Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Oak Apple Gall

Pictured below is what I believe to be an oak apple gall growing on a small oak tree in the side yard. From what I understand, a tiny wasp lays her eggs in a budding leaf and the leaf forms a gall around the growing larvae. The larvae are protected and nourished inside and emerge when fully grown. Galls come in all shapes and sizes and can be found on leaves and stems. They are really quite beautiful and they rarely harm the host tree. I must make a note to myself to look for and document more varieties of galls this summer.

I didn’t get my challenge doll completely stuffed yesterday – much more time-consuming than I thought it would be. I called it quits after two hours. I must finish that today or I will get way behind schedule. Besides the web site I’m designing for my new Santas, I just got a commercial web design job in today. Not sure of the due date, yet, but it will probably be in a rush…like everything else…

Our taste of Italy for today was a rerun of Couscous Al Fresco. (Click
here and type in Couscous Al Fresco under recipes.) This is a great dish for warm weather because it requires very little cooking – my kind of meal!

Oak Apple Gall

Monday, May 30, 2005

Happy Memorial Day

Today is Memorial Day, the day we pay tribute to those who have sacrificed their lives for our freedom. Here is a beautiful essay on the real meaning of the holiday written by the mom of a young, recently fallen soldier in Iraq.

This afternoon I’m stuffing the Italian Dream Challenge doll and dressing a Santa. My plan is to get the Santa finished as soon as possible and have him photographed for the homepage of a new web site I’m designing just for my shabby line of Kringles, “Shanty Clauses.” I’m hoping to get that launched sometime by mid-summer, depending on how busy we are with The Art Room (our graphic design/photography business).

Today’s Italian meal was San Giorgio Florentine fettuccine with Classico Alfredo sauce and a nice, big salad.

Everyone have a safe and blessed holiday.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Love My New Stove...

I’m sitting here waiting for the water to boil for my Betty Crocker’s Suddenly Pasta Salad(creamy Italian style, of course!). DH is on a location photo assignment and will probably have dined out by now. He’s been gone since 5:30 this morning – and he is not a morning person.

Well, my new stove is very nice but is taking some getting used to. I never have to use the “high” setting, not even to boil water. The Ceramic glass cooktop must be cleaned well every night to ensure no food residue is left to be burnt into the top, possibly causing stains. That is a really good incentive for me to clean it because I am not a very tidy person by nature. Amazingly, though, when the stove is clean, the whole kitchen looks pretty clean!

I’m placing my first Santa supply order of 2005 today at
Cloth Doll Supply – love that place! Fran has just about everything a doll maker could possibly want...

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Antique Linen Collage Link

Here is a web site I love to visit, Turkey Red , just for inspiration. If you’ve never been there before, you owe it to yourself to check out the artist’s (Mavis Leahy) creative use of antique linens, embroideries and trims in collage. Don’t forget to check out her “this and that” page, too, for pieces in vintage frames. All of her work is magical…

On a sad note, Ismail Merchant, of Merchant-Ivory Film production fame, died yesterday. We just watched the Merchant-Ivory movie,
A Room with a View, on DVD last night for the first time – an absolutely exquisite film in every detail.

I made authentic Italian risotto today with Fantastic Foods’ arborio rice. The recipe was on the box. It turned out perfect (unusual for me!) but there is a trick. You must hover over the pot, adding preheated broth ½ cup at a time and stirring until absorbed before adding the next ½ cup. I used around 4 ½ cups of vegetarian broth altogether and added ½ cup of parmesan cheese at the end plus some freshly steamed broccoli. A great big salad rounded out the meal.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Doll Challenge Update

Today is rainy and chilly – had to have the wood stove on last night. I am far enough along on the Italian Dream Challenge doll to believe I may actually get her finished, especially with the deadline extended to June 30th. I’ve just been working on her a little at a time as my schedule permitted. I still have a couple of logistical problems to sort out, one of which is how to affix her to a support of some kind.

