Personal Eye Candy

.....otherwise known as my artistic inspiration.

As an artist of mostly commissioned pieces, it is often difficult to transition from honing in on the inspiration of others to my own personal inspiration. I am the kind of artist that has "writer's block" when it comes to creating on my own. I often end up painting the same objects and end up with them in still life paintings. So maybe I'm not blocked as much as obsessed.

I love my coffee time and relish in a "favorite mug" or my collection of Italian coffee pots (called Mocha Pots) that are often a staple in the Italian home. I have a couple of white cream pitches that I claimed after they were rejected by another. I don't use my cream pitchers very often, they are saved for special guests, but I love the shape of a small cream pitcher...petite little pieces of functional art.

I love * love * LOVE * functional art. A shapely cup that fits snugly in my small hands with a well placed thumb rest is a piece created for me by a friend and local potter. (I intend to feature her work very soon.) I also have another piece from her that is the water pitcher that I fill my coffee pot with; no other container will do. It is the ritual of my coffee time to include these loved pieces and I am certain that it is why they often end up in doodles, drawings, paintings, and other artistic creations of mine.
I love drawing cups, mugs, coffee pots, creamers, and accouterments to the
event of "coffee time" in general.

I chide myself often for being mundane and boring in this aspect of my creativity but it is what I enjoy. So I will likely keep creating art with these items in mind.
In my defense....

I heard only this past week that there is an acclaimed artist nearby that is obsessed with painting cows.
Seriously, cows!
She paints them over and over and people love it. Probably because they kind of "liked" cows but then saw her love of cow reflected in her paintings and then loved it too!

I think I may be in love with the coffee pot.

Not the modern glass and plastic version of a drip pot that plugs into the wall and automatically spits out watered down drips of colored water.

They are often just the uninspired holders of flavored water that inject
caffeine into the masses.

No, I am talking about the beautifully shaped table and stove top versions, that make coffee even when the electricity goes out. The pot that encourages time to slow down to enjoy the company of friends and family. I love the differences between coffee pots in the international community of coffee lovers; American, French, Bosnian, Turkish, Dutch, and Italian versions all have a distinct touch that makes the pot their own. The interior mechanics are mostly the same for the most part but the exterior is where artistic liberties can be taken. I have seen all metal, a combination of metal & glass or even metal & ceramic, painted, unpainted, rubbed, etched, and even cast. They are all gorgeous and functional eye candy that inspires this artist.
What gives you inspiration?


Vintage Photo Fun

How beautiful and elegant are old photos.
Wonderful finds especially if they are family members that you know personally.

Meet my Nonna, these are some beautiful photos of her in her teens and 20s. These two photos were both taken in Italy and show the elegance of Italian style and grace.

The photographs themselves are beautiful on heavy paper and although they show signs of age how can one not love looking at them. The beautiful dresses, the innocence of a bow in the hair then later the exotic addition of feathers for the wedding dress. A gorgeous presentation on both even the stamp of the photographer screams sophistication of the times.

I love old photographs and love playing around with them. I would never dare to damage the actual photograph, it stays in the condition in which it is found. The modern age allows us to copy and alter things without hurting the original and I love Photoshop for playing around with this media. Think of how one can incorporate a theme or style into these beautiful portraits.

I played around just a little bit today, adding deco swirls and a bit of color to my Nonna's photos. I had a lot of fun and can use the changed photo files to create lovely gifts that online printing companies offer. From tapestries to coffee mugs, these photos can be used to create memorable keepsakes to give to loved ones.

Even if you rescue an old photo of a complete stranger, the vintage shots give so much to designing something unique.

The best places to find this photos are antique malls. Pay attention to the bins and boxes sometimes left on floors, they often have piles of old post cards and photos. Sometimes, picking up old Bibles will reveal photographic treasures, mostly of children and formal events. Do not be discouraged if they are torn or faded, they are still usable and can be nice backdrops for writing. Add some flair and you have beautiful product tags.

Be creative with your beautiful finds and remember that just because it fell out of an old photo album that you may have found in the bottom of an old chest, it doesn't have to stay hidden there.

