Monthly Archives: March 2018

Crusty Artisan Bread

Crusty Artisan Bread

It’s been a raw and unpredictable March with rain, wind, snow, what have you.  If you’re still stuck indoors, here is a VERY EASY and VERY GOOD bread recipe. My husband is the bread maker around here and has many favorites, but this one seems to be a hit with everyone.

Don’t be afraid.  Just do it!  You don’t even have to touch the dough or knead it.  Perfect crusty artisan bread.

Ingredients

  • 5 cups of flour
  • 2 1/2 cups of water
  • 2 teaspoons of salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons of dry yeast

Day 1

Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and stir to incorporate.  Cover well with plastic wrap.  Let sit out on the counter overnight (12-18 hours).

Bread in enamel pan

Day 2

You will need an enamel roaster pan with lid.  This should be small size.  The old speckled kind that your grandma used to have will be fine. (Our pan is elongated but a round one works fine, too.)

  • Put the roaster pan and lid into a cold oven.
  • Turn on the heat to 450 degrees
  • When the oven reaches 450 degrees, take out the pan (carefully) and sprinkle with corn meal. (No grease or oil.)
  • Pour the bread mixture into the hot pan, replace lid and bake for 30 minutes
  • Remove the lid and bake another 20 minutes
  • The bread should tip out of the pan easily. It will be crusty on the outside and moist on the inside.

You may add other ingredients when assembling on day 1, such as, dried herbs.

That’s it!  Serve with a pot of homemade soup.  Your friends and family will think you’re a genius.

Advertisements

Original art makes your house a home

Or…ten tips on decorating with art

I am astounded when I walk into someone’s house and they have nothing on their walls! What?!?  It’s like watching one of those home improvement shows and the final reveal shows nothing personal at all; just “wall art” that can be picked up at any decorating store.

Your home is your sanctuary.  It’s where you go to be you.  To be with your family.  If it doesn’t reflect who you are, then who are you?

Are you bohemian or modern?  Are you zen or kitschy?  Maybe you feel most comfortable with Swedish Modern or French Provencial.  Who are you?

Art adds so much to our lives but so many people are afraid to make a choice.  They’re afraid to make a mistake.  Afraid to put a hole in the wall to hang a painting.

So here are a few tips I suggest for choosing art for your home.  Some but not all will ring a bell with you.

  1. Choose the largest piece you can afford and make it a focal point.  Make the colors of your decorating scheme around the painting if you wish.  (But it does not have to match the sofa!)
  2. Do you have a theme in mind? Maybe you collect bird or flower-related items? Landscapes of Nova Scotia?  All pink or red or orange works? Perhaps you just enjoy modern abstract.  Whatever floats your boat, do it.
  3. Group items. Maybe you don’t have that large focal painting, but you can make a focal area by grouping artwork.  They don’t have to be framed all alike, or maybe framed at all.  That’s okay.
  4. Don’t forget bookshelves and sideboards. You can tuck small paintings or artwork into unexpected corners.
  5. Change out your artwork. You don’t have to keep the same pieces up all the time. You can switch them around or change them out as your mood or the seasons dictate.
  6. Avoid too much matchy matchy. Maybe you like Norman Rockwell prints but do you need twelve of them?  Just saying.
  7. How is your family and love for them represented? Do you have a framed painting of a child’s masterpiece?  Try it.  You’ll like it.
  8. Buy what you love. So what if the art you love isn’t currently in vogue.  It’s your living space.  You can have what you want.
  9. Let your art collection grow and go with you. When you move to a new place, hanging your own personal touches will make it feel like home very quickly.
  10. Make your home a retreat. This is the place you can come to kick back and be yourself.

Art makes a house a home.

First Day of Spring 2018

After 80 degree days in February (very unusual) and just 60s yesterday, we experienced a surprise snowstorm today.  Heavy, wet snow.  Very beautiful but most of us are tired of winter.  What happened to welcoming Spring and its warm, sunny days.

These are a few shots of the snow.  Actually, this doesn’t seem to hurt the daffodils but I’d rather see their golden heads in the yard than this white stuff.

And a few more small daffodil paintings.  I just can’t seem to help myself but I might try some watercolor paintings tomorrow.

Daffodils and old houses

Daffodils-3-1000

Daffodil bouquet in silver pitcher, 10 x 10, acrylic on canvas panel, Kit Miracle

There’s something about old houses in the country that seem to showcase mature gardens, old lilacs and apple trees, meandering forsythia bushes, and banks of daffodils.  At least that is true for this old homestead.  The first few years we lived here, every season brought surprises.  Pawpaws and persimmons, hickory nuts and walnuts, even hazelnut bushes.  And flowers.  Old varieties that don’t appear in any catalog.  You can  spot old farms long after the houses are gone by the daffodils that persist and show their colors each spring.

