Thursday, September 18, 2014

This week - Tazo Chai Pumpkin Spice

Cost:   $3.00 on sale at Super Target
Number of teabags:  20,  individually-wrapped
Caffeine:   Yes
Type of tea:    Black
Ingredients:   Black teas, cinnamon, natural flavors, licorice root, ginger, cloves, black pepper, cardamom
Steeping time:  The box says 5 minutes, but it developed a bitter aftertaste.  The second time I kept at at 3 minutes, much better!
Add ins:   Sweet Bliss makes it seem like pumpkin pie!
Fragrance:  Pumpkin and ginger
Opinion:   One of two new seasonal offerings from Tazo.  (watch for an upcoming review of Tazo Chai Vanilla Caramel next week).  Pumpkin is showing up everywhere - even in Hershey's Kisses! Something told me to give this another chance.  The first cup had a strange, bitter aftertaste, with or without adding milk and sugar.  I liked it better the second time.  You can detect the pumpkin in the first sip and then it definitely has a surprising pepper aftertaste kick.  Interesting Autumn twist on Chai.
Rating:  3.25

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Orange you glad to see this?

"Oranges unwrapped and wrapped  in tissue paper on a pane of glass in front of green fabric"
This is definitely a class practice piece, but you can see where/when I started to get the hang of painting reflections in glass and fabric folds with light and shadow.  Learning and making progress!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Almond Blueberry Pear Tart

Almond Blueberry Pear Tart
It's Fall and that means time to get back into the kitchen and bake!

This is my variation of the Pear Tart recipes circulating around the Internet and Pinterest.
I had a two pound bag of red bartlet pears from Trader Joe's, while pretty, were ripening pretty fast.  I peeled and sliced them yet they didn't quite fill the tart pan.  So I added a couple handfuls of frozen blueberries - about a cup, to fill in the spaces.

Filling - 1 3/4 cups of sugar, 2 tablespoons flour, 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut up.  (Next time I'm dialing back the sugar to 1 1/2 cups.)
Mix sugar and flour together.  Add bits of butter.  Mix with fingers until crumbly.  Distribute over fruit.

Bake at 425 for 30 minutes
If crust is starting to brown too quickly, adjust oven temperature to 375 and bake an additional 10-15 minutes or until filling is bubbly.   Sprinkle toasted almond slivers on top.
Let cool, and top with BlueBell Homemade Vanilla ice cream or whipped cream and enjoy!

Here's my Fool Proof Pie Crust recipe from Good Housekeeping magazine.

For a 9" baked pie shell or tart:

1 1/3 cup(s) all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon(s) salt
5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut up
3 tablespoons vegetable shortening
2-5 tablespoons ice water (I usually end up using about 2 1/2, since Houston is so humid)

In food processor with knife blade attached, blend flour and salt.
Add butter and shortening, and pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
Sprinkle in ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, pulsing after each addition, until large moist crumbs just begin to form.

Shape dough into disk; wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate 30 minutes or overnight.
(If chilled overnight, let dough stand 30 minutes at room temperature before rolling.)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. On lightly floured surface, with floured rolling pin, roll dough into 12-inch round. Ease dough round into 9-inch glass or ceramic pie plate. Gently press dough against bottom and up sides of plate without stretching. Trim dough edge, leaving 1-inch overhang. Fold overhang under; pinch to form stand-up edge, then make decorative edge.

Freeze pie shell 15 minutes.
Line pie shell with foil or parchment, and fill with pie weights, dried beans, or uncooked rice. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until beginning to set. Remove foil with weights, and bake 13 to 15 minutes longer or until golden. If shell puffs up during baking, gently press it down with back of spoon. Cool on wire rack until ready to fill.

Nutritional information is based on 1/10 of a pie shell.
To make Deep-Dish Baked Pie Shell: Prepare 9-Inch Baked Pie Shell as above, but increase all-purpose flour to 1 1/2 cups and vegetable shortening to 1/4 cup. Ease dough into 9 1/2-inch deep-dish pie plate.

Each 1/10 of the pie shell: About 165 calories, 2 g protein, 14 g carbohydrate, 11 g total fat (5 g saturated), 1 g fiber, 16 mg cholesterol, 120 mg sodium.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Watercolor Wednesday - Regina's Sunflower

"How wonderful yellow is, it stands for the sun" ~ Vincent Van Gogh

…and sunflowers!

I've been having fun painting and using yellow lately. Perhaps because I feel autumn in the air, even if our air temperature is still in the mid to upper 90's. . . I can still try to incorporate the mood with my paintbrush, inside my air-conditioned home.