I finished reading Forster’s A Room with a View and loved it. There is a great line in it that is so true. One of the characters, quoting a friend of his, says, “Life is a public performance on the violin, in which you must learn the instrument as you go along.”

Our Italian meal was raviolis with homemade marinara sauce (sauce recipe in archives, May 13, 2005, Marinara Sauce and the Fourth Tenor) We have really been enjoying the food of Italy this month but have to admit, at this point, a nice Indian curry or Chinese stir-fry wouldn’t go amiss…

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Somebody Stop Me!

Here is a little softer take on the flower photo from yesterday’s post. I can see this transferred to fabric as a background for the creation of “fantasy fabric” a la Bonnie Lyn McCaffery’s book of the same name. Right below, is the same image in different colors – the background for an underwater scene, maybe? The possibilities are infinite…

Today’s recipe – a “rerun” of yummy
Zucchini Ciambotti served, as before, on brown rice with sour cream.

PhotoShopped Rhododendron (Pink)

PhotoShopped Rhododendron (Blue)

Monday, May 23, 2005

Rhodo-Photo Fun

Continuing with Friday’s Rhododendron theme, here is a photo of one of the flower heads. Right below is a portion of the same photo, manipulated in PhotoShop to a fare-thee-well. I have about a bazillion ideas floating around in my head right now about where I want to go with this technique…

For today’s Italian meal we had one of our favorites, farfalle with olives and mint. This is another recipe from Better Homes and Gardens’ Easy Vegetarian Meals that I cannot find on their web site. It’s so simple and there is no cooking involved except for the bow ties. You just combine 8 oz. of cooked, drained pasta with about ¾ cup halved ripe olives, a couple of seeded, chopped plum tomatoes, ¾ cup of crumbled feta cheese, ½ cup of fresh, snipped mint, 1 tablespoon of olive oil and some freshly grated pepper. We always add a little salt, to taste. I have mint growing like crazy in my herb garden (and out of my herb garden!) – and this is such a great way to use it.


PhotoShop-Manipulated Rhododendron

Friday, May 20, 2005


The rhododendron (Rhododendron catawbiense) bushes are just beginning to flower. Here is a scanned drawing from my journal. I really enjoy the challenge of drawing complex flower forms – although sometimes they are actually easier to capture than simpler forms (no preconceived images or "symbols" to overcome!).

Our Italian meal was angel hair pasta and stewed tomatoes. It was very light and easy. I used wheat-free, gluten-free angel hair pasta made from rice.

Journal Sketch: Rhododendron

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Wisteria and Sunshine

…and I didn’t have to travel to Italy to find it like the ladies in the film, “Enchanted April.” Here is a vine from down the street where the plants are growing with wild abandon. Wisteria (or, more properly, wistaria) is another one of my all-time favorites. Here is more information from The Ohio State University Extension.

Today’s Italian meal was Mediterranean pasta salad from the back of the San Giorgio Farfalle box. That made a nice main dish meal for us because of the kidney and cannellini beans (for protein).


Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Some Annuals Planted and the Arrival of the Range

I tucked some annuals in here and there among the perennial flowers, specifically red salvias for the hummingbirds and good old fashioned zinnias for me! I’ve loved zinnias since I was little – they are such cheerful flowers. I love the bright, almost garish colors – must be the doll maker in me! I’ve never met a color I didn’t like. I still need to plant the strawberry container with impatiens. I’m getting things done, slowly but surely.

The range arrived! Yay! Of course, it makes the older appliances look shabby by comparison…oh well...

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Cooking and Cleaning...

I’m getting a new electric range delivered tomorrow afternoon and so I have to do some housecleaning – ewwww! I have to, at least, clear a path through the clutter from the front door to the kitchen. I’d much rather play…

Today’s wonderful Italian meal consisted of asparagus pasta, salad and breadsticks. There is a typo in the ingredient list. I’m sure they meant 4 cloves of garlic, not 4 cups!

Monday, May 16, 2005


Years ago, maybe twenty or so, I planted a few ivies around an old pine tree in the side yard. They’ve nearly reached the top of the tree – about fifty feet!