Our yard is blessed with many varieties of daffodils.  I love their nodding yellow heads in the warm spring breezes.  The largest patch near the woodshed is always the first to come out, sometimes even through a late snow.  Then there are the doubles that seem to “walk” towards the creek a little bit more each year.  And another variety with two colors.  Some large, some small.

This week I’ve been picking bouquets for the house and the studio.  Oh, the joy of the season!  But the season won’t last for long so I’ve been in a painting frenzy with a different spring painting each day.

The Demise of Art Supply Stores and Bookstores

Just a small part of my secret addiction.

Two of my favorite hangouts when I go shopping are bookstores and art supply stores.  For some reason, these marvelous emporiums of possibilities grab me and hold on until I manage to escape some hours later.  Usually lighter of wallet, too.

Last week I made a foray to the “city” of Evansville and, as usual, stopped by Dick Blick’s art supply store.  I had my list in hand, had checked out online prices, and was prepared to spend some money.  I milled around a bit, filling my basket with some “necessary” studio items, and proceeded to the checkout.  The clerk couldn’t tell me if the in-store prices matched the online ones or not. What the heck.  I was there already so I checked out anyway.  It seemed like a lot but when I got home and checked the online prices, they were the same.  That’s good for my budget.

And I’m afraid that I do the same thing at bookstores.  Spend hours perusing my favorite sections, surreptitiously check prices with Amazon and Bookfinder, and see if the book I desire is the latest edition.  It’s just so easy so shop from home and have my heart’s desire delivered to my doorstep.

But the past several years, I’ve made a concerted effort to actually buy something in these stores, even if the price is a little more.  I think we need to support our local merchants for more than just a cappuccino and to read magazines for free.  Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be enough.

Yesterday I received an e-mail notification that Dick Blick’s in Evansville will be closing later this month.  I am so sad.  This was one of my favorite stops every time I went down there.  Shopping online just doesn’t supply the same adrenaline rush of actually fondling new pens and paints, checking out new authors, just looking around to see what is available.

Over the past several years I’ve seen Border’s flagship bookstore in Ann Arbor bite the dust.  As well as Hawley-Cooke in Louisville.  These stores had knowledgeable staff, enormous selections, and were just comforting places to hang out.

Lee’s Art Shop in New York closed its door last year.  Dang, that is where I bought my Lamy fountain pen (in dayglow green).  And the awesome Rizolli’s Bookstore in upper Midtown was a store right out of casting central – beautiful carved stone exterior, well-worn wood inside, nooks and crannies to find some amazing tome.

Sigh.  I know.  Things change. And we’re all guilty of bottom price shopping.  But where are people going to shop, to hang out, to fondle the plants at the nursery or the special pens and crayons at the art store? To find out what is new and amazing?  Are we all going to sit in our isolated armchairs and just punch buttons to order things?  It is fantastic to be able to find that something special online but it doesn’t quite replace the in-person experience of ogling something new in person. It’s so sad but I await to see what’s next.

What are your thoughts?  Have any of your favorite stores closed?

When is a painting finished?

Grand Canyon from the South Rim. Cloud shadows on the rocks. Painted in impressionistic style in acrylic, 20 x 20. Kit Miracle

Sometimes when I’m working on a painting, it just seems to paint itself.  I have a clear vision of what I want and it all comes together.

Other times, not.  I may think I’m finished, then when I go back into the studio, I see a glaring mistake.  Or something I was attempting didn’t quite turn out the way I wanted.

This is a painting of the Grand Canyon from the South Rim.  I was particularly attracted to the play of the cloud shadows across the scene.  The Canyon has such beautiful colors which change constantly throughout the day and the seasons, that it’s difficult to catch just the right time and color.  Sometimes I get some part of the painting which becomes “too precious”, meaning that I like it and tend to paint around it, but it throws off the rest of the composition.

This particular painting was created with the limited palette that I mentioned in my last post but took me far longer than some of my other recent paintings.  In fact, I painted some other paintings and then came back to this one.  Still not sure it’s finished.  What are your thoughts?

Painting with A Limited Palette

Abiquiqui, Georgia O’Keeffe’s home, Ghost Ranch, New Mexico, acrylic on canvas panel, 12 x 16, Kit Miracle

How many colors do you actually need on your palette to create a painting?

In truth, you probably need far less than you think. Some time ago, I marveled at a young artist who bragged about using 37 different colors.  My first thought then, and still, is, “Don’t you know how to mix colors?”  Maybe he does now.

