Monday, January 26, 2015

Monday Musing - the Goo of Aquamarine (Sounds kinda Zen-like, yes? There is a lesson contained herein)

Not actual size
What is it about samples?

We love to get them,
but we don't love to use them?  What's the deal here?

They pile onto each other in the drawers we stuff them in, until about once a year we do a clean out, and donate them to women's shelters and food banks.  
And vow to use the freebie goodies we think we want to keep.

But then what do we do?  Perhaps toss a few that leaked or can't figure out what they are/do.
Hair catalyst?!

Some are easily carbon-dated -

In my defense this was hidden underneath, yes, more traveling kits
Some are so tiny, there's barely enough for one use.

So we think we will use it when we travel, thanks to TSA.
Stashing a few of them in our traveling makeup/toiletries bags.   Which I've also sorted through, tossed/donated.

But who wants to take a chance on something that could stink to high heaven when trying to impress relatives and friends, or a special occasion you flew halfway across the country for.   Or a quick* weekend getaway trip.

*While patting yourself on the back for being so spontaneous and prepared, be sure to prelocate those urgent care ER rooms popping up in strip malls and along the freeways.  Or also toss in a few doses of Benadryl in the convenient peel-to-open dose packaging.

Or even an allergic reaction to the product since you can't see the ingredients on said tiny tube if they are even on there, since you peeled it off the glue dot of the cardboard holder upon acquiring and tossing into the drawer.
#NoSoy, #NoStrawberries
Trust me on this.

We are savers.  Not so much money, but for stuff.  And security.
Perhaps we need to focus more on the money, too.   Seriously.
(It doesn't count you saved money with free stuff.)

Saving for a special occasion or just to know we have?
(this translates to money, too)
Eventually it all turns.  (the freebies and the economy)

We are easily inbred to try and save things, don't use the good stuff, I may need this someday.  I know, because this happened. . .

My Mom had this beautiful bottle of lotion by Revlon, "Aquamarine."  The color, so pretty.  The name, my birthstone.  I would look at it for years on the shelf in the linen closet. Being saved for what?   Obviously for me - a 10 year old me going after at least a 5 year old bottle glop!  I thought I could get away with just opening it and seeing what aquamarines smelled like at least.   But - It...exploded when I twisted off the cap and squeezed!  All over me, my clothes, the clean towels, the shelves, the floor.  And it didn't smell how I thought aquamarines would.

Revlon Aquamarine Body Lotion
Lesson learned then and now, and oft-repeated. . .

Be mindful -- You can have abundance with less.
Start with those drawers and shelves (and linen closets) today and be in the moment to -
-Use and enjoy what you have.
-Keep only what you truly like and need.
-Stop stocking and waiting for the right time.
-If you don't want it, decline or donate.  There are others who will.

Later is now.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Prints Charming

I've been trying to make copies of some of my watercolor projects, with varied results by taking them to professional printers.  One did a fantastic job at a not so fantastic price - Eeek! $$$.  The other tried and used paper I brought in, but the copy really didn't look too much like the original.  Not all the colors and shadings were duplicated.  On its own, not that bad, but compared to the original - Oops.

Now fast forward to Hobby Lobby earlier this week.  Next to the portfolios in their art section, I found Strathmore watercolor and pastel inkjet papers.   The pastel paper was light texture, 80 pound, $12.99 for 25 sheets.   The watercolor was medium texture, cold press finish, 115 pound, $14.99 for 8 sheets.   With the 40% coupon - $8.99.  For a little over a dollar a page, I thought I would give the watercolor paper a try first.

And several tries, I did.
It just kept rolling straight through my Epson 410 XP $99 special printer -- and not printing!
Online reviews have everyone singing  praises about how they can use it to print on all kinds of media.  I tried adjusting the printer settings for media, paper - still just zip, zip rolling right out.  

Paper on top of regular copy paper?  The Strathmore paper ran right through, and then the Epson printed on regular paper.   Granted it did a good job looking watercolor-y, but it wasn't on the watercolor paper.