Go ahead and pull out those old photo albums & see what kind of beautiful that you can create!


Lamp ReVamp

I needed something for Garden Girly's bedside table and this was just the find! On my frequent trips to my routine thrift stops I found this precious Art Nouveau knock off on the top shelf. It a typical color of dull metal that would have probably been paired with a stained glass shade and set atop an end table in a period decorated living room.

It was getting a new life in a little girl's room and needed to lighten up a bit. Here is the lovely end result for her little bed side table.

This little darling started out in the spray box and got a bit of spring green paint which turned it from a serious little lamp to a fun and fresh piece.
The details are perfect for a Garden Girly's garden style room.
Adding a bit of antiquing technique to the base lets the details pop showing the lily pad and budding flora.
It is darling however still needs a shade.
There was no way to find a matching shade, it was an odd shape and the missing shade was, no doubt, one of a kind.
A stained glass shade with heavy leading would have been too much for the little side table.
The option of a wire framed crochet shade seemed like a perfect solution.
From spray box to finished lamp was less than a few hours, most was spent working on the crochet shade.

  • Project cost less than $5
  • Find a lamp with a shape that you love.
  • Find a spray paint the works with the type of material that suits the part of the lamp that will be painted.
  • Prep it properly taping off cords and essential electrical areas that might be damaged by the paint.
  • Find a snazzy shade and give it a place of honor in your home.

New lighting is very expensive but for a fraction of the cost, you can have something gorgeous that will coordinate perfectly.


Daily Bread

Low carb diets appall me!

The whole idea of omitting bread from one's diet is not something in which I would ever willingly take part. I would give up a lot of things before that, things that I love.

I would give up chocolate.
I would give up soda.
I would give up meat.

I might even give up COFFEE before I would ever consider giving up bread.

Don't get me wrong, I am not talking about that nasty long 2lb loaf that you get in a long plastic bags on the bread isle of the super store. I wouldn't have to give that up, I refuse to eat it. I am talking about the hot out of the oven ARTISAN loaf; made with flour, water, sugar, salt, oil, yeast, and love.

Making bread is easy. It takes a bit of trial and error but don't become discouraged because the list of ingredients for a basic loaf of Italian white bread are those that I listed above. To tell you the truth, most breads are a slight variation of those ingredients....then add patience while experimenting with additional ingredients.

I learned the proper consistency of dough by watching my Nonna make bread on her kitchen counter. She simply dropped a pile of flour on the counter sprinkled the salt and sugar in the flour and mixed it together. After mixing the dry ingredients, then a well was made in the center and the olive oil went in followed slowly by the mixture of warm water and yeast. Her hands constantly working the flour into the well making a sticky mess of her fingers
until the entire pile of flour was worked into a ball. Continuing the kneading made for a nice tight ball and the dough would have a glossy sheen and slight spring to the touch. Left on the table to rise, the dough would be then covered with layers of folded table cloths. At some point afterwards, the dough would be punched down but since I was often off playing somewhere, I would miss this part. I was always back inside sitting on the kitchen stool right about the time that the timer would "ding" always waiting patiently to butter my steaming hot end-cut of that delicious loaf. It was always perfect!

Sometimes that dough was a loaf of bread and sometimes it became other things both sweet and savory. How wonderful is the basic bread dough recipe that it can feed one so diversely!

I mentioned in my last blog that I added leftover oatmeal to my last batch of bread and it was heavily grained with bits of nuts and cranberries that I had added to the oatmeal for toppings and slightly sweetened from the honey. It is a favorite with PB&J or as cinnamon toast.

Yet another batch of the basic dough became the crust for some tasty pizzas. By adding a couple of handfuls of spinach and chopped garlic, I was able to add some flavor AND extra veggies to the menu. One pizza got the honor of being topped with buffalo chicken while the other hosted spinach, tapenade, and bleu cheese. A very tasty combo and based on simple ingredients.

My recipe is general and measurements are not finite but I can share with you the basic method to my madness and maybe you can join in the fun. You will have to adjust the recipe to suit you and then you will have your very own family recipe to teach to pass along too.

