Tasty Little Cabbages

I don’t know about you, but I grew up without ever eating a lot of vegetables.

Canned corn or green beans was about it.

Although there was that one time when my mother served cauliflower – god knows where she even got it in 1960 – and we had one of those showdowns where I sat at the table refusing to eat. And I got it served to me all the next day until both I – and it – were totally done in. I shiver to think about that!

But these days I am a true cabbage lover. A skill I acquired all on my own.

And sometimes I even CRAVE cauliflower. How weird is that?

You see, over the years I’ve been exposed to foods – and ways of cooking them – that I never knew as a kid or young adult. And boy has my taste matured!

Sooo…

I was in the market the other day and picked up some Prince Edward Island Mussels. (That’s another thing I never even tasted until just a few years ago!) What a buy these were! I got a whole big mess of them for under three bucks and came home to look for mussel recipes.

Now I know I can do them in a garlic-wine sauce and slurp them up with a piece of good, fresh bread. But what are the possibilities?

Hmmmm. A quick internet search led me to a recipe by Michael Symon (of The Chew) called Mussels and Brussels. Wow… here he is frying off a bit of bacon, adding some thinly sliced garlic, then the mussels and wine to deglaze the pan. The final addition is some whole grain mustard, shaved brussels sprouts and freshly chopped parsley.

My mouth was watering just thinking about it!

So back to the store I went to pick up some brussels sprouts – and some crusty bread.

Lo and behold, the produce department had full STALKS of brussels sprouts newly imported from Mexico!

They were a dollar more than the small withered ones in the plastic bags ($2.99 vs $1.99) so I stood there and gazed at them for a while.

Doesn’t it make sense that they would be more fresh since they hadn’t even yet come off the stalk? Seemed so to me…

So I picked up a heavily-laden stalk to take home.

I kept thinking to myself… what a prize!

And when I checked out, the guy bagging the groceries held up the monstrous stalk and asked “what in the world is this?”

I simply replied, “brussels sprouts still on the stalk…” as though I buy them everyday. Of course I do…

So, I got them home and prepared to make the mussels and brussels.

But first I had to take the sprouts – stalk and all – and take a few photos to sketch from. Never should I eat something so interesting without recording it in my sketchbook!

Here’s the sketch of the lovely but unusual version of the vegetable… (unusual unless you’re a sprout farmer!)

b sprouts

And I did make the mussels and brussels a la Michael Symon. It was just ok. Good, but only ok. I think in the future I will stick to the tried and true mussels in wine spiked with garlic. You can’t go wrong with that.

Of course I still have a big ole stalk of brussels sprouts left to use up! I’ve found several recipes where you stick the whole thing in the oven after dousing it with some olive oil and salt. It is in the oven right now!

I’ll let you know how it goes.

And in case you’re wondering… it DID take me longer to DRAW these sprouts than to eat them! Still, I’ve developed a taste for these delicate little cabbages. How great is that?

The Eli Chronicles

The sketching continues.

And I am particularly interested in doing small portrait sketches right now. Not sure why.

So I asked a Facebook friend, a guy from my old hometown, to send me a few photos. He’s a rugged looking guy and I thought it would be fun to practice on him.

Now I don’t know anything about Eli personally, but you can sure get an impression of him from his photos.

Would you say he is a bit casual about authority figures? (Not disrespectful… just casual…)

Eli 3

Or somewhat laid back?

Eli 4

But I have a feeling he is a giant teddy bear on the inside…

Eli 1

Although a teddy bear wearing Harley goggles…

Eli 2

And who knows where he goes when he rides off into the sunset?

Eli back

A lean, mean mystery man. Surely he’s an Easy Rider who loves the road…

Thanks for the pics, Eli. That was fun!

And by the way – here’s the spreads in my sketchbooks. I got a couple nice pages chalked up.

Eli group 1

Eli group2P.S. I added a “follow” button to my blog here. Find it on the lower part of the right side of the page. So if you click on it to “follow” me you’ll get a notice when a new post goes up. That way you can look at it or not, or at least catch up when you have time. I also welcome comments, so feel free to chat. And don’t worry if I disappear from time to time – I can be pretty sporadic. But I do hope you’ll stay tuned!