Then I tried stacking two sheets of Strathmore in the feeder tray.  And, two - run right through.  

I'm almost ready to give up -- but saw in the printer queue there was still one waiting.

This time I held the paper in the paper tray and as it tried once more to grab and run, I gave it just a little tug back and...

I heard the printer start printing!!

Color (print) me impressed!
 Clockwise from left - copy paper, Strathmore watercolor paper, original
I was starting to run low on some of the color cartridges, and I later discovered the option to adjust the size - which would be "custom" to keep the original size and not "fill".  But actually it didn't really distort it too much.   You can definitely see more of the shading and details on the Strathmore watercolor paper compared to the copy paper.

The prints were made from a photograph of my original watercolor.  Next time I will try to copy the original directly on the printer.  I'm not sure if the colors were changed by printing from iPhoto or from the printer.

Another time, another coupon --  the lighter weight pastel/watercolor 80 pound paper, perhaps for stationery and cards.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Friday Faucet

Watercolor Water Faucet
6 1/4" x 6 3/4"

We finally had the water faucet handle replaced with one that actually turns off the water completely!
(including a bonus bit of foam and tape for insulation during our cold weather spell)
During our Hurricane Ike repairs, one of the subcontractors broke off the original faucet (how, I don't want to know) and we had water spewing all over.  They ran to a local hardware store and bought a close, but not quite the right size/the first one/the only one they had.  

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Thursday Tea Time - Something cool to warm you on a cold, rainy day...

This week - The Republic of Tea - Limited Edition Cool Winter Herb Tea - Peppermint Bark 

Cost:  $10.25 online (no longer available),  also can be found at Whole Foods (I will check and add the price next time I'm there) and $15 at Mod Coffeehouse in Galveston...
Number of tea bags:  36
Caffeine: No
Type of tea: Herbal/Rooibos
Mix ins: Not a thing
Fragrance:  Creamy minty
Ingredients:  Organic green rooibos, peppermint, organic cocoa extract, organic vanilla flavor and stevia leaf and natural flavor
Opinion: This reminds me of those pastel yellow, pink and green mints with the white non parriels - that pleasant, creamy minty flavor.  I really didn't taste the chocolate, though - a little disappointing there.  I liked the fact it is a green Rooibos,  I actually had never heard of Green Rooibos.  It was perfectly fine plain and plenty sweet enough without any added sweetener or milk/cream, so that's another check in the win column.  The stevia leaf aftertaste is disguised by the mint, in fact, I was surprised to see it when I was checking the list of ingredients to type.  If you see this in the stores/coffee shops, I would grab it.  It sold out online.  I'm glad I saw it a few months ago when reordering my Get Wellness tea (thank goodness that is still available, I can't find it in the stores anymore).  Hopefully they will bring it back later this year.
Rating: 4.5

This almost looks like one of  those Pinterest pictures
- it is raining in Houston and a perfect tea day today!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Watercolor Wednesday - Purgatory Landscape

14 1/4" x 6 3/4"
Fun finding a frame for this off the rack...!

Actually the Hike and Bike Trails at Purgatory Creek in San Marcos, Texas!

This week, we were working on landscapes with overlapping planes using mid-tones, a la William Anzalone.  I am trying to be more adventurous with color selection and intensity, and brush strokes.  My new size 12, 16 and 20 Round Escoda Prado brushes help immensely, too!   (Thank you, Texas Art Supply for your lower pricing and extra 10% student discount, enabling me to purchase all three at once)  I especially had fun learning how to paint the Opuntia texana (yellow prickly pear cactus) in the center diagonal line.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Hoffman Challenge 2015

M7405 381G Pomegranate Gold

This is the 2015 Hoffman Challenge fabric.   If you click on the link, you'll get all the information about the fabric and the Challenge.

I think the colors and combination are also inspiration for watercoloring.  Teal, hot pink and gold?  Which Hoffman is naming the looks-like-teal-to-me as Indigo in their suggested coordinates.  I may just order some and see. (There is always an excuse to buy fabric, right?)  I'm going to play around with these colors and create my own challenge to myself.  Let the game begin!  I will start a new label on my sidebar - Hoffman Fabric Inspired Watercolor Challenge 2015.  

