Thursday, October 27, 2016

Halloween Cookies

I didn't think I could love candy corns any more than I do but these cookies elevate them to a new level.  Every fall my mom used to make us these cookies at Halloween and my brother, sister and I would happily decorate them (half the candy corns on the cookies and half in our tummies!)  They are truly delicious cookies and if you like candy corns you must try them!   

Halloween Cookies

1 cup butter or margarine
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 recipe powdered sugar frosting

In small mixer bowl, cream together butter or margarine and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each.  Stir in vanilla.  Stir together dry ingredients; gradually add to creamed mixture.  Chill dough thoroughly, 3 to 4 hours.

On well-floured surface, roll dough 1/8 inch thick.  Cut with pumpkin-shaped or round cutter.  Bake on un-greased cookie sheet in 375 degree oven 6 to 8 minutes.  Cool on rack.  Frost with powdered sugar frosting and decorate with candy corns.

Powdered Sugar Frosting

4-5 tablespoons milk
4 cups sifted powdered sugar
dash salt
1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix dry ingredients first, then add vanilla and milk.  I have to admit I don't always sift but it is smoother if you do.

If you would like to download a pdf of this recipe click here.

"Cookies are made of butter and love [and candy corns!]" 
- Norwegian proverb

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Buckeye Haiku

There are two kinds of buckeyes in Ohio: the Yellow Buckeye (Aesculus flava) and the Ohio Buckeye (Aesculus glabra).  Last summer I photographed the beautiful, spiky glabra fruit, but this time we found the smooth-shelled, spotted flava on our walk in Avon Woods.  I don't know if this species' fruit is always so big, but these buckeyes were enormous!

Below you can see George opening one of the fruits to reveal the rich mahogany fruit inside.

I wanted to end this blog entry with a nice quote about buckeyes, but when I googled "buckeye quote" I could only find quotes about Ohio State (my brother would say, "What else would you expect?").  So I decided to leave you with a little haiku I wrote about one of my favorite fall subjects.

In the deep dark woods
Fortune favored me today
Smooth rich brown buckeye

(If you just can't get enough buckeye haiku, find this image on my Instagram account for more!)

Sunday, October 16, 2016

African Violets

When my dad retired I needed something to decorate the tables at the reception party.  I looked around but couldn't find anything. I finally came across the perfect solution at Meier's of all places.  They were selling cute African violets and I bought 12 of them.  After the party I gave my mom three of them and I couldn't believe my eyes the next time I visited her house.  She had purchased pots, potting soil and fertilizer all specifically for African violets at the local garden store (Knollwood is amazing!).  I never would have known that you could even buy all those things...but boy were the plants thriving! The pots are great because it is a pot within a pot and you fill the outer pot with water and the plant absorbs what it needs.  They are called self-watering pots and I have now even seen them at Lowes.

When researching the plant I found out the plants are native to Tanzania and southeastern Kenya and that many of the species are endangered or threatened due to destruction of their native cloud forest habitat.  My mom also told me they don't like to get water on their leaves.  Wikipedia said that spilling cold water on the leaves can cause discoloration and that they plants don't like rapid changes in temperature.  I guess that is why they like those special pots. 

Another tidbit from Wikipedia is that African violets "have long been associated with mothers and motherhood."  It is interesting because my mom said her mother grew African violets and my next door neighbor said his mom grew African violets.  Last time I went up to visit my mom she had purchased yet another plant, so she now has five.  I think I am going to stick to my two remaining plants and see how it goes.

I also discovered there is an African Violet Society of America.  Their website is chock full of information on growing basics, propagation, watering, and grooming.  It sounds like there is a whole world of contests and events around designing arrangements with the plants.  And on the African Violet Society of Canada's page they have photos of various categories including standard, semi-miniature, miniature, and trailing African violets. 

But I can completely understand why people love this plant.  Last time I was at my mom's house I decided to take her plants outside for a little photo shoot.  I had the best time playing around with the gorgeous, moody lighting underneath her magnolia tree.  And they looked great tucked in around her hostas. Hopefully mine will thrive like her's have if my orange tabby boys will leave them alone.  If you have any African violet stories or advice leave me a comment!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Cecropia Linocut Print

Every other year Tiger Lily Press creates a calendar to raise funds for their programs and I was very excited to participate this year.  The calendar includes original screenprints, linocuts, woodcuts, suminagashi (marbled paper), and letterpress prints using one or two colors.  Each participating artist is asked to print 100 copies of their print to be included in the calendar so if you would like to buy one you'd better act fast as their are only 100 of these in existence!  You can purchase the calendars here.

When I started working on this project I knew I wanted to create something that would be interesting in one color and I immediately thought of some photos I had taken of dried cecropia leaves on our Costa Rica trip.  The structure and lines of these leaves are truly amazing so I decided to have a go at making a linocut of a leaf.  Above you can see my sketch and below the sketch is transferred to the linoleum.

I was relieved to find out that all the artists involved would have a helping clean pair of hands to help print.  My helper was Susan Naylor, the Interim Director and Studio Manager and head of the calendar committee.  Susan is an incredible printmaker and it was truly a wonderful experience to work with her and soak up all of her printmaking know-how.  Below you can see we had lots of fun mixing different colors and testing them to find the perfect color for the print.

Once we found the color we liked we added a little magnesium carbonate to help it dry faster and rolled out the ink.

Susan created a jig for the Vandercook Proof Press to hold everyone's plates.  And the paper was pre-printed with letterpress type so the calendar would be consistent.  Below you can see Susan loading a new page into the jig.

I should have gotten video of us rolling the cylinder across the plate but, alas, I only took a short video of the final reveal (you have to give me a mind was tired after printing 100 of these!).

Below you can see the final print in the drying rack. 

The beautiful thing about this calendar is that it was designed so the buyer can easily cut the bottom portion off and frame the print.  Each print is 6” x 8” and suitable for framing in a precut 8” x 10” mat and framed in a standard 11” x 14” frame.  That means for $45 you get twelve original prints by Cincinnati artists which is quite a bargain if you ask me!  So if you are looking for a gift for the person who has everything, this is the perfect solution.  You can either purchase a calendar online here or you can pick one up in person at the Tiger Lily Press Print Sale, November 5 at the Clifton Cultural Arts Center from 10:00 am – 4:00 pm.  Please share this with your friends and come out to the sale to see some amazing artwork!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Lessons from a Nut

When you reach the ground after a long fall you first have to dust yourself off and realize,
“I’m OK.”
Then you gain confidence and understand,
“I am one tough nut.”
And finally, it is then you realize,
“Oh...I am meant to be here!”