Free at Last!

With respect to MLK, I am not referring to civil rights here.

No, I am celebrating the fact that I finally got my steam mop fixed. By myself!

I posted here about 10 days ago that I sorely missed having a cleaning lady. A lament brought on because my new steam mop was out of order… I couldn’t get the lid off the old bottle of spray solution to put on the new bottle to refill the mop. So I cut the lid off the bottle with a Ginsu knife and went at it with the pliers. I chewed that thing to pieces and still the lid wouldn’t budge.

But I wouldn’t give up.

I left the gnarled lid and pliers on the counter and every day I would look at it and curse under my breath. Then I’d give it a few more twists with the pliers before dropping it again. This went on for a good week or so.

Then, yesterday, with one mighty effort, the thing let loose! I was shocked. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Suddenly I had the lid I needed – maybe a bit worse for wear – and it was free to put on the new bottle.

I scrambled to the pantry, screwed the lid onto the bottle and clicked it into the mop. Voila! Good to go!

I was so excited I immediately commenced cleaning the john. And believe me, few things will excite me enough to do that willingly!

Soon all was sparkling and as I mopped my way out of the bathroom, steam hissing, I just stood for a moment and almost heard the angels sing.

Is that a bit dramatic? Maybe. But you try wrestling a stuck lid with the pliers for over a week and see how victorious you feel when you win!

The way I see it, life is hard enough. I’m ready to rejoice over any achievement these days!

However, I do not claim to be June Cleaver. Which is why I spoofed myself in my sketch book over this incident…

steam mop

I had looked at some 50s advertisements and found one for Surf Washing Powder that said “I was in a fix.” That struck me funny. Of course that ad featured a woman making her man happy by cleaning, so I left the man part out. Nope to the man… it was just me and the pliers for over a week.

So that lid is free at last and I am a happy independent girl.

But if you want to visit, you should call first. I don’t have a cleaning lady so I might need to get out the steam mop and give the bath a once-over.

Creatively Fickle

I am so fickle!

I will spend months making vintage-style handkerchiefs and then suddenly I switch to knitting socks. (Yes, I knit socks!) And before you know it, I’m back into the sketching… which I am now doing as though on a mission. Mission for what? Creativity, I guess. Because that’s the one thing that makes me happy any time, any day.

That’s why I’ll have 25 sketch blog posts in a row and then drop it for months.

But all that means is that I’m off on another mission. Maybe cooking… maybe gardening… maybe making cotton dishcloths for everyone I know…

So I’m fickle. About sticking to any particular thing, that is.

The one thing you can be sure of is that I do something creative every day. I’m more than a bit obsessed with that. I will write a story, draw my lunch, salivate over colors of yarn or oil paint… But the one thing that makes me feel alive and passionate is something creative.

Meanwhile, I’ve done some un-related drawings the past couple days. But they do reflect what is going on in my world. (All be it, not a terribly exciting world!)

Lisa2First is a new sketch of my friend Lisa. This one actually turned out to look like her. Score!

Then I took a break and made some split pea soup. I LOVE split pea soup. And I was so thrilled to have all the ingredients on hand (which means I don’t have to interrupt my drawing and go to the store) that I did a sketchbook page about it.

Honestly, anything can be the subject of a sketchbook page. split pea soup

Then, I totally switched gears to sketch a new purchase I recently made… JACKS

I’m talking about the children’s game of times past with the metal jacks and red rubber ball that you bounce while you challenge yourself through a series of picking up the jacks off the floor. I loved this game as a child! Would sit on the back porch and play for hours all by myself.

I wouldn’t have recalled this game at all but one of my high school era friends on facebook posted a picture of a set of jacks with the caption… “does anyone remember these?” Yeh, I do! And I remember them being so much fun that I immediately went to Amazon and ordered a set for my “grandkid shelf” – the games and books I keep just for them when they visit. Jacks

Of course, when the jacks arrived at my door, I opened them up and sat down to play. Which meant sitting on the floor. Which is very awkward now with my two titanium knees. Which meant I couldn’t bounce the ball too high because if it got away from me, I would have a hard time chasing it.