I don't think I will ever run out of inspiration and things to try and paint in watercolor.  Might as well make it interesting and fun.

Monday, January 19, 2015


Ginger is listed first in the name for a reason!

Over the weekend, I picked up a box of Trader Joe's Just the Clusters Ginger Almond & Cashew granola cereal.  It sounded good.  Even the idea of cashews in cereal.

A serving is 2/3 cup, which when put in a smaller bowl seems more than generous and surprisingly filling.  Calories - 210, total fat 7g (0.5g saturated), sodium 60mg, fiber 2g, sugar 15, protein 4g, total carbohydrate 36g (yeah...)

It is very gingery!  And sweet-hot.  If you like ginger, you would love this.  (The ingredients have two forms of ginger, the crystallized ginger and ginger root)  However, it is almost too-too for eating by itself.  Next time I will add maybe a quarter cup to top my oatmeal.  Or as a topping if baking sweet quick bread or muffins.  I think it is more of a "decoration" cereal instead of a cereal-cereal.

Sunday, January 18, 2015


Photograph of my watercolor palette - I love how French Ultramarine Blue granulates, even in the palette.   While Cobalt Blue is my usual go-to blue when painting, I seem to be using French Ultramarine more decisively lately and really enjoying the a-ha! results.

This was from last week's cherry blossoms project.  I love what it did on the right-hand side of the painting.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Best Tech'd for Spring

Spring is around the corner, but you can get a touch of Spring now with the Vera Bradley tech downloads in Rio, Lucky You and Midnight Stripe.  Click on the link and the downloads are at the end of the page.

Midnight Stripe
Lucky You


Thursday, January 15, 2015

Thursday Tea Time - Tone it down with Turmeric

This week - Republic of Tea Spice of Life Green Tea - Organic Turmeric Ginger.

Cost:   $12.99 at Whole Foods
Number of teabags:  50
Caffeine: Yes
Type of tea: Green
Ingredients:  Organic turmeric, organic green tea, organic ginger, organic cinnamon and natural honey flavor
Steeping time:  3 minutes
Mix ins:  Plain or a little bit of Natural Bliss.  No additional sweeter needed.
Fragrance:  Spicy
Opinion:   My acupuncturist recommend turmeric to help control inflammation and ease the pain in my foot.  After looking at assorted turmeric capsules and the prices at Whole Foods, I gave up and wandered over to the tea aisle, wondering if there was a turmeric tea, and I found this Republic of Tea version.  For the win!  It has a spicy flavor followed by a mellow honey aftertaste.  Love it!  I'm going to start drinking it every day.  Turmeric and ginger and cinnamon play very nicely together, and all are  known for the anti-inflammatory properties.   Bonus it is organic.  This is a good-for-you tea which actually tastes good! And looks pretty, too - it brews to a pretty golden color.  Very soothing to the soul, mind and foot!
Rating:  4.5

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Watercolor Wednesday - The value of cherry blossoms

This week in class, we were working on value.  A pretty photograph of blooming cherry tree branches  was the inspiration.  But the copies of the color photograph were taped to the walls while we were giving black and white copies.  Added to the twist was the fact that the sky was darker in value than the leaves.  I kind of had to twist my brain around that.   And the whiteness of the flowers had to either be "saved" or whitened by contrast alone.  It was interesting to see how everyone's was different - either by their own interpretation or what section of the photograph appealed to them, including even different colors.  As long as the value was correct, who's to say you have to paint the sky blue and the leaves green?

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Free Penzeys Roasted Garlic!

The Winter 2015 Penzeys Spices catalog has a coupon for a free 1/2 cup jar of their Roasted Garlic, a $6.95 value.  (Coupon Code:  43953C)  And, of course, the catalog has several tempting recipes...including three making my list to try - Fudge Cupcakes with pretty white frosting...Brynne's Energy Cookies, and Maple Pumpkin Energy Bars

With this colder weather, hot oatmeal has been my go-to breakfast.  I like to add apples and walnuts to oomp it up, and one morning I grabbed my Apple Pie Spice instead of cinnamon.  Let me just say, it makes a tasty flavor addition.  A perfect match!

