Thursday, March 31, 2016

Thursday Tea Time - Traveling Texas

This week - Tea is For Texas Farmers' Market Series - "Texas 'Dirty' Chai" from the Independence Coffee Co.

Price:  $3.99 - $4.99  at HEB
Size:  1 ounce
Caffeine:   Oh my, YES!
Type of Tea:    Black
Steeping time:  4 minutes
Mix ins:  Coffee Mate Sweet Italian Cream Sugar Free
Fragrance:  Cinnamon, spicy, coffee - Mmmmm!
Ingredients:  Black tea, cinnamon, cloves, orange peel made 'dirty' with crushed coffee beans added
Opinion:   What a great way to wake up in the morning and when you need a jumpstart later in the day.  It is tea with a kick.  In a 1, 2, 3 - you get cinnamon, spices and then coffee flavors, and you can't stop sipping it.  I have "exported" this so far to friends in Australia and New York.    I will also be posting reviews about their coffee K-Cups called Indie Shots, keeping in mind, I'm not a huge coffee fan, but I am of theirs.  Madalyn's Backyard Pecan?  Old New Orleans Creme Brûlée?  Seriously.   (Local Houstonians - not all HEB's carry the tea and the K-cups, whole and ground coffee. The HEB on Dunlavy has the tea and the K-cups.  The Sugar Land/Highway 6/90A has the coffees.  Get your store manager to order for you or at least look up and see which store does.  And I'm also usually grabbing the last box of Creme Brûlée - it's a mover, so if you see it, try to restrain yourself and leave one behind if you can!  Just kidding, the more y'all buy, the more they will make and sell.  Win-win-win.)
You can order online via the Independence Coffee website or H-E-B's website  Also if you are heading to Brenham looking for bluebonnets, here's two coffee shops to check out which also sell the line.
Must Be Heaven (oh my, they have pie too!?)
107 W. Alamo St.
Brenham, TX 77833
(979) 830-8536
Park Street Bakery (their website is under construction, but check out both of these places on Facebook!)
112 S. Park St.
Brenham, TX 77833
(979) 836-6122
Rating:  5!  And now you have more fun and yummy places to check out in Texas - Hello Roadtrip!
See? Coffee Beans!

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Watercolor Wednesday - Sheepish

Suffolk Sheep
13 3/4" x 10 1/4"
This was a lot of fun to paint.  Actually from a grainy black and white photocopy.
Good practice for painting from value sketches and notans. . .Reminding me to grab that sketchbook and preplan. . .and to paint it/have fun with different colors as long as you keep the value.  
And further proof in my art medium learning journey, it all starts to work together.

We were working on saving the white - this time with lots of frisket.  And discovering this cool little tool to use to remove it.  A rubber cement eraser.  No more hot fingers and fingertip blisters.  It looks/feels like the bottom of a crepe-soled shoe.

I did not use the frisket on the sheep, rather just the grass stalks and random areas and shapes.

The sheep was inspired by goats in a barn "Buckshot and Sparkplug"  in Judi Betts' book, "Watercolor: Let's Think About It"  wherein she saved a lot of white space and then added pops of color in the same value.  The important thing was to mute those saved areas to make the sheep stand out.   I think he does!

I seem to have a sheep theme going on here . . . And a considerable improvement/different style from last year's sheep flock.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Tea for Tuesday - Breakfast Time!

This week's Two Teas Tuesday from Australia - Breakfast Teas!

Dilmah and Daintee - English Breakfast Teas

The Daintee tea was part of a three pack gift set I found at the Australian Target store for AUS$15 and it included this very useful tea-bag tong.  Bonus!    I will be reviewing the other two teas next week.
Such pretty boxes, too!
Batting for the other team is Dilmah Exceptional English Breakfast Real Leaf Tea -

Let's do the comparison!

Being part of a gift set, there were only 10 tea bags.  But I now have a cool set of tea tongs and the boxes are very pretty.
First the sniff test - the teabag was nondescript.  No outstanding notes.  Once brewed, the tea had a slight smokey/tobacco-y scent.  Not overwhelming but distinct from the Dilmah.  But look! Inside is a Taylors English Breakfast Tea packet!
Dilmah is loose inside a foil sealed bag, and Daintee is individually wrapped Taylors?!
Taylor's of Harrogate? Sweet!
Seriously, I need to wear my glasses - I see it on the box now
I am just in love with Dilmah Teas.  I tried it for the first time on Qantas, the hotel had a tea chest filled with different flavors. I was very excited to try their English Breakfast.  I tried the Dilmah first and actually said aloud, "I like that!"  The fragrance was tea-like and bright.  Almost fruitier compared to Daintee.