Still, it was enjoyable. Even though it took me at least 20 tries to complete the first stage of the game… “onesies.” But I did it. And it was fun and made me smile. Now I’m drawing the jacks and putting them on the shelf for the grands.

At least when I teach them to play, they can chase the blasted runaway ball and bring it back!

But it won’t cure me of being fickle…

the Iron Man Arm

What if you were a kid born without a forearm, but good prosthetics cost upwards of tens of thousands of dollars? And you can’t get one because you’d outgrow it in six months.

Then, what if someone invented a cool super-hero style robotic arm that is only a few hundred dollars? And they let you pick whether you want a Transformer arm… a Blue Man arm… or even an Iron Man arm!

Take a look at this video to see how the original Iron Man is passing on the glory to a kid who wants to be like him…

Thanks to a group of engineering students at a Florida college, this project is taking off. And yes, they could turn it into a commercial success and charge whatever they want for these robo-arms. But they haven’t done that. One student commented, “who should make money off a kid who needs an arm?” I can’t tell you how that comment wakes up my hippy-dippy sensibilities! Bravo to the students who donate their skills and time to do this!

And listen to this…

One father said that the questions his kid gets have completely changed since he got the new arm.

Old questions: What happened to your arm? Did a shark bite it off? Did you get run over by a car? Were you just born weird?

New questions: You are so cool… where did you get that arm? How does it work? Show us what you can do! Do you have super powers??

Now if that doesn’t make the whole project worthwhile, I don’t know what would.

iron man arm So that’s my sketchbook entry for today.

I love it because one kid said he can’t wait to high-five everyone he knows (and he thinks that will probably be at least 106 people!) Another said he wants to give his mom a real hug with two hands. And a 12-year-old said it would sure be nice to ask a pretty girl to dance and be able to put one arm around her while leading with the other…

You can read more about this project on their facebook page, Limbitless Solutions. They are looking for engineers, designers and artists to contribute and expand the project.

I hope you all are having an inspired day!

Sketching Today

Hmmm… I’m wearing myself out sketching of late.

It turns out that even though I haven’t forgotten totally how to draw, my so-called “quickie portrait sketches” are neither quick or all that accurate. I’m a bit bummed about it, but I guess you always have to earn your stripes and I haven’t done any portrait work in quite a while. So now I have to get back in practice. Hrumph!

Today I decided to practice on myself. And since it is much too painful (and depressing) to look in the mirror for long, I pulled up a few photos from the last couple years and worked from those. I have one sitting with a glass on wine in Italy… another at the beach in Florida… and a third being a goofball. There was limited choice because I don’t much like my picture taken. I always look at such photos and wonder who that’s supposed to be. Me? Really? Surely that can’t be me looking like that! Who is that gray-haired lady with the double chin? Not me… starr sketches

But drawing myself was rather easy. I thought all 3 sketches went fairly quick and actually did look like me…

So then, one of my Facebook friends, Lisa, posted a new profile photo today. We’ve never actually met in person but have been online friends for years. And her new photo was stunning. She is looking great and has the world’s cutest haircut! So I messaged her and asked if I could use her new photo to practice on.

She said yes, but that meant I had to do something respectable. Again… hmmm. It turned out just OK – but is a bit wonky. And that isn’t all so unusual.

You see, when I try to do likenesses, I don’t always nail them the first time. What usually happens is that I work on them to the point that I can no longer see my mistakes. And then I have to quit because it is useless to keep going. That’s where I’m at with Lisa. (and with the one of my Dad yesterday.) But if I put it away for a day or two, I can go back and see it with fresh eyes.

Then, all of a sudden, the nose that is the wrong shape – or the eyes that are not the right distance apart – jump right off the page at me. And I’m always so surprised that I ask myself, “what were you thinking?” Look at that mess you made! Now fix it! And I do if I can.

lisaAnyway… here’s Lisa. I may have to go back and adjust it later since I can’t quite tell right now.

