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.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Thursday Tea Time - Coconut Chai, 'K?

This week - Zhena's Coconut Chai T-cups

Cost: $8.99 at Tuesday Morning (regular retail price/online:  $12.99) for 12 K-Cups
Caffeine: Yes
Type of tea: Black
Mix ins: Natural Bliss
Fragrance: Cardamon
Ingredients:  Black Tea, Cinnamon, Ginger, Cardamom, Clove, Orange Peel, Nutmeg, Black Pepper, natural coconut flavor, natural cinnamon flavor
Opinion: Why do I keep trying this brand?  Perhaps thinking a K-cup version might be better?  Most of my reviews have been either meh or thumbs down, with the occasional hardly praiseworthy "not bad".  They just don't have a strong taste or flavor.  And you can't really double up on a K/T-cup unless you dial down to 6 ounces instead of 8 ounces.  Don't take a sip before adding milk or sweetener.  This is not drinkable plain, and hardly once you add a slug of Natural Bliss.  I can hardly detect any coconut flavor either.  They get a point for calling it a T-cup instead of K-cup
Rating: 1

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Wednesday Work in Progress - 2014 Christmas Cookie of the Year Edition

It's that time…what recipe will earn the title of 2014 Christmas Cookie?
Previous winners have included:  2013 Chocolate Sugar Cookie…2012 Irish Cream Cookies...2011 Chocolate Peppermint Kiss Cookie…and 2010 Sparkly Peppermint Cookies
The cookie bar is set pretty high!

First up,  Caramel Pecan Cookies
Actually they are called "Jeweled Pyramids"
and were a finalist in the current Cook's Country magazine Christmas Cookie Contest (December/January 2015 issue)

Caramel Pecan Cookies

What I liked:  You mix all the ingredients in the food processor, one less bowl/mixer to clean up.
It made extra caramel sauce!  And there are leftover chopped pecans to use for other recipes.   There aren't any eggs in this recipe.  Not much (brown) sugar, either - only 1/2 cup.

However -- Two sticks of butter!

What made me go "Hmmm…":  They were still gooey (the caramel) almost 6 hours later.  I also live in humid Houston but today was not really an especially humid day.  Definitely reconsider making these in the Summer!  I am running an experiment to see how they freeze after being dipped in caramel and pecans.   Perhaps if you want to make them in advance, you could bake and then freeze to the point before dipping.  These may not be a mailable gift treat.  (Apologies to the volunteer taste-testers mailing distance away.)

2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces) all purpose flour
2 1/2 cups (10 ounces) pecans - 1 cup is for the dough, the rest for the dipping
2 sticks (16 tablepoons) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and chilled.
1/2 cup packed (3 1/2 ounces) light brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 bag of Kraft caramels
1/4 cup milk (I used skim)

1.  Adjust oven rack to upper middle and lower middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees.  Line 2 (4) baking sheets with parchment paper.  Pulse flour, 1 cup pecans, butter, sugar, vanilla and salt in food processor until combined and dough starts to hold shape.  Transfer to bowl and press together.
2.  Original instructions-divide dough into 24 balls, form each into a pyramid shape and space evenly on prepared sheets.  Bake until light golden, 20-25 minutes, switch and rotate sheets halfway through. Let cookies cook on sheet for 5 minutes, and then transfer to wire rack and cool completely.  Save the parchment paper on the cookie sheets.
3.  Microwave caramels and milk in bowl, I stirred about every 20-30 seconds, until melted and smooth, about 3 minutes.  Place remaining pecans (see my advice below) in a shallow dish.  Dip the top point of each pyramid/cookie in caramel to coat and then lightly dip into the pecans.  Return to sheets and let cookies set for at least 20 minutes before serving.