Here they are brewed side by side -
Slight intensity edge to the red colorwise to Daintee/Taylors on the right
Golden to Dilmah on the left
My final take - When I go back to Australia I'm grabbing the Dilmah!  Both were very good on their own.  But direct, sip-by-sip comparison - it's Dilmah.

Garden Update - New plants and flowers! Put up Purple!

Some days you can just hit it right in the Lowe's clearance section. . .after weeks of coming up bupkus, we walked out hands full of pretty purple posies!

Two hanging baskets in our kitchen garden -
Lobelia erinus

Sutera x hybrida
It says the Bacopa can take full sun and the Lobelia morning sun.  I may end up switching their positions.  Right now the Bacopa is on the right.  Both baskets were only $5 each.  I like the shades of purple in both.

The Columbine is a first for the front garden.  This was marked down to $3.

We also picked up Creeping Phlox for $1.  It looked a little less photogenic, but we are willing to give it a chance.  

Creeping Phlox

And this other little purple-flowered plant, which the tag was missing.  If anyone has any idea what it is, let me know!
Mystery plant which looks like tiny violets

Slightly drooping

“...and so many colors
I will have seen...
the menacing greys
and pine greens
the soft pink and purples
of spring
and summer blue
and so many others
without you.” 
― Sanober KhanA touch, a tear, a tempest

Monday, March 28, 2016

Milkweed Seed Pod Monday. . .

Actually snapped these photos yesterday before the storm winds blew in.  My neighbors love me!  But so do the monarch butterflies and caterpillars. . .

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Happy Hoppy Easter - Peep Out

Fun with making watercolor Easter greeting cards!  Paper used was Bristol Smooth, which helped make fun edges.

5" x 3 1/2"

7 1/2" x 5 1/2"

8" x 5 1/4"

4 1/2" x 3 1/2"

Saturday, March 26, 2016

March Monarch Madness

We've been seeing Monarch butterflies flitting about in this spring-like weather and subsequently, more caterpillars munching on asclepia and salvia!

Look carefully, you can see two!
(one newly hatched in the background)

I haven't seen this many monarch caterpillars in years! Hopefully this is good sign they are trying to make a comeback.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Texas Bluebonnet

Texas bluebonnet in Sonora, Texas.  Some sources say when the white part of the flower turns red, it has been pollinated by a bee.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Should I Stay or Should I Go - The Clash Blues

Winsor & Newton Blue (Red Shade)

(My apologies to all those who landed here because of The Clash)

In my naiveté purchasing watercolor tubes when presented with a supply list, I didn't know there was a difference between Winsor Blue Green shade and Winsor Blue Red Shade.   I had several tubes of colors to buy and just saw the "Winsor Blue..." and put it in my basket.

As a constant reminder, getting asked "Why do you have the Red Shade? and taking up valuable palette real estate space - I decided to do a paint-off.

Ugh.  I now understand.  This color - shade - isn't so great.  It looks dull, doesn't granulate.

Winsor Blue(Green)  on the left is much prettier!
"This indecision's (no longer) bugging me"

Not here "Until the end of time"

Especially when you have these French Ultramarines --

I love them both - The Daniel Smith on the left is a recent acquisition. 

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Thursday Tea Time - "...not later than a quarter past four." ~ C.S. Lewis

This week - Twinings English Afternoon Tea 

Price:  $3.39  Central Market, Kroger, HEB
Size:  20 individually wrapped tea bags
Caffeine:   Yes
Type of Tea:    Black
Steeping time:  3 minutes
Mix ins:  Silk Caramel Almond Creamer, Natural Bliss
Fragrance:  Very pleasant, reminds me of tea party tea.
Ingredients:  Keemun and Ceylon black teas
Opinion:   I like this tea!  Especially in the afternoon when I start to lag.  Though I also drank it in the morning because, well, I've also drank English Breakfast tea in the afternoon and the world didn't stop spinning.  It has a very bright taste and not quite as much caffeine - 3 leaves Afternoon versus 4 leaves Breakfast.   It has a slightly sweet taste, which goes well with my new tea partners - Silk Vanilla Almond Creamer and Silk Caramel Almond Creamer.  I still like my Natural Bliss, but these are another alternative if you are watching sugar/carbs and fat. Interesting to note on the Twinings website they recommend not using a microwave to boil your water.  (No problem there, since I acquired my Chantal electric teakettle, which oddly boils water faster than a microwave.)
Rating:  4 - Will definitely buy this again.

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Watercolor Wednesday - Still Standing

Light and Shadow
9" x 12 1/2"
Lots of good lessons learned here.  Most importantly, when doing a still life and you are seated, stand up to correct and adjust perspective (bottle opening and handle).  I was really happy with the lids and the glass bottle, and the dash of green to make it pop a little more.  I'm getting over my fear of the dark (shadows).