Friday, January 09, 2015

Netflix Stars - Philomena

5 stars!  A compelling, based upon true story (The Lost Child of Philomena Lee by Martin Sixsmith) of an Irish woman wanting to reunite with her son whom she had to give up for adoption in the mid-century.  Dame Judi Dench plays the title role endearingly.  Be sure to watch the closing credits!

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Thursday Tea Time - Yerba Mate Latte

This week - The Republic of Tea Yerba Mate Latte  

Cost:  $36.99/pound at Whole Foods...but before you shriek, a healthy, almost 1/2 cup scoop is only $2, enough for several mugfuls.  Also available online for $10.25 or $15 at Mod Coffeehouse in Galveston...36 teabags.
Caffeine: Yes
Type of tea: Herbal/Rooibos
Mix ins: Silk Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk and a touch of sugar.
Fragrance:  Slightly nutty
Ingredients:  Rooibos, roasted yerba mate, natural almond, vanilla, chocolate flavors, sunflower petals and almond bits
Opinion: I saw this at Mod Coffeehouse in Galveston, selling for $15 a can.  Which by the time you figure in postage turns out to be close enough to the online website price.  So I thought I would look for it in the Houston area.  Nope.  No luck.   But lo and behold when I rounded the aisles of Whole Foods on Kirby, there it was in the loose-leaf version.  I picked up a couple of scoops for $2 and tried it.  I'm going back to Mod to buy the canister!  This is good!  I didn't really taste the chocolate.  It was just very smooth and nutty-creamy.  It almost tasted like marshmallow.   The extra boost from the yerba mate is appreciated, too.  I thought it tasted best with Silk's Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk and just a touch of sugar.
Rating: 4

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Three more additional Vera Bradley Wallpaper downloads for Winter 2014!

Anxiously awaiting the Spring 2015 colors, but in the meantime - here are three more of the Winter 2014 tech wallpaper downloads for desktop, iPad and mobile devices.  (I love the leather one!)   
Click here for Cherry Blossoms and Emerald Paisley post.

Leather Magenta

Midnight Houndstooth

Midnight Paisley

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Saturday, January 03, 2015

Upcoming Jo-Ann's Pattern Sales

They are all on sale this month!  Start your New Year's resolution to sew more in 2015

January 11-17
5 for $5 Simplicity

January 18-20
$2.49 Burda

January 22-24
$1.99 McCalls

January 30-31
$1.99 Butterick
$4.99 Vogue

Friday, January 02, 2015

Netflix Stars - Midnight in Paris

5 stars!  Another "run out to Target and get my own copy!"  We watched this New Year's Eve.  LOVED IT!  Owen Wilson was great, it was fun to see these artists and writers come to life.   Just a magical movie.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Netflix Stars - The Great Gatsby

4 stars - Finally got around to seeing this, actually my own copy, a Christmas present.  Great special effects, lighting and costuming.  Save for the Jay-Z hip-hop trying to bring this to the millennials, not a bad remake.  And hooray for the bonus disc!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

The 2014 Christmas Cookie Search Continues with Almond Joy Cookies



7 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons coconut extract
1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cornstach
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
a pinch of salt
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
3/4 cup sliced almonds, lightly toasted
1 1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips


Combine the butter and sugars, then add egg, extracts and beat on medium-high speed until creamed and well combined, about 4 minutes.
Add the flour, cornstarch, baking soda, optional salt, and beat on low speed until just combined, about 1 minute.
Add the coconut, almonds, chocolate chips, and beat on low speed until just combined, about 30 seconds.

I baked these with unchilled dough.  They spread and flattened a little, but still turned out looking temptingly good!  The original directions called for refrigerating the dough prior to baking, which I didn't see until writing this post.  

