixing it in a bowl he uses the cuisinart and that makes it a lot easier.  He also doesn't sift the dry ingredients and uses butter instead of shortening.

If you have half an hour they really are worth it.  When they are warm they are heavenly! You can download a pdf of the recipe below by clicking here.  Enjoy!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Tsutsumi and Furoshiki

This is what I found on my pillow yesterday!  There are so many things to say about this I don't know where to begin!  First, of all I love cute surprises like this.  Second, could my hubby be any more awesome than to wrap it in this incredible flour cloth from Kate Spain?  I have had this cloth laying around for months because I was going to blog about how much I love Kate Spain and her great collection.  I am still going to blog the other flour cloths I got from her because I love love them. 

But I also have to mention that I love tsutsumi and furoshiki.  Tsutsumi is the Japanese art of gift wrapping and furoshiki are the Japanese cloths used to wrap gifts.  It is not only a very considerate, beautiful way to give a gift, but also a "green" method as there is paper waste. 

Wondering what's inside?  Check back and I will post it tomorrow on my bday!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Hollyhock August

My inspiration for this month's illustration comes from my back yard.  I am always fighting with hollyhocks because they try and grow in my garden where I don't want them.  They are very hardy and almost impossible to kill.  I actually like them but they consistently pop up in the most inopportune places.

The illustration shows the pod that forms after they flower.  They are in the genus Alcea and I was tempted to call this month Alcea August but the name "Hollyhock" is just too cute not to use.  Happy August!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Flea Market Bull

Last weekend my Dad and I went to the Lawrenceburg flea market in Indiana where we found this beefy beauty. My Dad is a collector of southwestern items so we were excited to find this super cute cast iron bull. We were surprised when we went to pick it up...we could hardly lift it! When we got home we weighed him and he weighs 15 lbs!

I tried to find similar ones on ebay but I could only find hollow cast iron bull piggy banks. I think my Dad should take him to the antiques road show to find out how much he is worth.

Monday, August 2, 2010

More Tree Pods!

OK, I know I just posted about tree pods, but who ever tires of looking at tree pods? Again, I am embarrassed to say I don't know what species this is. If anyone out there has an idea please let me know.

These photos were taken the same day as the spiral pod photos and the lighting was nice because it really illuminated the beautiful delicate skin of these pods.  Some of them seemed like they were glowing.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Giant Spiral Pods!

So these are the incredible pods I spoke of in the last blog.  Definitely worth waking up early to photograph these guys.  If anyone out there knows what kind they are please let me know.  The pods are about 12-18'' long and you can see the leaves in these photos.  My guess is locust or acacia?

Monday, July 26, 2010


I am not usually a morning person, but this morning I planned to get up early and photograph some incredible locust pods I saw on my walk the other day.  Although the alarm was set for 7:30 a hungry cat had other ideas at about 6:30.  So I was amazingly out the door by 7:00!

I did photograph the locust pods, but on my way home I ran into my neighbor Ursula who showed me some beautiful pods on her tree, which I also photographed.  As she was leaving she said I should take some photos of her caladium.  Well, I was almost home, my stomach was growling, and to get to the caladium I had to walk all the way around her house because the gate was closed.  More to humor my neighbor, I decided to do it and I am so glad I did.  They might be the best photos I took today.  You just never know where life will take you!
Click on images to enlarge.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Zen Birds!

I am very excited to announce the release of my new book Zen Birds!  In this book I illustrate thirty species of North American birds in a style inspired by traditional Asian brushwork.  I also wrote short poems that accompany each illustration and that describe the quirky traits and habits peculiar to each species.  This book is a celebration of the amazing lives of birds!

So if any of you out there like birds or know anyone who is interested in birds you can order it from your local bookstore or from Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

I would like to thank my husband George for his help and inspiration.  I would also like to thank all the people at Adventure Publications who made this book possible...working with you was a pleasure.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Pizza on the Grill

It's been so hot here lately that George has been devising ways to use the grill instead of using the oven and this pizza was a great success.  The recipe for the dough is below, typed by George:

1/2 tablespoon yeast
1 cup water
1 cup flour (half can be whole wheat)

1 cup water
2 tsp. salt
1/2 tablespoon yeast
1/4 cup olive oil
Flour as needed

I mixed half a tablespoon or so of yeast with 1 cup water, added 1 cup flour (about half whole wheat) and stirred vigorously.  I let the "poolish" sit for about 4 hours at room temp.  (This step can be up to 10 hours if you want.)  Then I added another cup of water, 2 teaspoons (or so) of salt, another half tablespoon or so more yeast, and about 1/4 cup of olive oil.  I mixed in as much flour as needed to form a sticky dough and kneaded it in the bowl for a few minutes.  I let this rise for about an hour, covered. 