Monday, March 07, 2016

Painting Triad

Painting with O'Keeffe
John D. Poling
ISBN:  0-89672-381-X

I hate to even tag this with the "Good Books" label, but it was an informative read.  Perhaps the additional, "Screw You Department" will also suffice.

I found this book at the library, at the end of my favorite go-to shelves of 740-759.  (Watercolor 751.422)  The title, "Painting with O'Keeffe" and a quick flip through made it sound interesting enough to check out.  However, it was not what I thought it would be.

To begin with, Poling is not the best book writer.  No offense and I am a fast reader, it took about 30 minutes to decide to keep reading.  If you can stay with it, you'll learn about some the eccentricities  of artists and their orbiting realm of people.  Friendship, jealousy, accusations, bitterness.  Usually the makings of a romance novel.  Not of an attempting tell-all.  What was Poling trying to accomplish?  Other than to tell his side of the story perpetuated by O'Keeffe and Juan Hamilton.  I honestly thought  the paintings' titles "A Day with Juan" was about John Poling - an endearing nickname O'Keeffe had for him?  Wrong!

You may just want to skip through until you get to the painting part, which is a good lesson applicable to artists of any medium.  Seeing how O'Keeffe planned her paintings and a shout-out reference to the Pigment chapter of Max Doerner's "The Materials of the Artist and Their Use in Painting" was an interesting peek behind the curtain for me.
The pettiness and resentfulness on all the players' parts - not so much.  Why is it necessary to bring this up over 20 years later?  How is this relevant beyond proving the naiveté of the 70's and someone trying his hand to claim of fame.  Without context, what is truth?

Be sure to read the two articles by Hope Aldrich from The Santa Fe Reporter in the Appendix (B & C)  You may want to read them first, then the book and come to your own opinion.
(And learn how to say, "Abiquiu")

Sunday, March 06, 2016

Sunday Sketchbook - Wheeee-l!

I have been going to Open Studios each week, and we have been watching Ken Hosmer's DVD series, with the opportunity to learn new techniques, experiment, paint, discuss and have a great time.
This week we began his "More Dynamic Color" and we saw how he set up his color wheel and the colors he uses.  Most of us had most of the colors he used, if not, there was a substitute chart and we could complete a close-enough one.  Of course, any excuse is a good excuse to go paint shopping. . .

I wanted to set up a separate, more limited than my class palette to experiment with his unique combinations.

It was difficult to find a palette in the store, which had wells for 13 with room for  3 smaller ones/areas.  And in a circle so it would make it easier for me to understand and play along with different color exercises.
So I made my own!

I found these storage cubes at Hobby Lobby for $1.99.  Good thing I got two packages, for I thought/assumed each box had its own lid.  No, only two at the top of each stack.  But you know, the stack would also be a cool way to carry a limited palette of paint vertically, too. . .  Yes, very good indeed I bought extra.

10 containers - 2 lids
I just saw storage boxes and assumed they each had lids
Then I dug around the upper shelves in my kitchen for a Dollar Tree Christmas plate, I had bought a few several years ago to take treats to parties and not have to worry about losing my good stuff.  Funny, but every one always returned these along with a compliment for such a pretty and must be a good plate!  The "gold" trim and paint really stayed nice, go figure.
Bonus this plate has a recessed white center for mixing.

I hot glue-gunned (low melt) the boxes and three of the lids on the plate.  
Love my Brother PTouch label maker!
For some reason I put Winsor Green paint in the Winsor Blue (Green) box.  No biggie, I pulled off the boxes to switch (and they removed easily) and I reglued them. 

Looking good here!
I probably need to add more yellow to the Yellow-Orange Mix and Yellow-Green Mix
It was pretty dominated by the red and the green when I was mixing them.

My version of Ken Hosmer's color wheel palette!   He does use pretty colors, doesn't he?  It will be easier for me to visualize and use the paints for the different color exercises instead of spinning my main palette around or trying to make room on it with dabs of the other colors I haven't used before.   I bought the Permanent Magenta at Hobby Lobby and just love it.

I've had eye-opening fun so far just playing around after watching the DVD, putting combinations together I never would have before, just by seeing and working with a (more) limited palette and putting the color wheel to good use.  I will post those exercises and experiments separately.

But in the meantime, I'm really happy with my color wheel plate!  Using and playing with new colors and combinations is a real treat...and calorie free!

Saturday, March 05, 2016


All of our gorgeous weather has encouraged an early leaf out on our Celeste fig tree.  (Bonus ladybug)

Thursday, March 03, 2016

Thursday Tea Time - Gone Girl

When I visited Baton Rouge a few years ago, I found two interesting spice/coffee/tea places --

Red Stick Spice Company and Highland Coffees

At the time of my visit, their future existence was uncertain - but I was glad to check and see on their Facebook pages...Yes!  They are still open and seem to be thriving.

