Category Archives: country living

Homage to a dead bird

Dead bird, wood thrush, watercolor, pen and ink, 10 x 14, Kit Miracle

There’s something about birds.

When I’m sitting on the patio in the evening, watching the night fall, listening to the sounds of life wind down, or in some cases, just change from day to night, I love to try to identify the birdsong.  Watch the various birds – robins, blue jays, wrens, the lovely mourning doves.  I love how the birds have adopted our territory as their territory.  We have so many kinds of birds.  Cardinals, goldfinches, bluebirds, owls,  even the dratted starlings in the gutters.

So the other night we found this lovely brown thrush on the ground.  Apparently he’d broken his neck on a window on the greenhouse.  So sad.  Although the cycles of life and death are a given here in the country, each little animal has a pull for me.

I decided to capture this bird in a memorial drawing, watercolor with pen and ink.  Taking the time to capture his tiny but strong feet.  Thinking of them clinging to a twig in the winter.  And admiring the bib of spotted feathers.  His long black beak.

Although his heart beats no more, he shall live on in this small painting.

That’s the wise thrush; he sings each song twice over, lest you should think he never could recapture the first fine careless rapture!

Robert Browning

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More spring flowers

Spring bouquet of azaleas and bridal veil bush, watercolor, pen and ink, 10 x 14, Kit Miracle

The flowers keep coming and I just can’t seem to paint them quickly enough.  The past week I’ve been working exclusively in watercolor with pen and ink. This allows me to loosely capture the beauty of the flowers but add detail with the pen and ink.

Red Azaleas, watercolor, pen and ink, 4.5 x 6.5, matted to 8 x 10, Kit Miracle

I always sketch the flower arrangement first, then add the watercolor.  When that is completely dried, I add the details with a Platinum pen and carbon ink cartridge.  Sometimes I still use the dip quill with India ink. I can even use a plastic eraser to remove some of the pencil lines without disturbing the painting.

Lavender Azaleas with Ruffled Edges, watercolor, pen and ink, 6.5 x 4.5, matted to 10 x 8, Kit Miracle

These paintings are usually done on quarter sheet watercolor paper, 140 pound, Arches or another quality paper.  They are 10 x 14 inches with a ½ inch border or I divide the paper into four sections.  The smaller paintings are matted in museum grade soft white mats of 8 x 10 inches with a foam core backing.

Blue Phlox, watercolor, pen and ink, 4.5 x 6.5, matted to 8 x 10, Kit Miracle

Flowers this week include a branch of dogwood, an arrangement of some lovely salmon-color azaleas with fronds of bridal veil.  Smaller paintings include Greek Valerian, Blue Phlox, more varieties of azaleas and whatever else I find blooming.  The season is often so short that I can’t capture everything I want to paint but I give it a good try.

Branch of Dogwood, watercolor, pen and ink, 10 x 14, Kit Miracle

Branch of dogwood flowers for painting

Spring flowers. This is a selection of flowers that I painted recently. I’ve picked up the little vases over the years at resale shops, and even our farm dump. Everything is useful.

View the details of these paintings on either of my Etsy shops.  KitMiracleArt or My90Acres.

Low carb pizza

Low carb pizza

If you’ve been following this blog for awhile, then you saw the recipe for the crusty artisan bread that I posted earlier.  My husband loves to make bread of all types, white, whole grain and multigrain.  Unfortunately, all this bread has consequences.  His doctor advised him last year to cut back on the carbs.  Drat!  No bread. No pizza.  Bah!

So I came up with this low carb version of pizza last year which is made from, yes, cauliflower.  Let me just preface this by saying, although we LOVE vegetables in this house, I doubt that a cauliflower has ever crossed our threshold since we’ve lived here…30+ years.  Blech.  A white vegetable that isn’t potatoes?  No way.

However, we are open-minded people so I did some research and this is what I came up with.  No, it does not taste like cauliflower…at all!  Yes, it does taste like yummy pizza.  If you’re watching your carbs, give this recipe a try.  You might like to make two crusts if you’re going to the trouble.  You’ll want to repeat this again.

Ingredients:

  • One large head of cauliflower
  • One egg
  • Goat cheese
  • Salt and pepper
  • Decorations for the actual pizza, your choice– your favorite sauce, herbs and spices, peppers, onions, olives, garlic, sausage, pepperoni, veggie crumbles, cheeses (Romano, mozzarella, etc.)

Steps:

  1. Preheat oven 425 degrees
  2. Cut up cauliflower into same size flourettes

    Cauliflower flourettes

  3. Add ½ c water, cover with plastic wrap with one side open to let out steam, and steam in microwave until medium soft, about 15 minutes. You may need to stir these every five minutes or so.  It shouldn’t be mushy but just al dente.
  4. Run through food processor until just riced, (not mashed). You may have to do this in batches.

    Steamed flourettes after ricing in food processor, about 20 seconds

  5. Place riced cauliflower in clean, dry kitchen towel, stir a bit to let cool, then squeeze ALL the water out that you can. The more you squeeze, the crustier your pizza crust will be.

    Riced, steamed cauliflower in clean, dry towel before squeezing

    Squeezing out moisture from the steamed, riced cauliflowe

    Riced, steamed cauliflower after squeezing moisture out.