Preheat oven to 350F, line a baking sheet with parchment paper, a silicone sheet or spray with cooking spray. Place dough mounds on baking sheet, spaced at least 2 inches apart and bake for 8 minutes, rotating halfway. Do not overbake. Coconut is prone to burning.  Cookies will be pale and look un-done, but firm up as they cool.  Good luck with allowing cookies to cool on the baking sheet for about 10 minutes before serving. 

I modified these from the original found on Pinterest, which was pinned from this website.
I did not chill mine, so they did indeed spread a little, but not that much.  I also make my cookies smaller, using a rounded teaspoonful instead.  That shortened the baking time to 8 minutes, rotating the cookies halfway.  I lightly toasted the sliced almonds and cut back to 3/4 cup.  I also increased the chocolate chips to 1 1/4 cup (to make up the difference in the almonds -wink-).

How good were these?  I couldn't get an accurate count of how many I was able to get from the recipe as they kept sneaking and re-arranging the cooling cookies.  I'm thinking by my making them smaller than the original recipe called for it made 4-5 dozen.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Netflix Stars - Labor Day

4 stars - I was surprised.  Predictable?  Yes and no. But the question we kept asking was, "Why was Kate Winslet in this?"  Perhaps suited more for an up and coming actress earning her chops.  She was good, but a bit beneath her abilities.  A bit choppy, and emotional in places, but overall it's a pretty good chick flick.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Thursday Tea Time - 441

This week - Zhena's Seasonal Teas

Cost: $6.99 at Kroger for 16 teabags/4 per container of
Peppermint Mocha…Gingerbread Chai…Sugar Cookie…English Toffee
Caffeine: Yes-Sugar Cookie, No for the others
Type of tea: Black (Sugar Cookie), Red (the others)
Mix ins: Natural Bliss
Fragrance:  "Natural Flavors"  Indescribable but the same ingredient in all, so that must be it.
Ingredients:  Peppermint Mocha-Peppermint, rooibos, cinnamon, cocoa powder, nutmeg, natural flavors…Gingerbread Chai-Rooibos, ginger root, cinnamon, chicory, licorice root, nutmeg, natural flavors…Sugar Cookie-black tea, cinnamon, ginger root, licorice root, cardamom, black pepper (?!), cloves, nutmeg, natural flavors…English Toffee-rooibos, cocoa, licorice root, and?---natural flavors!
Opinion: Why do I keep buying this brand?  The names and flavors sounded so tempting, but they all tasted the same - odd! Per chance were the lids not tightly on and the shrink-wrap caused the flavors to mingle?   Of them all, English Toffee probably was the best of the least.
Rating: 0

They all look different, but all seem to taste the same
: /

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

A most versatile cookie...

Red Velvet Edition!

My daughter saw Red Velvet Cookies on Pinterest.  I liked the idea, but was hesitant to take a chance on a new recipe.  Instead, I used our tried and true 1995 McCall's Magazine Cocoa M&M's Cookie recipe (click here).
FYI:  With or without M&M's, this is a great basic chocolate cookie you can have a lot of fun with and enjoy eating!


1 ¼ cups flour
½ cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup sugar
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
New!  1 1/2 tablespoons Adams Extract Red food coloring

Preheat oven to 350. In medium bowl, mix flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. In large (to be covered) bowl, combine sugar and butter. At high speed, beat 2 minutes until creamy. Beat in egg and vanilla, beat 2 minutes. Beat in flour mixture. Chill one hour or until dough is firm.

Roll dough in 1” balls and then roll in colored sugar, sprinkles/jimmies and/or powdered sugar.  Place 2” apart on cookie sheets. Bake 10 minutes, switching racks at 5 minutes. Cookies should start to have cracks.  If possible, cool and enjoy!  Hubby and daughter polished off a dozen warm while my back was turned.

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Though I am composing a letter to Adams Extract about making their bottles a little bit easier to pour and measure.  Yikes!  Be forewarned to have lots of paper towels handy...and to hide them in your garbage can lest your kitchen look like crime scene!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Happy Winter Solstice!