I was looking at some of my ivy leaf drawings and wondering if they’d be good candidates for embroidered appliqué a la
Chloe’s pansies and butterflies (May 4th entries) as referenced from CQMagOnline. So I had to try one out this morning and I think I may have some fun with that in the near future…I hadn’t thought before of interpreting my nature drawings in any kind of needlework.

Today’s lunch was downright delizioso! It was
linguine with olives and sun-dried tomatoes.

Climbing Ivy

Ivy Appliqué from Drawings

Friday, May 13, 2005

Marinara Sauce & The Fourth Tenor

My sister called yesterday all excited that she had found a few vintage linens for me (for my Santas) at a church flea market. She got a queen sized pale green chenille bedspread for eight dollars and two yards of old tapestry fabric with fringe for fifty cents! Woohoo! Got to love my sister!

After yesterday’s pleasant afternoon outside with needle and thread, today is a little chilly. We are still using the woodstove at night. And we’re almost out of wood! We went through nearly six cords of wood over the winter. A few more days of below normal temperatures are on the way and then we’re back up to the 70s.

Today, we had marinara sauce and penne for lunch – along with breadsticks and salad. Here is my basic recipe for sauce that has evolved over the past thirty years:

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 (28 oz.) can Italian plum tomatoes, cut up
1 (6 oz.) can tomato paste
6 oz. water
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon honey
3 teaspoons dried basil
2 teaspoons dried parsley

Heat oil in large skillet. Add chopped onion. Sauté a little and add garlic. When the onions get soft, add all other ingredients. Heat to just boiling, then reduce heat, cover and simmer for at least twenty minutes. Adjust the seasonings. Makes plenty.

The Fourth Tenor

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Lilac Flowers

The lilacs are in full bloom. Love the color and the heavenly scent. DH and I walk every night and the damp air is just heavy with wonderful fragrance. I’ve included a page from my nature journal, below. Drawing, for me, is a means to an end (helping me get over in my right brain so I can be more creative in my design work) rather than an end in itself.

Today I will be working on Santa outfits for awhile. I have some hand sewing I can do outdoors so I can enjoy the lovely weather. At 52, I have noticed that I see much better outdoors, too, for detailed work. After the outfits are completed, they will be tea or coffee/vanilla stained.

On today’s Italian menu – farfalle in pesto sauce (from a jar) with steamed broccoli – one of our favorites!

Journal Sketch: Lilac

Lilac Flowers

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Columbine Flowers

I love my columbine flowers. They are bravely blooming in my overgrown and largely neglected cottage/herb garden. I am overrun with marjoram and mint and need to do some thinning and transplanting. Anyway, here is a beautiful image I found in Google of stylized columbine flowers done in a combination of appliqué and embroidery on an antique quilt.

Today’s pasta recipe is caramelized onions and garlic with cavetelli from the Better Homes and Gardens’ little booklet, Easy Vegetarian Meals. I searched the Better Homes and Gardens web site for the recipe to share, unsuccessfully, but I did find something that looked like fun – and worth exploring at a later time. You can create your own cookbook on-line. Click
here for the details. You have to have them printed and bound yourself and you may distribute them as gifts. Cute idea!


Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Red Chokeberry

These are red chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia) blossoms. I wish I could describe the scent – very sweet and delicate. These grow wild all over the yard. Right now, between these and the lilac flowers, the yard is an olfactory delight.

Today’s lunch is Couscous Al Fresco with sun-dried tomatoes and fresh spinach. It’s one of my very favorite recipes right off the back of the Near East Couscous box – so healthy and easy to prepare! Click
here to visit their website and type in Couscous Al Fresco under recipes.

Red Chokeberry Blossoms

Monday, May 09, 2005

From My CQ Hall of Shame...

