Violet Butterfly Watercolor

Phew, I hammered this artwork out in a single day.  It has been a long time since that has happened to work out well for me.  Last Saturday, since we didn’t make it to Minneapolis, I was at my in-laws’ house while Greta napped.  Loud hammering and nailing sounds were ringing through my house as the windows continued to be installed.  27 windows is no small feat!

I started with my taped off paper and a pencil sketch.

Next, I laid in the India ink on all the black parts.  India ink is perfect for areas that cannot bleed with the watercolor paint.

I closed my eyes for a few minutes while the ink dried and then began with the color.  I had a little more fun with this painting than the first.  So, it actually worked out well that Greta claimed the first butterfly painting.

Layers of watercolor interspersed with a few water, snack, and Olympic watching breaks and I was nearly finished by the time Greta awoke from her two hour nap.  During her post nap snack, I added the last few finishing touches.  My last task is to get this in the mail before next week, as my cousin’s little girl is due in March.

As always, prints and artwork are always for sale, please inquire by e-mail or through my Etsy shop, which is currently empty.  If you are interested in purchasing something you have seen on this blog, I will create a custom listing for you.  I also do custom commission pieces as well. 

Cat Constellation Watercolor + Winter, Windows, & Weekend

Cat Constellations, India ink, watercolor, and pen on paper, 9 x 12″, 2014.

Today we were supposed to be in Minneapolis for my cousin and sister’s baby shower, but the weather had other plans for us.

Due to a lovely storm that started as rain, turned to hail, and then became a very slushy blizzard, we stayed home.  The road reports north of Des Moines looked and sounded horrible and we decided to just not risk it.  Sadly, that means I can’t give Caroline her artwork today, but it also means I have more time for my cousin’s second artwork, the first having been hijacked by my daughter

I started with a simple watercolor wash for the background.  When it was dry, I added the pencil outline of the cats, railing, horizon line, and trees.

After filling in the pencil outlines with India ink, I added pencil outlines of April sky constellations.  These were detailed with gold ink and black pen for the constellation lines.

We will spend the rest of our weekend enjoying the view from our new windows – they were being installed on the hail day and through today and next week.

As always, prints and artwork are always for sale, please inquire by e-mail or through my Etsy shop, which is currently empty.  If you are interested in purchasing something you have seen on this blog, I will create a custom listing for you.  I also do custom commission pieces as well. 

Greta’s Butterfly Watercolor

Butterfly, watercolor on paper, 9×12″, 2014. 

This watercolor painting started off as a painting for another person having a baby.  Then, Greta discovered it and took it to her room so she could  hang it up.  She fell in love with it and said, “For my big girl room,” so many times that I caved and started another painting for the gift.  She is getting a big girl room soon, as we are moving her into the empty bedroom and turning her room into the nursery for her baby brother.  She is so excited for this change and this artwork just makes it all that more special for her.

 I started with taped off watercolor paper and a pencil sketch of a butterfly and flowers.

I used black India ink for all the black sections of the butterfly.  This way, I could use watercolor paint and watercolor pencils without fear of the black bleeding and smearing into the colors.

Lastly, I added color to the butterfly and flowers.  I used watercolor paints for the flowers and watercolor pencils for the wings of the butterfly.  My last step was to use gradations of a light blue-green for the background.

As always, prints and artwork are always for sale, please inquire by e-mail or through my Etsy shop, which is currently empty.  If you are interested in purchasing something you have seen on this blog, I will create a custom listing for you.  I also do custom commission pieces as well.  

Valentine’s Day 2014 – More BIG news!

Greta’s Valentine’s Day kicked off with a fun start at school.  She brought her crayons in to hand out to her friends.  She was so excited to have her first Valentine’s Day party – they made treat bags with stamps and traded Valentine’s.  Now my only challenge is to regulate the sugar consumption.

After an ultrasound appointment (yes, I know the sex of baby #2!), I was off to teach kindergarten students about making clay Olympic medals.  We used marker lids to create the rings of the Olympics.  They had so much fun, can’t wait to show you the end result after they are fired and decorated.  
Then, I had surprise flowers at work.  I didn’t open the card until I was home – hmmmm, who is Chandler?  Not sure.  Guess there is a twin to me somewhere out there who didn’t get her flowers from Chandler.  I called Hy-Vee, they were swamped, and said they’d look into it.  Meanwhile, the color and timing were a little eerie…

Greta and I made Valentine treats to surprise daddy when he got home.  Those are peanut butter M&M’s peeking out of those delicious oatmeal cookies.