I guess what I need to do is not post for a couple days so I can let things sit and rest before I try to post them here. That way you don’t see the original screwy version that needs edited. And I don’t insult someone by making them look like an alien version of themselves…

Also, I was talking to my daughter Ellyn today. She is Josey’s mother – and you know I’ve been trying to draw Josey correctly for a couple days now. Ellyn, of course is my best – and worst – critic. She has a good eye and is always honest with me. Very honest. And while I usually agree with her, sometimes it is a bit brutal.

I didn’t know if Ellyn had seen the Josey sketches because we hadn’t talked about it. Turns out she had.

And she didn’t think they looked like Josey either.

Well, I knew that…

Then, with her usual forthright insight, she asked, “Why aren’t you working from a better photo?”

I can’t tell you how that hit  me!

Yes, an ideal photo will give the best results, but I liked that photo of Josey. I did think the angle of the face was difficult to deal with because it made her nose look out of proportion to begin with. But I want to be able to work from all angles! And that can be a challenge in a small sketch because just the width of a pencil line can make a nose or mouth look all wrong. I know that and I want to do it anyway. And it can drive me crazy.

Maybe some artists pick up a pencil or a brush and beautiful things just flow out the other end, but not me. I struggle with it. Some days are better than others. And right now I’m like a rusty old nail that is long out of practice.

I don’t need perfection. I just want to do lively drawings full of character. Maybe they don’t look right on, but I want them to be spontaneous and charming and somehow perfectly imperfect. And that seems to be easier said than done. So until I run completely out of steam, I’ll fill up my little books and practice, practice, practice.

Back to the Drawing Board

OK… back to the drawing board today.

Yesterday was a bust… art-wise.

Josey5I tried to draw Josey numerous times and not a single one looked anything like her!

What???

So I tried again today. It turned out a bit better. But not all that much. Not sure why, but I’ll keep trying. Meanwhile, here’s today’s effort.

Then, since I am realizing I am a very “rusty” artist and need to practice a whole lot more, I decided to do a sketch of my dad.

First let me say this…

I am 63 years old. And I still have my dad. He is 83. And he is in pretty good health! He lives in his own home, washes his car more times than I would ever dream of, and mows his yard umpteen times a year. In fact, he records his yard-mowing on his calendar. Has for years.

Now he’s a funny guy (which is where I get my own “funni-ness!”) so he writes “mode” on the calendar every time he cuts the grass. And believe me, he is thorough about it. One year he said he “mode” every month but February… in Ohio! I’m tellin’ ya, when you pull up to his house, it looks like he clipped the lawn with scissors.

But my daddy is not just a grass-cutting ninja in his golden years… he is a serious ninja from times past…

Take a look at this sketch I did of him today. DadSee those blue eyes?

Ha! I have those eyes. (And so do my sons and one of my grand daughters.) But we do not know how to use those eyes like he did!

Nope… his eyes were WEAPONS!

In my growin’ up years, he would turn those eyes on me and I would melt under his gaze. Had I done something I shouldn’t? Had I even thought about it?

If so, I would run screaming from the room and confess to all manner of sins committed or briefly considered.

Please, God, forgive me for even having such thoughts!

But that was the power of a good daddy in those days. He knew how to use his strength and I knew how to respect it. It made me a good girl. No matter what the temptation. (So for all those juicy boys I knew in high school… now you know why I was able to resist you! I was skeered to death of my papa! And now you know how to train your own daughters and grand daughters!)

Anyway… my daddy was also one heck of a musician. He played the mandolin. He taught my brother to play the guitar when he was a wee bit of a thing. And when we were young adults, my family had a band… The Pleasant Mountain Boys, from Lancaster Ohio. The core group of the band was my grand dad, Lawrence Featheroff, my dad, Ralph Tipton, and my brother, Larry Tipton. And over the years and various incarnations of the band, others joined them to play the most wonderful bluegrass, down-home music you ever heard in your life. They made a number of recordings and all of those who knew them at the time spent every weekend “following the band” to wherever they played.

