Month: August 2012

Where Magic Happens

Sometimes you have to leave your comfort zone to make magic happen. Today I left my comfort zone, slapped a variety of colors of paint on my paper, tilted the paper to encourage the colors to run together, and came up with this wildly intense background.

Those are roses I’ve sketched (the shiny areas are masking fluid). Can I take a traditional subject like roses and combine them with this wild background and come up with something magical? Only time will tell….

Puppy Antics

This is Dexter, our Pomeranian/Dachshund mix puppy. Look at that sweet, innocent face. What lies behind such cuteness, such pure innocence?

A little monster! That WAS a new magazine I just received in the mail today but failed to keep out of his reach.

Look at that mess! And what does a little monster do when he’s caught in the act?

He gives me a little wink and a smile. So what did I do? Why, I ripped the remaining pages out of my magazine, crinkled them into little balls, and tossed them to him for a game of fetch. Who am I to ruin his fun? Cost of an hour’s fun: about $4.00. Playtime spent with my puppy: priceless.

Weekend Chef: How to Make Eggplant Parmesan

In my last post, I showed you how to refashion zucchini into mock apple cobbler. In this post I’ll show you how to turn these beautiful eggplants into this amazing eggplant Parmesan.

Doesn’t this look delish? Here’s how I did it:

Eggplant Parmesan

2 medium eggplants, peeled and sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
2-3 eggs, beaten
Italian bread crumbs (I used Progresso)
1 12-oz package of sliced provolone cheese (I used Sargento)
Olive oil
Spicy roasted red pepper and sausage marinara sauce (recipe below)

Heat several tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy skillet. Dip the eggplant slices into the beaten eggs and dredge in the bread crumbs. Fry 3-4 slices at a time over medium heat. Cook several minutes on both sides until golden brown. Repeat with remaining eggplant slices. Replace the olive oil when the bits of bread crumbs on the bottom of the pan begin to burn (about every other batch). Drain eggplant on paper towels. To assemble the dish, spoon a thin layer of marinara sauce on the bottom of an 8-inch square baking dish, add a layer of eggplant, followed by more marinara sauce, and a layer of provolone cheese. Repeat layers until the dish is full (2-3 layers deep). Top with cheese. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees until the cheese is golden brown and the edges are bubbling. Cool for 15-20 minutes before serving. Cut into squares.

Spicy Roasted Red Pepper and Sausage Marinara Sauce
(My own concoction–an easy and fabulous almost homemade sauce)

1 16-oz. roll of spicy Italian ground sausage (I used Bob Evans), browned and drained
1 26-oz. jar of spaghetti sauce (I used Prego)
1 15-oz. can of Manwich sauce (for a little extra zest)
1 12-oz. jar of roasted red peppers (pureed in a blender with their liquid)
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 onion, peeled and diced
1 green pepper, seeded and diced
A bunch of fresh basil, chopped (the more the merrier)
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon truffle oil
1/2 tablespoon brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan and simmer over medium heat. You can use this sauce when it’s heated through, but I prefer to simmer it slowly until the color deepens to a deep, rich red and the sauce almost scorches on the bottom of the pan. Watch it carefully, stirring often, to make sure it doesn’t burn.

Serve the eggplant Parmesan with a Caesar salad (mixed salad greens, shredded Parmesan Reggiano cheese, garlic croutons, diced ham, green peas, and Caesar dressing) and garlic bread or Texas toast.

Doesn’t this look amazing?

Give this a try and let me know what you think. Don’t cheat and use just a jar of store-bought spaghetti sauce. Take the extra time to doctor it up the way I did into a really delicious sauce. A good sauce really makes this dish. Enjoy!

What Does a Renegade Seamstress Do With a Zucchini?