Watercolor Wednesday - Colorful Black and White

The fall semester of my watercolor class began on Monday.  We focused on painting and using color in black and white - there is only one tiny, unpainted area in this picture!  I wanted to give it an autumnal and abstract feel with a band of yellow at the top.

I was trying to take the photo outside in the Houston humidity and the edges kept curling.  It is an even band of color ; )

Monday, September 08, 2014

Netflix Stars - Quartet

4.5 - We started out watching The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, which was so awful, I won't even bother with a review.   Dustin Hoffman directed, and they must have had a blast making this.  Many in the cast were indeed retired musicians (watch for the credit roll).  You will thoroughly enjoy this, too.

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Frog Dreaming

I finally get a good night's sleep last night and I dream of…frogs!?!   They were in a parking lot, in puddles, everywhere I looked.

I had to check and see what that could mean.    Most sources agree it is a symbol of good luck, of transformation, and the potential for change, a fresh start.    Hmmm, I will take them all as good signs.
And an opportunity to paint.

Upcoming Jo-Ann's Pattern Sales

September 11/13 -

Simplicity $1.99
Burda $2.49

September 18/20 -

McCall's 3 for $5
Vogue $4.99

Friday, September 05, 2014

Go (Bow) Wow!

The ability to stop, reflect and go "wow" is one of the wisest characteristics an old soul can possess.
~ Mike Dooley

I took this photo last night at 6:53 PM, before sunset  - This is called a sundog, or parhelion.

They will appear 22 degrees north and south, or left and right, of the sun.  Each "dog" has a rainbow color effect -- Red is nearest to the sun, followed by yellow, green, blue, and finally violet on the side furthest away from the sun.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Thursday Tea Time

This week - Numi Organic Tea Decaf Black Vanilla

Cost:   $6.49
Number of teabags:  16,  individually-wrapped
Caffeine:   No
Type of tea:    Black
Ingredients:   Fair trade certified organic decaf black tea, organic vanilla beans
Steeping time:   5 minutes
Add ins:   Sweet Bliss makes it sweet bliss!
Fragrance:  Vani!!a
Opinion:    This is a true vanilla tea - no artificial or natural flavors, just the real deal vanilla bean and decaffeinated black tea.  I love the extra vanilla kick at the end of the sip.  I originally bought this for my daughter to try.  She liked the Mighty Leaf  Vanilla Bean at a cafe, but the Mighty Leaf was almost $10 for 15 pouches at Whole Foods.  (Wait for a sale!  I think I've picked it up for $5 or $6 in the past.  Target used to carry Mighty Leaf teas, but not any more.)   And Numi teas have a proven track record with me.  I still love their Moroccan Mint the best.
With the Sweet Bliss, it tastes like vanilla pudding in a cup! I even drank what was left out on the coffee table earlier cold - it would be great as an iced tea latte.
Bonus times two it is organic and decaffeinated so you can drink it anytime.  I still rely on my English Breakfast teas for my morning kick start, but this way I won't over-caffeinate during the day.
I saved a few pouches for me to hold over until I can get another box before mailing the rest to my daughter.  That may even be this afternoon!
Rating:  5+

Today's Favorite iPod Workout Song

The Alternate Routes, featuring Lily Costner - "Nothing More" - 3:21 

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Wednesday Work in Progress - The Cool Coast Camp

A few more glazing layers of water colors. . .I need to "bold up" and really hit those values. I am liking the Bing(o) fish, lights and windows.  What I thought would be hard was easy and vice versa.
I still also need to tackle the fore- and backgrounds. The picture was taken early morning July 5 after a rainstorm, and I want to try and capture the cool clouds and colors.
(Here is the link to the sketch.)

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Silence is golden while we all shine on. . .

"She was learning to silence the noise and reawaken to her own bright bloom."  
Very Zen/Yoga/Mantra-y!  Shine on!

Print by Kelly Rae Roberts and for sale (click here)

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Yes, You!