- When I can, I weigh my ingredients.  I feel it is more accurate, especially for flour and nuts.
- I also pre-chopped the pecans in the food processor first, emptied it and then filled with the rest of the ingredients.
- Also forewarning, you only use 1 cup of pecans in the dough.  I also think you could get away with 2 cups of pecans.  I had a lot extra.
- Don't pour out all the chopped pecans on the dipping plate.  Replenish as needed.  Those that don't stick on the first pass will start to pick up the excess caramel. A tasty treat for the clean up crew, though.
- If you make the dough balls/triangles big gum ball sized (not jaw-breaker ones), you can get over 4 dozen instead of the two dozen the recipe indicated.   They still baked for about the same time, 21 minutes.  
- With the salted caramel craze, perhaps a sprinkling of sea salt might be yummy, too!

On to the next contender!

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Location, Location, Location. . .

Christmas Cookbook 2014
one side
Year-Round Celebrations 2014
the other side
Found at Dillard's (on a round table by the Shoe Department), a two-fer special edition Southern Living  Christmas Cookbook/Year-Round Celebrations book for only $10!  Benefiting the Ronald McDonald House Charities.   You can bet I will be trying and you will be seeing some recipes here in the near future.  (I think this has the Red Velvet Brownies I've been seeing on Pinterest!).   I would trust their recipe - I've always had good results with recipes from Southern Living, Cooking Light, and Martha Stewart's EveryDay Food.  I usually dirty up enough prep dishes and tools to run the dishwasher twice, but they are all worth it.  And this is worth it especially for a good cause.  (Not a bad gift for Secret Santa exchanges with a cap on how much you could spend.  I bet this will be traded/stolen many times over.)

Monday, December 08, 2014

Runway Queen


2014 Hallmark Keepsake ornament, "Runway Queen" - Designed by Ruth Donikowski

"With a flair for fun and fancy,
You're a real-life runway queen
Ready for your big debut
on the stylish fashion scene!"

This is staying out all year-round on the shelf near my sewing machine in my sewing studio 

(And love the quote on the box lid - "Pine, Douglas Fir, Artificial - I don't judge"

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Happy 50th Birthday, Rudolph!

Rudolph and Clarice
One of my favorite Christmas television movies growing up, five-year-old me first watched "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer" on our black and white TV back in 1964...and still do today.

Friday, December 05, 2014

Upcoming Jo-Ann's Pattern Sales

A Very Merry Sale - December 12/15
(Sorry--This is OOP/out of print)
Worth a search on eBay, Etsy especially
for those chair angel wings!

Burda - $2.49
Simplicity - $1.99

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Thursday Tea Time - Hot Chocolate Tea!

Cost:   $6.49 at Kroger

This week - Red Rose Simply Indulgent Chocolate Peppermint Black Tea
Cost:  $6.99 at Kroger
Number of teabags:  12 K-Cups
Caffeine:   Yes
Type of tea:   Black
Ingredients:  Sugar, Cocoa Powder (Sugar, Cocoa Processed with Alkali, Chocolate Liquor, Natural Flavor), Instant Black Tea, Non-Fat Milk Powder, Natural Peppermint Flavor, Natural Flavors, Reb A (Stevia Leaf Extract), Tricalicium Phosphate.
Add ins:  Nothing
Nutrition Facts:  Calories-45, Total Carbohydrate-11g, Sodium- 40mg, Calcium-8%
Fragrance:  Chocolate. peppermint, delicious
Opinion:  I checked out the coffee/tea aisle, a bit woebegone because apparently Dunkin Donuts is not carrying their Peppermint Mocha K-Cups this year.  During the Thanksgiving craziness at Kroger last week, they had a display of an unfamiliar brand of K-cups and I remember seeing a peppermint mocha flavor and thought I would look for that.  When I found this, I thought, "even better!" as I'm not a real coffee drinker per se.  When I got home and stuck it in the Keurig, at first I thought I grabbed hot chocolate - this is how to came out!  It tastes like peppermint hot chocolate at first, then finishes with a pleasant black tea taste.  Win-Win!  This is a nice treat, hot chocolate with the benefits of black tea.  And less than a carb serving compared to regular hot chocolate -- Very good me.  Bonus if you order online this month, here's a 25% off coupon code:  Holiday25
Rating:  5
Christmas lights reflection!
(Yup, this year I put the Phillips Christmas garland lights
along the tops of my living, dining room windows and kitchen sliding glass
doorway.  They may be still on sale at Target for 15% off,  9 feet and 20 feet)
Colored lights, of course.
Not enough time and space here to go into my diatribe against white/clear Christmas lights!