Here is a pillow I made several years ago as a baby gift for one of our design clients. I didn’t want to use gold metallic thread for the spider web so I searched through my stash until I found what I thought would be perfect – a fine, white, delicate, almost gossamer thread. It wasn’t until after the pillow was finished that I realized it glowed in the dark! It was the scariest-looking spider web you ever saw in your life! Well, I gave it to her anyway and never said a word – hope it didn’t give the poor kid nightmares…

For today’s Italian meal, I’m preparing
pasta with mushroom-zucchini sauce and salad.

CQ Pillow

Friday, May 06, 2005

What I'm Reading

Going along with my Italian theme for this month, I’ve just begun reading E.M. Forster’s A Room with a View. One of my all-time favorite books is Howards End by Forster (I savored every sentence…) so I’m sure I will enjoy this one, too.

As far as the Italian doll challenge goes, I have the islands of Sicily and Sardinia pretty well underway – still not quite sure how I’m tackling the mainland…

Today’s recipe – pasta e fagiole from the cookbook, The Tao of Cooking, by Salley Pasley. And some nice Italian bread from the oven. Mamma Mia!

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Silk Florals and Other Things

Here is the present I made for my dear MIL for Mother’s Day. I do hope she likes it. Silk floral arranging is another interest of mine that could easily be whipped into a passion if the supplies weren’t so expensive. I love the entire process, from selecting the flowers to adding the last piece of filler. I am agonizingly slow, though, and in total awe of people who can do this quickly and seemingly effortlessly. The design process is the same as in crazy piecing and embellishing – you kind of get a feeling for when the various elements look harmoniously whole. It’s the same for the graphic design process where you are moving type and photographs around on a page until your eye is pleased (or the client's eye – don’t make me go there…Argh!) And it’s pretty much the same for digital music composition, as well. You just keep adding layers of sound until your ear is pleased.

Today’s lunch was prepackaged Barilla’s Three Cheese Tortellini with a jar of Classico Sun-Dried Tomato Alfredo Sauce along with Italian green beans in butter and garlic – and, as always, a nice big salad. Can’t get any easier than that!

Mother's Day Floral Arrangement

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Lady's Mantle

Here are my lady’s mantle plants coming up in the perennial garden. These are wonderful plants, reliable and quick spreading - so they need to be divided often. Here is a short article on their history and use.

Today’s Italian recipe was
zucchini ciambotta (pronounced chahm-BOHT-tah), a delicious and easy to make veggie stew I served on brown rice with a little sour cream on top. I didn’t have the fresh basil called for, so I used a little dried. It was still quite tasty.

Lady's Mantle

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Dogwood Tree

The dogwood tree is in flower. Ours is a Kousa dogwood (Cornus kousa) and blooms a little later than other varieties. We planted this tree as a memorial to our dear Alaskan malamute, Quinn the Eskimo, after his death at age thirteen in January of 1987. Great dog – great tree… DH and I are in our early 50s and never had children. The passage of time is measured by treasured pets loved and lost.

Today, I am working on Santa dolls for a few hours; lightly needle sculpting two faces and appliquéing the lips, applying gesso, and sewing a jacket I made from the vintage table runner purchased last week.

Today’s Italian recipe was
asparagus and farfalle. I am definitely adding that to my cooking repertoire – it was so good! Because we work from home most days, we have our big meal at noon and a light meal in the early evening.

Dogwood Flowers

Monday, May 02, 2005

Italian Month!

To enhance my Italian Dream Challenge experience, I have decided to designate the month of May as “Italian Month” at my house. I found a great site on the web with recipes categorized by nation: Food Down Under. I looked up Italian cuisine and found so many wonderful things to try. DH and I are lacto-ovo vegetarians so we have lots to choose from on a southern Mediterranean diet. Sunday, instead of our usual vegetable omelet and home fries, we had a delightful potato and artichoke frittata – so simple to make! This is going to be great fun. We will be dining outdoors, too, as weather permits.

Today, I am making an authentic Sicilian recipe for
lasagna. The weights and oven temperatures were given in metric units, but I found a handy web site for metric to English conversions: Science Made Simple. I will, of course, replace the meat called for with Morningstar Farms Crumbles.