Photo credit to Maria Elena Sandovici, author of "Dogs With Bagels", taken at the Tangerine Boutique in Galveston, Texas, during the August Artwalk

I loved the serendipitous positioning of both the "Love Yourself" t-shirt and the hand-lettered sign quote from Grace Helbig.   The next Artwalks will be October 11 and November  29.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Netflix Stars - Tim's Vermeer

5 Stars!  We loved it!   I missed getting a chance to see it when it was in the theater (albeit briefly).  A compelling documentary, a story that blends information and drama.  His attention to recreating detail and the finished painting was incredible.   Persistence? An understatement.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Thursday Tea Time - Drink Gingerly

This week - Traditional Medicinals Organic Green Tea Ginger

Cost:   $3.99 on sale at Super Target, regular price $4.89
Number of teabags:  16, individually-wrapped
Caffeine:   Yes
Type of tea:    Green
Ingredients:   Organic green tea, organic ginger root
Steeping time:   10 minutes
Add ins:   Nothing, tasted great as brewed
Fragrance:  Just like a newly-opened powdered ginger spice jar from Penzeys.
Opinion:   This could become my new go-to green ginger tea.  Albeit a long brewing time -- they recommend 10 to 15 minutes, cover that mug! -- and slightly cloudy, perhaps from the ginger?  I thought it tasted great.  Bright, spicy and comforting. Bonus it is also all organic.  I also like that the teabag tags have message words on them.  My first said, "Renew," the next said, "Connect"
Rating:  4.5
Tea Forecast:  Partly cloudy
But still delicious!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Sisterhood of the Traveling Paints

(The catchier Have Watercolors, Will Travel was already taken by fellow blogger and author and artist, Maria Elena Sandovici -- do check out her blog and book and watercolors!)

I found these little 3-inch boxes in the clearance section of Hobby Lobby.

I believe they were originally traveling earring/jewelry cases for girlie party favors.   But I when saw the compartmentalized insert was one seamless piece of plastic, I thought it could store a couple of paints for a make-shift palette.  Perhaps the little dibs and dabs of colors I don't use that often and therefore won't take up valuable real estate on my portable class palette.

The glittery rhinestones??  Bonus!!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Try It Tuesday - Coco-Doodles Cookie Recipe


Coconut Snickerdoodles!  

Instead of rolling in cinnamon sugar, you use coconut and some sparkling sugar!

This could be a contender for Christmas Cookie 2014.   I thought/hoped the coconut would look a little bit "snowy," though I am tempted to also roll them in some red and green jimmies, too.
Next time, I might sub out some (a 1/4 cup perhaps first try?) of the flour for the Trader Joe's Coconut Flour!


1½ cups sweetened shredded coconut - look for the "Fancy" kind, it is a finer and smaller shred and
you can skip a step in the preparation
1 cup shortening
1½ cups sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2¾ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
Sparking sugar, optional


1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.
2) In a high-speed blender or food processor, pulse coconut until finely shredded. Pour into a shallow bowl. Set aside.  (I skipped this step)
3) In a large bowl, cream shortening and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla; beat well.
4) Add  dry ingredients into a medium bowl. Add to creamed mixture; mix until just combined.
5) Roll dough into 1" balls  Roll in the coconut. (add sparkling/sanding sugar, if you want)  Place 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets.
6) Bake for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned around the edges and just barely set in the center.

Remove to wire racks to cool.
Makes about 3 dozen cookies

Monday, August 25, 2014

Sunday Sketching - The Cool Coast Camp

Cool old building in Rockport, Texas
This is the sketch for my next watercolor. I'm looking forward to using my new Qor paint!
I find Sunday afternoons are a perfect air-conditioned escape from the August heat for sketching out upcoming projects… while cracking up watching "Hot in Cleveland" reruns.  I adore Wendie Malick - loved her in "Just Shoot Me," too.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Hey Jack Kerouac

"Listen to the silence inside the illusion of the world and you will remember the lesson you forgot"
~ Jack Kerouac

Saturday, August 23, 2014


I am an easy touch for cool packaging!
(A special shout out to the Jenna Hipp nail polish in "Ooh La Latte")
Special Saturday treat from hubby - the QOR Earth Colors palette!  It has six 5 ml watercolor tubes in this cool tin.  The colors are Raw Umber (Natural), Indigo, Sap Green, Venetian Red, Transparent Brown Oxide and Naples Yellow.   I'm looking forward to giving them a swirl.
Kudos to QOR for making easy-to-read labels and easy-to-identify color
(take note Winsor Newton with your new tube labeling!)
I bet you could also use the left side/lid as a palette, too!
(And the right side - that plastic holder is removable.)
P.S.  You can find the Jenna Hipp nail polishes at Costco.  $7.99 (they had a $2 instant rebate a few weeks ago) to $9.99 for a set of 8, along with a bonus nail file.  I really like them, they don't chip and come in cool colors.  My left thumb (actually all my fingernails) was polished in "Ooh La Latte" - kind of a pretty purple gray*  from "The New Moderns" collection.
*(Seriously, if I ordered a latte and it came out in that color, I would send it back.  But I love it in a nail polish!)
You can also my left thumb in Wednesday's Cards of Color.  And further testimony to its unchippedness, I polished my nails on Monday.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Upcoming Jo-Ann's Pattern Sales

Labor Day Sale - August 29 - September 1
McCall's - $1.99
Vogue  - $4.99

September 4/6
Simplicity $1.99

And a coupon on the back of the flyer for 60% off any one regular-priced fabric, August 24/28.
(But watch, as usual most fabric will be on sale.)