My dad was known as “the Roadhog” – not sure why now. And all the guys had nicknames I can no longer recall. Isn’t that crazy? It really wasn’t all that long ago…

Meanwhile, I’m sketching my father today and recalling his talent and wishing him a very, very, very long life. His talent will always live on… and I hope mine does, too.

May you all have fond memories of your own families today of both times past and future!

Bad Day at the Drawing Board (but That’s Life!)

Remember that old Sinatra song, “That’s Life”??? It goes like this…

That’s life (that’s life), that’s what all the people say
You’re ridin’ high in April, shot down in May
But I know I’m gonna change that tune
When I’m back on top, back on top in June

Well, it isn’t May, yet, but I sure got shot down today.

At the drawing board, that is.

You see, I was wanting to do some sketches of my grand daughter Josey today. She is 14. She is beautiful. She is a love of my life. And I wanted to get her down in my sketch book again.

Because I have in the past…

Here’s a sketch from 2006 when she was about 5 or 6. It is in my very first everyday sketchbook when I started doing little drawings on a regular basis.

Josey 2006

Isn’t she the cutest?

Then a couple years ago, she fell off her bike and broke both her wrists! And yes, my gorgeous grand daughter is a monumental clutz. Always has been. From the time she could walk, she fell down as much as she went forward…

Josey arms

But oh how I love her! And what a delight it is to see her grow up – and mature – and torture her mother to death like her mother once tortured me! hahaha!

BUT… today has been a disastrous drawing day. I was able to make a couple quickie sketches of the Jo-bear that I liked. Here she is sitting in a booth at one of my brother’s restaurants… and by the pool when we went for an overnight adventure last December…

Josey sketches 2015

Then I tried to do a serious drawing to showcase her special look. It turned out terrible. Looked nothing like her. And I actually cut the first one right out of the book and threw it away. Surely I could do better the second time around….

Nope… second attempt was another disaster.

What? Did I really forget how to draw? I’ve been doing portraits for nigh on 30 years… what happened?

I don’t know, but I got out a pad of drawing paper and started going rogue freehand. Surely I can get a glimpse of my precious Josey that way. So here’s attempt #1…

Jo1

And attempt #2

Jo2

And attempt #3

Jo3

And attempt #4

Jo4

Now don’t even tell me what’s wrong with these drawings… some have fat cheeks, some have a too-big nose (her nose is long, but not BIG) and I don’t even know why I can’t get it to look like her!!!

Well call the squad because I’ve done lost my cotton-pickin’ mind. And I can’t remember how to draw.

So I cut out the photo I was working from and pasted it right in the dadgum sketchbook.

Josey failure

So there.

Pfttt…

I’m quitting drawing for the day and going to play Facebook games. How ’bout a little Farm Heroes or Pepper Panic or Candy Crush? How much skill does that take? Probably more than I have right now, but don’t call and check… I’ll be yelling BINGO!! when the blitz hits… I’m a failure at the drawing board today.

Hopefully I recover tomorrow.

Hey, I know – why don’t I just paint apples or petunias – nobody knows if those look like they really should!

Yeh, that’s it. I’ll go do fruit bowls and y’all will think I’m wonderful and won’t realize what a putz I am.

Ugh… back to the drawing board in a day or two.

Sorry Josey. You are so beautiful and I couldn’t do you justice. But I will soon… Love you bunches my precious one!

Everybody else, stay tuned. I’m just having a bad day – but why shouldn’t I post that as well?

As Frank Sinatra so eloquently serenaded… That’s Life…

And hopefully I’ll be back on top in June….

Marvelous Marinara

If I am obsessed about anything… it has to be TOMATOES.

I love to eat them.

I love to grow them.

I love to paint them.

I love to cook them.