And --
the tea I bought is still good  (I do store my loose-leaf teas in an airtight container)
And --
if you are unable to order directly/or still carried by these places/or take a trip to Baton Rouge, I found what I think are the brands online or you can check your local stores.  I'm all about keeping the independents going, so give these guys a try first or support your local tea and coffee shops.

Pear Caramel Truffle
Red Stick Spice Company
Doppelgänger - Mighty Leaf Tea "Pear Caramel Truffle"
but their website says it is currently unavailable.

Pear is not a strong flavor to begin with, but I did detect a slight fruitiness.  You can definitely smell and taste the chocolate and cacao bits and it has a sweet finish.  However, it is not a strong mug of tea.  (That could also be because of the age.)  This flavor may have been discontinued as the last review on their website was from 2009.  (Eeesh, which trip/year did I go to Baton Rouge and find this?  Perhaps the campus tour for LSU.)  However, pears and caramel and chocolate go together so well, I'm sure another company would create/sell it eventually.  Or you can play around and create your own with other pear and chocolate teas.  Kudos to the combo inspiration.
Rating:  If you can find it again or find a fresher batch, I'd give this 3.  In the meantime, I will play around with my other teas.

Passion & Envy

Highland Coffees
Doppelgänger - SerendipiTea "Passion & Envy"

This held up very, very well and it was the one I brought back to the couch with me to sip some more.
I'm pretty sure this is the same tea - it looks like a green tea.   Plus for healthy.  A very fruity tea (I seem to detect pineapple, too!), tastes great without anything added.  And I bet would be great iced.
Rating:  4  I would seek this out again - and go back to Highland Coffees.  And that beignet place - Coffee Call.  They don't have a website, but look them up on Trip Advisor.  I've never seen powdered sugar piled so high on the beignets and the plate!  Tip:  Don't wear dark clothes!

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Watercolor Wednesday - Make it Rain!

Working on using low lighting, reflections and rain.  Coincidently that morning it rained, so weather and learning opportunity were combined to create this painting.

Houston Rain
11 3/4" x 9 1/4"
I used a dry sea sponge to drag across the still damp painting to create rain effect.  It was also interesting to learn and put into paint reflective shadows -- using the law of reflection... angle of incidence and the angle of reflection.  (Stay in physics class, kids!  Or take a watercolor class with a great teacher!)  

And I learned that greens get greener in the rain.  Notice that next time you are out in the rain!

Here is a page from my sketchbook playing around with different techniques to scratch out rain with darker colors painted over light colors (I used gouache as the bottom layer color).  Notice how the rain appears darker over the light colors and light in the dark colors.  Cool effects!

Gouache and acrylic colors used Holbein, American Journey and Acryla - Periwinkle, Deep Yellow, Lavender, Neutral Gray, Pat's Coastal Blue.

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Tea for Tuesday - Higher Living

This week from Australia - Higher Living Cocoa and Chilli (not a typo)
Or - Sweet Chilli in the USA

I think this flavor may only be available in Australia, even though the bottom of the box says "Imported by Tenth Dot Business Development" (cute logo)...and "Only Natural Products" in --- SAN ANTONIO?!  Yes, 1045 Central Parkway North.  But made in the United Kingdom.
You can find the different label/name (same tea/ingredients) here.  I believe I have seen it in Whole Foods or Central Market.
Cool logos, the box tells the story

Size:  15 teabags
Caffeine:   No
Type of Tea:    Herbal
Steeping time: 4-5 minutes (I kept hitting the microwave power button instead of the timer button, sorta-kinda nuking my Girl Scout Thanks a Lot cookies.  Oops.
Mix ins:  Doesn't need anything.  In fact, when I added just pain 2% milk, it made it terrible.
Fragrance:  Slight chocolate fragrance
Ingredients:  Cocoa, licorice, chilli (15%), ginger, cinnamon, fennel, anise, black pepper, Bourbon vanilla, cardamom, cloves.
Opinion:   At first I thought it had stevia (thank you licorice and anise), as it tasted very sweet like stevia.  But the other flavors were muted.  I think I would make it again with two teabags.  It also brewed disconcertingly cloudy.  It did have a nice bit of spicy heat, which was kind of neat.  While it was cheap in Australia, I believe it is close to $5-6/box. Given the fact you may want to use two teabags, it puts it more on the expensive side here.  Bonus it is caffeine free and organic, so if you'd like a spicy pick me up in the afternoon, this would be good mug.
Rating: 2 (Goes to work with hubby