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Wednesday Work in Progress - It's Tuesday on Wednesday!

Who knew Tuesday Morning had art supplies…and DEALS on art supplies?!  Evidently not me.  For starters, I'm nuts about anything in a tin (not shown:  The Whitman's chocolates-filled Salmagundi tin I also picked up - hey, you can chew a pencil but you can't eat it).

Koh-I-Noor Mondeluz 24 Aquarelle watersoluble colored pencils, $14.99 (retail $35))
Koh-I-Noor Graphic drawing pencils 5B-5H (including an F pencil to try!), $7.99 (retail $19.75)

And bonus Martha Stewart set of 10 6mm teardrop rhinestones in Turquoise (I'm thinking raindrops or water splashes for multi-media projects?) $2.99 (retail $7.99).  Apparently Michael's used to carry them, but they've ended up at Tuesday Morning.  

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Upcoming Jo-Ann's Pattern Sales

Haha!  Their expressions!
Make your own caption!

Holiday Headstart - November 26-December 6

Butterick - 3/$5
Buttons - BIGIF
Thread - BIGIF

Super Savings Sale - December 4-6

McCall's - 3/$5
Vogue - $4.99
Simplicity - $1.99

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Thursday Tea Time - Chai Spice Mate

This week - Guayaki Yerba Mate - Chai Spice Mate

Cost:   $6.49 at Kroger
Number of teabags:  16,  individually-wrapped
Caffeine:   Yes, 20 mg per serving
Type of tea:   Herbal
Ingredients:  Guayaki Yerba Mate and all organic cinnamon, licorice, ginger, nutmeg, clove and stevia
Steeping time:  8-10 minutes
Add ins:  I thought Coffee Mate's Natural Bliss made this too sweet!  I tried SO Coconut Milk Creamer and Silk Vanilla Unsweetened Almond Milk (separately) instead.  Not good.  Then I tried evaporated milk and sugar. Nope.  Honey - made it drinkable but then that's all I could taste.  I gave up.
Fragrance:  Licorice, cinnamon, clove
Opinion:  Not that impressed.  I like my other chai teas much better.  I mailed what was left to my sister.   I loved the other two flavors I tried, so I was a bit disappointed in this one.
Rating:  1.40 - the cost of the postage to mail to my sister.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Watercolor Wednesday - Part I: Color me not really impressed (yet?)

Winsor & Newton Watercolor Marker Set - Primary
Quick sketch,  just add water?
Trying to make a green leaf!  Hmmm

Patiently I waited for a 40% off Michael's coupon…I spotted the Winsor-Newton watercolor markers a couple weeks ago, but the current store coupon at the time was 25% off.  Not when these are priced at $14.99 for 3 and $29.99 for 6.  (If you are looking for them, too, they are not in the watercolor paint section, but in the drawing and colored pencils aisle one over.)   And then this week, aha!  A 50% off one item coupon!  Ka-ching!

Of course, when I went back others must have the same idea as all the six packs were gone, leaving me to choose the Primary set of three, which has Permanent Rose, Lemon Yellow Hue and Phthalo Blue-Red Shade.

I thought this would be a good starter set, I could mix these to get the other colors on the color wheel, right?  Not really.  Evidently they want you to buy all the markers for the colors you need, as evidenced above.

I didn't think they played nicely with each other.  I thought if I laid down the color outline, I could add water and blend and spread around the pigment.  Not quite again.  You need to work fast, outline/marker, then add water.  Not sketch out first with them.  For once they dry, and dry they rapidly do, it releases some of the color but not all.