I truly think I have the heart and soul of an Italian. Because besides fresh tomatoes – which are delightful to eat right off the vine – the next best thing is marinara sauce. Who can live without it?? I can’t…

Now I only grow a few plants. Honestly, if you grow them right, a few plants will produce enough tomatoes for a family. And that’s all I can be responsible for. I would feel guilty if I had enough of the ruby fruits for an army. God forbid any go to waste.

So I also grow some parsley, oregano and basil. And when they all come ripe, I pick until I swoon with the fragrance of the Italian saints. I pretend I’m my grandmother while I harvest everything into my upfolded apron and bring it all into the house. Then I plan how to preserve the bounty until the next growing season. What a joy!

So here’s how I make marinara…

marinara

Of course this happened last fall and I’m just now getting it recorded into my sketchbook. No matter…

There’s time to grow tomatoes… and there’s time to DRAW tomatoes. I am fortunate enough to do both as time permits.

And just think… I’ve been eating these harvested fruits all winter and soon it will be time to plant the garden again.

Thanks be to God for the blessing of TOMATOES!!!

PS… I just realized that I made a similar post late last August called “the Tomatoes Won’t Wait!” – complete with some of the same photos…. Sigh… I guess that just proves how much I love tomatoes! I really can’t help myself about them…

Spring is Coming!

Oh how I love Spring!!!

However, it sneaks up on me like a cat stalking a mouse. I wait and wait for it to get here and then all of a sudden it has come and gone! Of course, I’m never TOTALLY oblivious. The trees do come to life with the most gorgeous pastel blooms… all shades of pink and white and lavender. And I delight in cherry blossoms and tulips pushing their dainty heads above ground. Then there are grape hyacinths and phlox and sand cherry florets. Those can hardly be ignored.

I also adore the lily of the valley. Even if it throws me into conniptions of sneezing. Man, that tiny sprig has an almighty powerfulness about it! One little stalk in a vase on your work desk will let you know all day who’s taking over the room! Much as I love it, I would have to take the clipping to the far side of my work area so it didn’t drive my nose bonkers!

But the highlight of the spring season – beyond flowers – is the Morel Mushroom! My dad called them “sponges” and would take us out to the woods to hunt for them. Sadly, I could rarely find them. I knew what they looked like, but they hid – incognito- in their shrouded little place among the base of trees and fallen logs.

Now here’s the thing… I think you either have a talent for finding the morels or you don’t. I once had a neighbor lady who was so good at hunting them that here’s what she did… she would actually have her husband drive her around on rural county roads while she hung her head out the window in search of morels. Every once in a while she would yell “stop!” and he did…

She was a little mite of a thing while he was a big ole brute. So he would stay in the car while she raced out and disappeared into the woods. Soon she would be back with a load of morels that would shame a priest into confession. In fact, she always got so many, that as long as I was her neighbor, she gave me a mess of them, too! Glory be, they were wonderful!

But that was many years ago and I haven’t had a taste of a morel in more than a decade. Some years ago I did come across them in a locally owned grocery. I saw them and stopped dead in my tracks. Morels? For sale in the grocery? Really?

Yep – and only $12.99 a pound.

Huh???

Well, I had to have some, so I put a few in a plastic produce bag and held my breath at the checkout.

Funny enough, they weigh almost nothing, so a dozen or so was less than a couple bucks. Sure wish I could find those again – I’d buy a whole big bunch!!!

Anyway, it is almost SPRING. And all the delights that come with it are on the way. And whether or not I have any lilies-of-the-valley… OR… morel mushrooms… I’ll be doing my annual once-a-year happy dance. I dearly love SPRING for so many reasons. And I do get to wondering these days how many more springs I have left.. which truly makes each one all the more precious to me! And here’s my sketch for today in honor of spring being almost here…

lilys2

So if you are an Ohio-an like me… run outside when the temps get above freezing. Watch for the bulbs to start blooming. Enjoy the creek waters rising higher and the mushrooms poking their spongy heads above ground.

And if you know anyone who hunts morels and has a sweet spot or honey hole where they find more than they can use – tell them I need a stash of those delightful morsels to remind me how fun life can be when the earth comes back to life after the winter freeze.

Viva le Spring!

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