My current color palette consists of six colors plus white.  This isn’t a hard and fast rule because I’m a sucker for a new color just like anyone else.  But this seems to work for me.

Acrylic palette currently in use

The hues that I currently use are:

  • Titanium White
  • Cobalt Blue
  • Cerulean Blue
  • Prism Violet
  • Quinacridone Magenta
  • Cadmium Red Medium
  • Cadmium Yellow Medium

I seemed to have weaned myself off of Burnt Sienna, Raw Umber and Sap Green.  But really, this is enough.

I like bright colors and can mix pretty much anything from this small group.  It also makes it very easy to transport for plein air painting rather than dragging along a whole sackful of paint tubes.

The paints displayed are all acrylics.  I’m leaning toward heavy body (thicker paint) and plan to replace the next selections with them.  When I initially tried acrylics, I wasn’t too pleased with the quick drying properties and the fact that I couldn’t “sculpt” the paintings.  However, I have adjusted my working procedures.  Textures are easily obtained if one can wait just a little while before applying new layers.

Acrylic palette in use. Disposable plate.

As you can see, I’m using disposable plates for my palette.  (I hate to clean palettes!)  I can spritz them with water and cover them up for the night.  It works for me.

And cleaning brushes used for acrylics is a must.  Immediately.  They do dry quickly and you don’t want crusty brushes the next day.

So, this is the color palette that I’m using these days.  This may change.  What do you use?

Abiquiqui – Framed, Georgia O’Keeffe’s home, New Mexico, 12 x 16, acrylic on canvas panel, Kit Miracle

By the way, one is not allowed to take photos inside Georgia O’Keeffe’s house and studio.  After touring the home, I had to drive back just to take these photos from the outside.  Love the adobe buildings and brilliant blue sky.

Random Thoughts on Saturday Night

Fire pit on Saturday Night

Random thoughts on Saturday Night

So I’m sitting outside by the fire pit on Saturday night thinking about this and that.  Cedar wood smells great in general but I smell like a smoked weenie.  Lovely.

I love listening to the sounds at night.  Earlier it was the yipping of coyotes in the big woods.  Then the hounds at the farm over the hill.  Then another hound chimed in.  And the sound of a distant train. My dog decided to add to the chorus. The temperature has dropped so the peepers have stopped.

Watching the kazillions of stars welcome the big moon. And then two planes crossing paths high in the sky.  I could just barely hear them go past.  This is a very rural county.  It boasts not having a single stop light so when it is dark out here, it is dark! I wish I had that app on my phone that identifies all the stars and constellations and satellites.

My thoughts drifted back to last weekend when we were being deluged with eight inches of rain.  The rivers here in southern Indiana are still swollen.

But Monday was sunny and warm.  I volunteered to help out with a school program at the arts center.  As I sat there enjoying the show, I thought how great it is that performers can perform and children can enjoy such programs.  What a wonderful world.

Tuesday was an even more gorgeous day.  My husband and I drove over to Huber winery for a tour, tasting and lunch, courtesy of our youngest son for an anniversary present.  It was a lovely day.  Can’t say much for Google Maps whose directions were sketchy at best. Oh, well, tour the countryside.

Wednesday was a bit rainy.  Indoor activities, shopping in town, and a meeting. Oh, and planted peas.  Ever hopeful for spring.

Thursday, gusty winds and some rain squalls.  I tore down some fencing from the old chicken coop.  It was rusted and entwined with vines.  My eldest son is building a new coop on his place.  At first I was just planning to cut the rusty wire but then I decided to see if I could pull the metal posts.  These are damn heavy!  But with all the rain the ground was soft. I started to rock them back and forth, then pulled one.  Then another.  Constantly checking the trees above me to see if the gusty wind was going to drop a branch on me. The more I worked on the posts, the madder I got.  Finally, I got all the posts pulled out.  And the sun came out.  A feeling of accomplishment; man (or woman) against nature.

Friday I spent preparing for my son and his girlfriend who were visiting for the weekend.  Then lunch with friends.  And some time at the library using the free wifi and researching.  I’m planning on redesigning my website.  Not really looking forward to that but it’s time.

Picked up my granddaughter after school.  So sad that she’s moving out of state and I won’t see her for awhile. She’s such a sweet and creative child and I have had so much fun with her.  We will stay in touch via Skype and the phone.  And she’ll be back for the summer.

All the while, spring is sneaking up on us.  The daffodils and other flowers are coming out.  The grass is greening.  I manage to paint several hours a day.

So, that’s a week in my life in the country.  Random thoughts.  Be grateful for small things.  Enjoy.