  6. Add egg, goat cheese, salt and pepper and stir.
  7. Press onto parchment-lined pan. You want about ¼ inch with a little higher crust on the edges.

    Cauliflower Pizza crust, baked

  8. Bake 20-25 minutes or until browned on the edges.
  9. Decorate pizza as usual with your favorite toppings.
  10. Lower temp of oven to 375 and bake for another 20-25 minutes until it looks like a pizza.
  11. Cauliflower Pizza, final, baked.

There you go! You’ll be surprised that you can actually hold this like a piece of regular pizza. It does NOT taste like cauliflower.  Manga!

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.

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.

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.

Signs of spring

We are still several weeks away from the official beginning of spring, but the past few days have been unseasonably warm.  Mother Nature seems as eager as the gardeners to get on with the show.

First crocus. It seems as if it’s always the yellow ones which bloom first.

The first crocuses are blooming, always the yellow ones first.  They are sprinkled all over the property, courtesy of my kids and granddaughter.

Spring Beauties

Then the first spring beauties have made an appearance.  In a few more weeks, they will carpet the lawn with their dainty white and pink-striped blossoms.

Daffodils and other bulbs are poking up all over the place.  Fortunately, with so many varieties, their blooms are staggered over several weeks.

Finally, the rhododendron near the kitchen window is ready to pop.  These large blooms will be a joy to the eyes.

It is such a pleasure to walk around the property, spy on nature, and listen to the chorus of peepers down by the creek.  The warm days may not last but at least we’ve had a promise of spring coming soon.  The garlic is up.  The cold frame has been dug up and replanted with lettuce, spinach and kale.  I’m ready!

A yard full of spring beauties

Making do – old stuff

In this day of throwaway and disposables, sometimes I’m reminded of how precious the handmade and recycled objects of our lives can be.  This old house is over 135 years old.  The early homesteaders were very frugal and made the most of what they had.

Old sandstone stoop. See the chisel marks for the stone. The stoop was flipped over when it got worn so the bottom side shows more wear.

Here you can see the sandstone stoop for our back porch.  Although sandstone hardens with exposure to the air, eventually it will wear down.  In this area, worn out sandstone stoops are turned over to extend their lives.

Old sheet repair. Notice how finely this repair is made.

Here is a photo of an old sheet which received some very fine mending.  Would anyone do that today?  I doubt it.

Repaired window with old glazing.

This is a photo of a broken / cracked window.  Instead of having it replaced, a second sheet of glass, probably from another broken pane, was cemented to this one.

Handmade door closure on attic door.

The door to the upstairs attic of my studio has a hand-carved wooden lock and uses some kind of turned wood for a knob.

Sometimes living with the past makes one think more about the things we take for granted in our lives today. Next time you’re thinking of tossing something, give some consideration if it can be reused or recycled.

Lunar eclipse

Blue Moon, January 31, 2018 Early morning waiting for the eclipse.

The lunar eclipse begins in about an hour around here.  Check out this website which follows it live.  Also, you can enter your location to find out if/when it will begin in your area.  https://www.timeanddate.com/eclipse/lunar/2018-january-31 

Or just go outside and LOOK UP!  It’s a beautiful moon.

Jack Frost Visits

Jack Frost on my windowpane in the studio.

After a balmy winter holiday, the temperatures in the Midwest plummeted.  We recorded minus 4 degrees (F) this week.  Needless to say, I’m a wuss and am not spending much time outdoors.  However, even working in my studio has challenges.

As I have mentioned before, my studio is an old summer kitchen about 30 feet from the back door.  It was designed when cooking was done on wood-fired cook stoves (which it actually had when we moved here.)  This was to keep the heat out of the house in the summer.  You’ll find one of these buildings on many old farms in southern Indiana and throughout the Midwest and South.  I am lucky that ours is about 15 x 25’, which is pretty large for a summer kitchen.  In this case, the family and field hands actually ate in the building.  It is a perfect size for a studio.

Unfortunately, the whole purpose of the design was to keep the heat out of the house so they didn’t really care about insulating the building.  Thus, it’s very drafty.  Although I have a gas heater, unless I want to go broke, I keep it turned down.  This week I was wearing a hat, many layers of clothing, two pairs of socks (the cold comes up through the floor), and I was still chilly.

I snapped this photo of the beautiful patterns of the frost on the windowpanes.  It looks like giant feathers.  With all of our insulated windows and super-heated houses, window frost has become more and more uncommon.

The beauty of nature is all around us, even in the most unlikely places.

Since I was confined to studio painting, here are a couple of my recent works.  Plus, I tweaked the still life with red cabbage and artichokes that I posted on here a few weeks ago.  Artists are never quite satisfied with their finished work. Renoir was known to bring his paints to gallery exhibits even after his paintings were hung, just so he could make changes.  I’m not quite that bad but I might fiddle around with a painting which doesn’t quite suit me.

Here’s hoping that the weather is better where you are and that warmer days will be here soon.

Artist Still Life, oil on canvas board, 10 x 10, Kit Miracle

Down by the Creek, oil on canvas, 20 x 16, Kit Miracle

Red Cabbage and Artichoke, 18 x 24, oil on canvas, Kit Miracle. Still Life revised from previous version.