Then I punched it down and worked it into 3 or 4 little pizza pies (adding flour as needed).  I let these rest on the counter for about 20 minutes.  They formed a bit of a dry skin on top so I flipped each over onto a cornmeal-dusted pan and put the sauce and toppings on the sticky side.  I kept shaking the pan to make sure the dough wasn't sticking to the pan.  I just slid them right on the hot grill.  I was happy not to have any real sticking-to-the-grill issues that I was worried about.  I had the gas grill at about medium-high and kept the lid closed as much as possible.  I was worried about burning the crust, but that was not really a problem.  Next time I will try to be more brave and keep it on the grill longer. 

I'm sure any pizza dough recipe will work.  We added canned artichokes and fresh mushrooms, but you can add any topping you like.  It was great to keep the heat out of the house!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Cypriniformes July

This month I was inspired by this incredible book: Kingyo:The Artistry of Japanese Goldfish. The first time I saw this book I fell in love with these chubby fellows. Their pudgy little bodies are plump and graceful at the same time.

I normally don't include my black and white sketch, but I felt something got lost this time converting it to white for the here it is.
FYI - Cypriniformes is the order for goldfish. I thought it had a nice ring to it.

Happy July!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Purple Coneflower and Garlic

When I'm out walking I see the most amazing things and I always think about returning with the camera and I almost never do.  But the other day after my walk I set out to photograph some garlic plants (below).  Can you believe the beautiful necks on these?  If there were a visual definition for grace this would be it.

On my way back I stopped to take a few shots of the coneflower above.  The exposure on the garlic photos wasn't great, but I did like the way the coneflower shot turned out (click on it to view larger).  You just never know what you will find when you are out.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Guitar Cases

My two nephews loooooooooooove the guitar.  They love wander around the house strumming, singing, and selling tickets to their concerts.  "Tia Ness" enjoys these concerts so much she decided it was time they have proper guitar cases.   This meant taking the 4-year-old on an outing to JoAnn's to pick out fabric for himself and his little brother.

The cases were not as easy I had in my head...but sewing projects never are.  I even added a gusset which sounds more impressive than it is, but I didn't even know the meaning of the word before this project. (FYI - a piece of fabric sewn into a seam to add breadth).

I was also excited to use a zipper foot for the first time.  I'm not sure I did it right, but it turned out OK in the end and the two rockin' boys liked their cases.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Apricot Magic

Every so often all the conditions and circumstances just come together and magic happens.  I love taking photos and I usually like all the ones I post on the blog...but there are times when a certain chemistry happens and everything just works out better than expected.

That's what happened with these apricots.   George bought 5 or 6 apricots the other day and I just couldn't keep my eyes off of them. Their color was so vibrant and their texture so soft.  I was out on the back porch taking a photo of the beet cupcake when I remembered the apricots.  It was almost an afterthought to take their picture, but the light was really nice so I put them in a blue bowl and voila!  Apricot magic!

I liked this photo so much I am using it as my wallpaper.  If you would like too also you can download a high resolution version here. (Every time I see that little apricot smile it makes me smile too.)

(Have I mentioned I have been gaga lately over pale oranges and blues?  I  may have to do a whole post on this color combo because I am totally loving it!)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Chocolate Beet Cake

My brother-in-law gave us this recipe.  At first I was suspicious about ruining perfectly good chocolate cake with beet flavor, but was I ever pleasantly surprised!  They were so delicious and you can't even tell there are a bunch of beets in it.  I loved these cupcakes!

George halved this recipe and made cupcakes.  Enjoy!


3 cups beets shredded
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 cups flour
1/4 cup oil
4 oz unsweeted chocolate
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoon baking powder

sub. 1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

2 9-inch pans

325 for 40 min or more

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Tulip Pods

Age is not all decay; it is the ripening, the swelling, of the fresh life within, that withers and bursts the husk. - George MacDonald.

I collected these tulip pods at the beginning of May.  I just love how they look when they are all dried up...truly wabi sabi.  For anyone who wants to know more about that concept I recommend this book - Living Wabi Sabi: The True Beauty of Your Life by Taro Gold.