I also thought they seemed kind of dry for a paintbrush marker, particularly the Lemon Yellow Hue.   I tried to use the marker "brush" to blend with the blue to get a green, and instead the yellow marker brush was stained blue, albeit temporarily.  It eventually cleaned up - see the left side of the paper.  It also seemed the driest.  Granted I was using Arches watercolor paper, but it should not have absorbed and dried it out as soon as I tried to draw.  Not smooth at all.   These may be better suited for art journals/sketchbooks.

Permanent Rose did in fact seem "permanent" - it released some color, more of a tinting.  Not bad, but good to know if you are used to the vibrancy of Permanent Rose from the tube.

The Phthalo Blue-Red Shade seemed the most fluid, especially when still wet.  You can see the outlines of it when it dried.  Wetting the paper first then trying to "marker-paint" didn't really work either.

However, I did like the bleed-out edges of the outlines, a cool effect.  And I thought my quick drawing turned out interesting, just not what I expected.  The photograph did not really capture all the different shadings and details, which are really pretty close-up.

I was hoping to find "portable" watercolors to toss in my traveling art knapsack, along with a water brush and be good to go.  I thought they would be "paint-ier" and more fluid.   I think I will stick with my watercolor pencils (my Derwent Inktense) for portability and for adding additional colors and easier blending.  At least I can control the intensity and unwanted lines remaining a little bit better with lighter or heavier touches of color.

Right now I think their application is best for bold accents and serendipitous outcomes.  I will still play some more with these, but to rely on them alone to grab and go without my traveling palette as a back-up, I probably won't.  Not with just these three colors.   If you have the money and the coupon (which, pssst!  It is reusable, just not at the same store on the same day.) it might be nice to have.

But wait, stay tuned for Part II of my adventure with these markers.

UPDATE:  I will be at Texas Art Supply next week when they will have a Winsor & Newton representative demo-ing the markers and watercolor crayons

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Netflix Stars - Admission

3.50 stars - We thought this was a cute and quirky movie.  Is it a true rom-com?  Not really.  But it has its moments.  A bit choppy in places, but we liked the fact the ending is unexpected.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Upcoming Jo-Ann's Pattern Sales

Stock Your Sleigh Days - November 23-25

Sunday only, November 23
Butterick 3/$5
Vogue $4.99

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Thursday Tea Time - Tastes like flowery chicken

This week - Traditional Medicinals Organic Chamomile with Lavender

Cost:   $3.99 on sale at Super Target, regular price $4.89
Number of teabags:  16, individually-wrapped
Caffeine:   No
Type of tea:   Herbal
Ingredients:   All Organic chamomile flower, English lavender flower, lemon balm leaf
Steeping time:   10 minutes
Add ins:  Plain or with a splash of milk and honey.
Fragrance:   Lavender/floral
Opinion:   It has a savory, umami flavor with a pleasant lavender taste.  It actually seems even better cooled.  Very calming and nice to drink in the evening.  "Like aromatherapy for your digestive and nervous systems…"
Rating:  2.5 - especially for the health and immunity boosting benefits.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Peace inside and outside

In yoga today, we talked about ahimsa.  Ahimsa—the principles of kindness and compassion, toward yourself and others, in words, thoughts and actions. It respects living beings as a unity, the belief that all living things are connected.  

Saturday, November 08, 2014


Scored at Texas Art Supply today - a Stillman & Birn Zeta Smooth 180 pound 7" x 10" sketchbook.  Regular price $22.99, I paid $8.00!  My favorite clerk was singing the praises of the Zeta series for my watercoloring.  "You will love it," he said, "...and you can't beat the price!"