May the dawn of the Winter Solstice chase the dark away.
May it bring to you the promos of endless brand new days.
May all your sorrow vanish.  And all your dreams come true.
And may the light of the Winter Solstice always shine on you.

Right here, right now

Saturday, December 20, 2014


An anonymous benefactor purchased my paintings, with instructions to not only have them remain hanging at the gallery through the end of the month, but also be given back to me for my personal collection!

Moonrise Sunrise
Lightning Strike

Friday, December 19, 2014

Netflix Stars - Magic in the Moonlight

5 stars!  How cute and good is this movie??  As we were watching it, my daughter ordered a copy on Amazon!  I don't even particularly care for Woody Allen movies and didn't realize it was until the opening credits.  But I adore Colin Firth and the chemistry between him and Emma Stone was terrific.   And the ending, perfect!  We actually Redbox'd this movie, but I went ahead and gave this 5 stars on Netflix.  Here's hoping there are some special features on the non-rental/purchased copy.  I loved the wardrobe, and how it and the lighting truly invoked the late 1920's.  A very magical and entertaining rom-com.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Christmas Cookie Exchange Cookie 2014!

This cookie made the cut for the annual Christmas Cookie exchange party, but will it also take the honor of Christmas Cookie 2014?!  What we like -- the recipe makes practically a gazillion (5-6 dozen, depending how big the dough ball becomes towards the end.  The relatively low calorie/low carb stats (see previous sentence) - 54 calories/4 g complex carbohydrate.  While the "strong coconut flavor" (read extract) is optional, I think it might give a more coconut-y flavor boost...Even though I used the "good stuff" Baker's Coconut.  It was fun to also add sprinkles to make them more Christmas-y.  I also liked the blingy touch of the candied cherry.  A very fun and festive and tasty cookie!

Coconut Jumbles 

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks or 6 ounces) unsalted butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar (5 1/4 ounces)
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon strong coconut flavor (optional)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (7 1/4 ounces)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups (4 1/2 ounces) sweetened flaked coconut
About 36 candied cherries, cut in half, or 72 macadamia nuts, or chocolate chips

Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease two baking sheets.

In a medium bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla extract and coconut flavor until light and fluffy. Sift salt, flour and baking soda together into a small bowl and gradually beat them into the egg mixture. Stir in the coconut until everything is well combined.

Drop the dough by the teaspoonful onto prepared baking sheets; use the bottom of a drinking glass dipped in sugar to press each ball down slightly.
(Or pat and form into a flattened round shape, using sugar if needed to control sticking to fingers)
Bake the cookies for 9 minutes, or until they are light golden brown and just firm to the touch.
(I rotate the sheets half way through, sprinkling colored sugar on the cookies)

As soon as the cookies come out of the oven, plunk half a candied cherry round side up, or a macadamia nut, or a couple of chocolate chips, into the center of each and press down gently. Cool the cookies on a wire rack.

Makes about 5 to 6 dozen cookies.

Source:  The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion

Sunday, December 14, 2014


"I hear your voice in all the world’s noise." - Paul √Čluard 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Saturday Swag

Today at Texas Art Supply, I attended a Winsor-Newton watercolor demonstration of the new watercolor markers and watercolor sticks with Peter Andrew. In addition to a very interesting and informative talk, we got a very nice bag of goodies from Winsor-Newton.  (I also got good advice for using the markers and sticks).  I love new art toys, and I especially love to get and try them free!
Check it out:

The new Professional Water Colour 2" sample-sized stick in French Ultramarine, the retail-sized Water Colour marker in Cerulean Blue Hue, a 5 ml Professional water colour tube of Alizarin Crimson, a Cotman Size 3 Round watercolor brush, a 75ml bottle of Gum Arabic, and a sample page of six colors - Winsor Yellow, Alizarin Crimson, Ultramarine (Green Shade), Hooker's Green, Yellow Ochre and Burnt Umber (handy to toss into my travel bag).

If you live in the Houston area or plan to visit, be sure to sign up for their email list for future free store events.