One of Greta’s Valentine treats from the grandparents included small packs of sticky notes.  This girl and her sticky notes – she loves to creatively arrange them, write on them, and draw me pictures.  These are the mini modern artworks she made before dinner.  

Then, I moved on to tackling the job of sorting baby clothing while watching the Olympics.  These two large boxes and one large bag, contain most of the clothing that Greta has outgrown – newborn to 2T.  It is all being shipped off to Aunt Caroline who is expecting a girl.  So, Greta was right, we are having a boy!

Well, almost all of her clothing is going to Aunt Caroline.  Greta pulled a few of her favorites out to dress her doll.  

Lemon Chia Seed Blueberry Bread {dairy-free}

I made this delicious quick bread last Sunday during nap time, and it was gobbled up before work on Monday.  The chia seeds are a nice swap for butter and the typical poppy seeds.  The almond yogurt replaces the need for milk or sour cream, and the blueberries and lemon complement each other perfectly.  

Be sure to mix the 1 tablespoon of chia seeds with 1/2 cup of water in advance – at least 2 hours.  This gives the seeds time to do their magic and gel.  If you prefer to mix them in advance, just cover and store in the fridge.

The fresh blueberries and lemon flavor create a nice balance of sweet and tart.  I like to keep dried lemon peel around – I never know when I’ll need it and I am not always great about keeping fresh lemons in the house, as much as I adore lemons.

The batter is a lovely golden color.

This bread shapes nicely and looks no different than bread made with dairy.  You will, however, noticed that the bread is slightly denser and moister than quick bread made with dairy.  Do not under bake this bread – be sure to check with a knife or toothpick, even if your timer has run out.  Enjoy!

Lemon Chia Seed Blueberry Bread – makes 1 loaf

1. At least 2 hours prior to baking, combine 1/2 cup water with 1 tablespoon chia seeds.  Allow to stand at room temperature.  If preparing the day before, cover and place in refrigerator.

2. Grease with margarine, and lightly flour a loaf pan.  Preheat oven to 325º.  In a medium bowl combine: 1-1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour, 1/4 teaspoon baking powder, and 1/8 teaspoon baking soda and set aside.

3. In a medium mixing bowl or with mixing stand, beat together 1 cup sugar, prepared chia seed mixture, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, zest of 1 lemon OR 2 teaspoons dried lemon peel, and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla.  Add in 3 eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.  Scrape bowl frequently.  Alternately add flour mixture and 6 oz of almond yogurt to the chia mixture, beating on low speed after each addition, just till combined.  Scrape sides frequently.  Fold in 1 cup of fresh blueberries.  Pour batter into prepared pan.

4. Bake in a 325º oven for 60 to 75 minutes or until a knife or toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.  Cool on rack for 10 minutes.  Remove from pan and cool completely before slicing.

BIG news!

There have been some interesting developments around here lately.  Let’s see if you can add it all up.  
1. A large increase in the consumption of my favorite food on earth – Pad Thai. 
2. A rise in consumption of another favorite food – waffles.  (Hence the waffles recipes that have been on here not once, but twice!)  I told you I would explain those waffles, didn’t I? 
3. An increase in lazy evening couch time and less late nights.  
4. An uptick in my incidents of baking.  (My dad always had a theory about this…)
5. A sudden urgent surge in art projects. 
6. Despite finding out that we can now purchase one of my favorite beers (from Utah) on earth in Iowa

7. I am drinking these (fabulous) cranberry mocktails.  
What does this all mean?
It means Greta has some studying to do in the next 5 months or so.  Why you ask?
She’s delighted to say a brother or a sister is on the way!  She’s been repeatedly asking for a boy though.  This explains the drop in creative blog postings for a while this fall/winter.  I just didn’t have the energy for a while there.  
However, now I am feeling great and enjoying the second trimester burst of energy.  And what they say is true, the second one does appear much faster than the first.  Stay posted for an inevitable return of this blog towards all things mommy.  