(Note to my Houston area watercolor peeps, I grabbed the last wire-bound one in this size.  However, you may want to check the Voss and Montrose locations this weekend so you can take advantage of the half-off red tag price deal items, too.  I think they are clearing out their stock, as the promotion is "while supplies last."  So if you are a Stillman & Birn fan, run over there.  They had their line from Beta to Zeta)

Friday, November 07, 2014

F These

My favorite sketching pencil for watercolor is the Staedtler Mars Lumograph pencil in "F" 
(Top one in the photo)  
It has a nice, light touch, easily erasable -- important for me!  But as I keep using and sharpening it, I wanted to stock in a supply.  Unfortunately, this is not a common degree and rather hard to find selling separately outside of the sets locally.  (I did find an online source at Dick Blick, surprisingly it was not available individually at the Staedtler website)

I thought I would try two other brands of F pencils.  I try to buy locally and support independent stores, and I found these two at Texas Art Supply.

The Prismacolor Turquoise 2260 (bottom) was very easy to sharpen, but the lead seemed harder and draggy.  This will probably live out its life as all-purpose desk pencil in the pen/pencil jar.  Bonus it is a pretty color.

The Tombow Chromo-Graph Mono (middle) took a bit longer to sharpen, but I thought it had a smoother and softer feel.

While the Mars still remains my favorite, the easier to find Tombow is a close runner-up.  
Always have a back-up plan...and a back-up pencil!

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Triple Threat

Triple Chocolate M&M Cookies

Here is another version -Fall Harvest Halloween Thanksgiving- of the Cocoa M&M Cookies from the March 1995 issue of McCall's magazine. I grabbed a bag of M&M's at Target's After Halloween Sale.  I was planning to make a double batch for a Chili Cook-Off fundraiser.  Alas, the bags are no longer two cups -- but 12.6 ounces now.  However, I made up the difference with dark chocolate chips.  I think they even turned out better and more chocolate-y!


1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened (you can easily lop off 1 1/2 tablespoons without being missed)
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup M&Ms plain chocolate candy
confectioner's sugar

Grease 3 large baking sheets. Preheat oven to 350. In medium bowl, mix flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. In large (coverable if you do this *) bowl, combine sugar and butter. At high speed beat 2 minutes or until creamy. Beat in egg and vanilla; beat 2 minutes. Beat in flour mixture. Stir in candies. (*chill 10 minutes or until dough is firm. Roll dough into 1" balls then roll in confectioner's sugar). Place 2" apart on prepared sheets. Bake 10-12 minutes. Cool.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Watercolor Wednesday Work in Progress - Pomegranates

Pair of Pomegranates watercolor
10" x 13 1/4"

Watercolor pomegranates - work in progress.  
I still need to add the seeds at the bottom and work on the background and cans a bit more.  Trying to see the colors and paint in reflections is fun - that moment when you step away and look. . .
I just think, "Wow!"  I definitely learn something each time I begin a new painting.   

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Yarrow, Part 2

Yarrow watercolor
9" x 8 1/4"
Learning to and reminding myself "Ooomp it up" and layer, layer, layer.
I went darker and rougher around and into the flowers.  Wetted the stems/leaves and then used a blend of opaque greens and let them have fun.  The opaque helped it stay pretty well on top yet it was able to move around a little.   These "nothing to lose but opportunities to have fun and learn at the same time"
It's not quite as dark black in real life as photographed, I'm actually liking it more the more I look at it.


To be honest, the only part I liked in the "before" was the upper left corner and sides where salt spilled when I tried to brush it from the flowers.

Monday, November 03, 2014

A to Z Challenge - Y is for Yarrow

Y is for Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

Historically the Yarrow herb has been used externally for treating wounds and stopping the flow of blood. Yarrow oil is also used in hair shampoos.   If you have allergies to ragweed, it may be best to avoid contact with yarrow, you may be more susceptible to a reaction.

And with this post, I am finished with the 2014 Challenge!   There were over 2,000 bloggers participating.  Click here for the link to all my posts for this Challenge.  I really learned a lot, not only about the herbs and flowers, but practicing watercolor.

Better late than never!

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Thank you

"I thank you God for most this amazing day:  for the leaping greenly spirits of trees and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything which is natural which is infinite which is yes"
~ e.e. cummings