She turns it into apple cobbler! That’s what Beth, the Renegade Seamstress did. If you haven’t visited Beth’s website before, be sure to check it out. You’re in for a real treat. Not only is Beth an expert at refashioning thrift store clothing into adorable outfits, she also shares step-by-step do-it-yourself instructions for each project, and other unique refashion tips, like turning zucchini into apple cobbler–she’s a regular renegade refashionista!

Zucchini cobbler may sound like a strange concoction, but after reading Beth’s post and her descriptions of her family’s rave reviews, curiosity got the best of me and my mom–and since we’d just bought zucchini at the farmer’s market–we decided to give it a try. And we loved it! My daughter did, too. It really does taste like apple cobbler. You have to taste it to believe it. Get the recipe here.

Here’s a picture of our zucchini cobbler hot from the oven.

And here’s a photo moments before I took my first bite.

And don’t forget to serve it with a steamy cup of coffee. Delish!

Pig Racing and Other Fun at the Fauquier County Fair

For those of us who live in a rural area, one of the highlights of summer is attending the local county fair. The Fauquier County fair is a fun-filled, four-day event. This year’s festivities included pig racing, dairy cow and goat shows, a chicken parade, a 4H dog demonstration, a pizza eating contest, cake walks, watermelon seed spitting and pie eating contests, lawn mower and tractor pulls, corn shucking contests, rodeo shows, an apple pie contest, horse shows, and much more.

My daughter and I had a great time riding the amusement rides, watching the events, viewing the contest entries, and eating deliciously unhealthy fair food. Here are a few pictures of our fun-filled day.

For more information on the Fauquier County Fair and the upcoming Fall Harvest Fest on Labor Day weekend, visit the Fauquier County Fair website.

Bealeton Flying Circus

(Photo courtesy of the Bealeton Flying Circus.) This weekend the Bealeton Flying Circus hosted its annual hot air balloon show. Hot air balloons cannot fly in windy conditions so balloon activities typically take place in the early morning (7:00 – 9:00 am) and late afternoon (6:00 – 8:00 pm), when the air is calm. It’s a fun and colorful event the whole family can enjoy.

This year I was able to enjoy the evening show from the comfort of my deck (my dog, Piggy, alerted me to the event with some fierce barking at the balloons passing by my kitchen window–what a good boy!) The setting sun made photographing the show a bit tricky but I thought I’d share the best of the lot with you anyway. Note the spotter planes in all the shots. Apparently they are there for safety purposes, since every balloon had a spotter plane.

Hot air balloon rides last 1-2 hours and, the last time I checked, cost ~ $400.00. I’m way too chicken to take a ride, but my sister has been wanting to try it for the last several years. I’m more than happy to photograph her taking a hot air balloon ride from the safety of the ground. For more information on the Bealeton Flying Circus, its live airshows, annual hot air balloon festival, or hot air balloon rides, visit their website at Here are some shots I took.

You can even see the folks in the basket in this photo!

Note the orange glow from the fire….

And the last photo taken in the setting sun. I love small town life.

Purple Fairy in Watercolors

purple fairy in watercolor

My niece asked me to paint another fantasy illustration, so this one’s for you Jenny. This painting is based on a tutorial from “How to Draw and Paint Fairyland,” by Linda Ravenscoft. My palette consisted of alizarin crimson, opera rose, new gamboge, naples yellow, and raw umber from Winsor Newton; brilliant red violet and may green from Schmincke (I’m really loving this brand of paint); and jaune brilliant no. 2 from Holbein (this makes great skin tones).

Here’s a close up of her face (I like how you can see the texture of the paper in this shot):

And here’s a shot with the natural, late afternoon light in my studio (I like this one best):

Parrot Tulips in Watercolor

parrot tulips in watercolor

This painting is based on a tutorial from the book, “Tulips in Watercolor,” by Fiona Peart. I’m really loving the intensity of the colors in this painting. I only have two more paintings to go, and then I’ll have worked my way through the entire book. Watercolors on cold pressed Acquarello Artistico paper by Fabriano.

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