Thursday, August 21, 2014

This week - Trader Joe's Original Irish Breakfast Black Tea 

Cost:   $2.99
Number of teabags:  80 (!) tea rounds, vacuum-packed in two "gold" metallic wrappers
Teabag "coin" from the gold wrapper.
I was trying to figure out something witty to say about a tea-
pot and gold and coin…
Perhaps I need to drink another mug of this stuff
and wait for a leprechaun to appear.

Caffeine:   Yes
Type of tea:    Black
Ingredients:   Black tea
Steeping time:   3 minutes
Add ins:   Glug of Natural Bliss cream
Fragrance:  Earthy
Opinion:   The more I drank it, the more I liked it. Plain and black-no way.  You really need milk and sugar, or that Natural Bliss.  And make it light, almost matching the tan box color.  It is very strong. Use two teabags for emergency caffeination only.   I've even dialed down the steeping time, setting the timer for 3 minutes as soon as the Keurig starts.  There is an almost astringent aftertaste if you brew it stronger or try it plain.  I still prefer English Breakfast teas, but this isn't bad as soon as you figure out how to play with it.

Whoa!  Stand back!
It's a beautiful reddish color, though!

Rating:  3 - Would I buy it again? With 80 teabags?!  This is probably a year-long supply for me, even giving splitting the box to my daughter.  Though I do think this would be a fun St. Patrick's Day gift.  As usual, the Trader Joe's box designs are fun, there is even a four-leaf clover on the side!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Cards of Color

Soft Primary, Greyscale, Sepia, Primary, Fluorescent

Score!  I thought I would give these Tombow Irojiten colored pencils a chance, especially at almost half price.  I loved how they grouped the colors together.  They had me when I read the Fluorescent color pack could be seen under black light.  Way to accent some potential watercolors with snap!  Shhh!  I actually like these a bit better than Prisma colored pencils.   They sharpened quite easily and well, and applied smoother and seemed more velvety, even on just scrap paper.  Color me impressed!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Two-Fer Tuesday

When I originally came up with the idea for my Adams Extract watercolor painting, I was going to include a vanilla bean next to the bottle.  But the cute frame I had in mind was just the perfect size for the bottle only.  I decided to put the vanilla bean to good use, not only once but twice - pairing it together with the Ball Mason jar and making vanilla sugar!
(Maybe even turn this watercoloring adventure into a three-fer and make these Vanilla Shortbread Cookies again?!)

Monday, August 18, 2014

Chocolate Chip Muffins - Light and Healthy - and versatile!

This is my go-to healthy muffins recipe from the September/October 1992 issue of Pillsbury Fast and Healthy magazine.  Not only is it yummy, but you can go from beginning to eating within 30 minutes!

This is the basic Lite Muffins recipe with variations to suit what you have on hand.  It has about a third less oil than a standard muffin recipe.

Chocolate Chip Lite Muffins
in my Pampered Chef stone baker


2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup milk
3 tablespoons oil (I use canola)
1 egg, beaten

Heat oven to 375 (400 per original recipe).  Line a 12-muffin cup pan with paper baking cups.
In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.  Mix well.
In a 2 cup measuring cup (or a small bowl, this way with the measuring cup it is one less item to wash)
combine milk, oil, and egg - blend well.
Add to dry ingredients; stir just until dry ingredients are moistened.
Divide batter evenly among paper-lined muffin cups.
Bake at 375 for 18-23 minutes or until light golden brown.
Cool 1 minute, remove from pan.
Serve warm

Chocolate chip muffins - add 3/4 cup chocolate chips to dry mix
Apple muffins - decrease sugar to 1/4 cup and add 1 teaspoon cinnamon to flour, stir 1 cup finely chopped, peeled apple into dry ingredients.  Substitute apple juice for milk
Blueberry muffins - Stir 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries and 1/4 teaspoon Penzeys Cake Spice into dry ingredients
Jam muffins - Before baking, place 1/2 teaspoon of your favorite jam on each muffin; press into batter.  If desired, sprinkle with finely chopped nuts
Lemon muffins - Add one tablespoon grated lemon peel to dry ingredients
Orange muffins - Add one tablespoon grated orange peel to dry ingredients and substitute orange juice for milk
Streusel-topped muffins - In a small bowl, combine 1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar, 1 tablespoon softened butter, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/4 cup chopped nuts or flaked coconut; blend with fork until crumbly.  Sprinkle over muffins before baking
Sugar-coated muffins - Brush tops of hot muffins with orange juice, dip in mixture of 1/4 cup sugar and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Whole wheat muffins - Use one cup all purpose flour and 1 cup whole wheat flour

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Whiteflies on Moonflowers??