Recycled Crayons {2014 Valentine’s Day Cards}

Greta and I recently raided my crayon stash for all the small nubs that are just too difficult to use for big and small hands alike.  These turned out so well – my next move is to raid the crayons in my classroom and make new crayons for my students to use.  No sense in throwing out useful crayons when re-purposed crayons are this easily attained.

I started with a fairly large bag of crayon nubs.  Make sure they are peeled and cut down to small chunks, especially if you are working with a funky mold.  I used a silicone mold that was originally intended to be used for ice cubes or candies.

 I grouped my crayons by warm, cool, and neutral colors.  Greta was especially helpful with the sorting – we had great conversations about the colors and where they belonged.  I used everyday craft scissors to cut some of the longer crayons down.

Once the mold is loaded up with crayons, bake in a preheated oven for 10 minutes at 325º.  I put my mold on a baking sheet to make the transfer of hot wax easier.  Allow the crayons to cool until completely hardened and set.  I put my hot crayons outside in this frigid Iowa weather and they were ready to be removed from the mold in no time.

Greta tested the finished crayons for me and was delighted – they were easy to hold, the O had a place for her finger, and best of all – she helped to make them.  

My last step was to create a simple Valentine for Greta to use at school.  I’ve been taking a class in the evenings on Adobe Illustrator – this was something I whipped up in the few minutes before class started last week.  I figured I would attach the crayons to the Valentine in a little bag.  If you want the PDF, check it out my Google Docs here.  The document is called valentine.PDF.

Banana Berry Breakfast Smoothie

I made one of these bad boys on Saturday morning – it was the perfect addition to my usual toast and peanut butter for breakfast.  The berry and banana flavors mixed with oats made it taste like a blueberry muffin in a cup.  

I’ve been using the single serving cups that came with our Ninja – they are too easy.  You just throw your ingredients into the cup, attach the blade, stick on the blender, blend for a perfect single serving, then remove and add the drinking lid.  When done, throw it in the dishwasher!
The three of us headed over to the Des Moines Art Center on Saturday morning for a 2-4 year olds art class.  It was snowing and we needed to get out of the house.  Greta loved the different methods of painting – brushes attached to long sticks, cars rolled in paint, tempera sticks, and stamping methods.  Of course, mommy was collecting ideas for her classroom as well.  

After the art center, we made a quick stop at La Mie Bakery for pastries, bread, and coffee.  Eric let me run in and pick out pastries…can you tell?  So much for the healthy smoothie and toast I had for breakfast earlier in the day.  

Banana Berry Breakfast Smoothie – makes 1 serving 
1. In a blender combine: 1 banana, 1 tablespoon chia seeds, 1/4 cup rolled oats, 1/4 cup frozen blueberries, 2-3 ice cubes, and 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk.  
2.  Blend until smooth.  Serve immediately.  

Butternut Squash & Chick Pea Soup with Quinoa Noodles

This soup rocked our weeknight meals this week.  The pureed butternut squash makes a fantastic flavorful base without being loaded up with dairy.  The celery and carrots complement the chick peas perfectly.  The only thing I might consider doing differently in the future, is adding actual chunks of butternut squash as well.

Surprisingly this soup was comprised of pantry items that I already had on hand.  I love to play soup roulette and make a soup based on already stocked items.

I have always loved the quinoa pasta as a twist in the normal pasta routine.  While my immediate family isn’t gluten-free, we do like to mix things up and stay out of food ruts.  This pasta will turn to mush if it is overcooked.  If you are not planning on eating all the soup at once, I would only add pasta into the individual serving bowls of soup.  This will prevent your soup from turning into an oatmeal consistency – which happened to my leftover container I took for lunch the following day.  

Butternut Squash & Chick Pea Soup with Quinoa Noodles

1. In a small sauce pan with 1 tablespoon olive oil, saute: 1/2 medium red onion, diced and 2 cloves minced garlic until soft.

2. In a slow cooker combine: 2 cups vegetable broth, 1 can chick peas, 1 can pureed butternut squash, 5 stalks sliced celery, 2 medium carrots peeled and sliced, 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, salt and pepper to taste.

3.  Cook on low for 5-6 hours or high for 3-4 hours.  Just before serving, cook 1-1/2 cups Quinoa pasta according to directions.  Add to soup, turn off heat and serve immediately.  Do NOT overcook quinoa pasta, they will disintegrate.