Problem Solved!

We may have lost the battle, but not the war. There is still time in Texas to plant and start again! 
“My heart found its home long ago in the beauty, mystery, order and disorder of the flowering earth.”
~Lady Bird Johnson

Friday, August 15, 2014

Extract, the colors

I've started snapping a picture of my palette after finishing a project.
It can tell a story as much as the painting does!  -- the colors I used, the colors that didn't work. . .(like that odd yellow-tan!  haha!)  This what I used for the Adams Vanilla Extract watercolor.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

This week - Stash White Chocolate Mocha
Pretty box design!

Cost:   $2.99 at Ross
Number of teabags:  18, individually-wrapped
Caffeine:   Yes
Type of tea:    Black
Ingredients:   Cocoa shells, black tea, cinnamon, natural tiramisu flavor, natural coffee flavor, natural chocolate flavor, natural white chocolate flavor
Steeping time:   4 minutes
Add ins:   Splash of Natural Bliss cream
Fragrance:  Wish it tasted as good as the teabag.
Opinion:   Another surprise tea find at Ross in New Braunfels, Texas.  The "Compare At" price  is $4.99. Glad I only paid $2.99.  I thought it would be better - White Chocolate Mocha?  Sounds yummy and delish, right?  I like/love cinnamon, but in this combination, no.  It does finish with a nice chocolate aftertaste, but the cinnamon just overpowers it, oddly.
Rating:  1, only because I like all the ingredients.  Just not all together in this tea.
even the wrapper and tag look like chocolate!

Pretty color, but oddly the tea was cloudy
(perhaps it was all the cinnamon, or
the cocoa shells?!)

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Threading Your Viking Husqvarna 1100 - Bobbin Winding

There are two ways to wind your bobbin on the Viking Husqvarna 1100.  And with the 1100, Viking began the concave plastic bobbins, so it is now foolproof to wind your bobbin and insert into the bobbin case correctly!  When you insert the empty bobbin on the winder, make sure the concave curve of the bobbin curves into (hugs) the sewing machine.  (Think "Bobbin Love")

Depending where you are in your project, you can wind your bobbin and not unthread the machine! The one part of the instructions I don't follow is to keep the needle threaded.  I tried that once.   I feel the needle eye can cause the thread to shred and gives it unnecessary tension if you like to wind fast.   It can also bend the needle.  I know, I should slow down.  And perhaps wind a few extra bobbins in the beginning.

The 1100 also has an extra thread spindle, which I like to use with the second option.  Especially if I am running out of thread on one spool and have set it aside specifically for bobbin winding or hand sewing.  I don't have to unthread just to wind the remaining bit on the spool.    Raise your hand if you are sewing the very last two inches of a seam or hem and that's when you run out!  Ignoring the beep-beep the 1100 sounds as you get toward the end of the bobbin.  Of course, it won't beep-beep if you didn't clean your machine after your last project and lint is blocking the sensor…live on the edge, sew off the edge!

(For those of you landing on this post first, here is the link to my post on how to thread your Husqvarna Viking 1100 sewing machine.)

Husqvarna Viking 1100 Front (machine remains threaded)
Bobbin Winding thread layout

Viking Husqvarna 1100 Side Winding or Direct Winding
 Bobbin Thread Layout

This is good to know for older Viking Husqvarna's,
even if you don't use the concave bobbins

Good luck gambling with Murphy's Law on how far you can sew!

Bonus information!  If you decide you need to fiddle with the bobbin thread tension control when doing some off the seam decorative stitching. . .the best advice I received was to purchase an extra bobbin case.  And mark it with nail polish so you don't get it mixed up.
I have never, ever had to adjust the bobbin tension on my 1100.  And I realize once you start messing with screws, you either lose them or lose the tightness/factory settings.  Then you are screwed, if that was your only case.
If you want to do bobbin work with decorative threads, you will need to loosen that bobbin case tension.  There are two screws on the 1100 bobbin case.  The one you need to adjust is the one closest to the thread, or the largest one.  Play in 1/4 increments, turning the screw no more at a time.  And have fun!
Do you know you can use up to 4-ply yarn in your bobbin??   Now you do!
If you can wind it by hand and thread it through the throat plate, you can sew with it!