Basic Artisan White Bread
  • 4 c. Flour
  • 1 tb. Sugar
  • 1 tb. Salt
  • 1/8 c. Olive Oil
  • 1-1/2 c. Warm Water w/
  • 2 tb. Yeast
  • 400 degree oven for about 25 min for small hand sized loaves.
Golden Brown is the Look that You Want....

You can follow my Nonna's method or just throw it into a mixer or bread maker of your choice and see what comes of it. Remember that this is just the basics and you can make it your own with a simple tweak here and there.

Happy Kneading!


Cold Days ~ Warm Tummies

The winter weather is the perfect time to sit around with a cup of coffee, hugging it close to my body soaking up the warmth. I generally sit down right after the kids get off to school and savor at least one cup of coffee. But sometimes, there just isn't a lot of time to relish in the warmth so an alternative is to warm one's self from the inside out and that is best achieved by hot cereal. I am not a cold cereal fan and could go the rest of my life without eating a bowl of cold cereal. I would not miss it a bit.

However, I love hot cereal.

Sweet or savory, the warmth of hot cereal can encompass you for hours and makes going out into the winter cold a lot less bitter.

I am not one to stick with oatmeal and with such a wonderful variety why would one want to? I love the more substantial feel of eating the heavier steel cut oats, or changing up the white grits to yellow grits or even mix the types of grains. The neat thing is that a little goes a long way and you can top them with just about anything from fruit and nuts to cheese and bacon.

The neat thing about the heavier cereals is that you can put them in a crock-pot and have them hot and ready for you in the morning when you wake up.

It can be simple with just a bit of honey......or add a bit of spice and toasted nuts! You are getting a healthy and filling breakfast with just a little effort. Another neat thing is by making a little extra, you can set it aside for later and make a hearty bread that tastes great and is full of whole grains, nuts, and maybe even that fruit you may have added (cranberries are perfect for this).

All you need to do is add the leftover hot cereal to your basic bread recipe but don't forget to reduce your water a bit to allow for the moisture that is already in the hot cereal.

Have a warm winter day from the inside out!


Happy Hunting

It's been awhile since I have had the time or inclination to hit the antique and thrift shops but lately, the urge has returned. I have finally decided to move into the house that I have been living in for about 3 years now. We moved in although the house is not quite finished and in the beginning I felt that in order to unpack everything, it had to be....finished. Except for a few antique pieces that I acquired when I first got married, the rest of my furniture had a "suitable for little kids" or "college appropriate" feel. That has put me on a mission for "grown-up" furniture.

I have been frequenting a bevy of antique and consignment shops, and a couple of decent thrift stores in my area of daily travel. Yesterday I was giddy when I saw a beautiful dresser marked at $3.99! It's a wood dresser with dovetail joints and gorgeous hardware. I do have to give a bit of TLC to one of the drawers but otherwise, it's definitely a WIN!

Satisfied with my find for the day, the rain was coming down quite steadily so I decided to call it quits. However, while I loaded my find into the van, I looked over and saw a sad little rocking chair getting drenched and begging me to save it. The owner of the shop insisted it was trash and that I didn't want it. Oh, but I did....so much.
It needs a lot more TLC than the dresser but it is going to be a delight to fix up this little darling, don't you think? And yes, your eyes do not deceive, it folds! Keep an eye on the blog because when these little cuties get their makeover, I will do a little photo shoot.

By the way, this little chair cost me a whole $1.08........definitely happy hunting for me this week.

Happy Hunting Tips
  • Seek out shops that fall in your regular driving routine.
  • Stop by at least once a week.
  • Ask what day they put out new items and go early.
  • Look around the back and side of buildings for hidden treasures.
  • Don't be afraid to ask for what you want.


Snow ~ Clean Canvas

Last week was a bit of a treat and surprise. We had our second snow of the season. The first snow was a lovely Christmas morning gift and the second was just in time for my birthday. This area of Tennessee is already a very picturesque place but add the rare covering of snow and it becomes simply storybook!

Not all places around here are always a gorgeous postcard though. Case in point, my house....it is darling sitting atop the snow covered with a backdrop of winter clad trees. It does look "picture postcard perfect", right?It's deceiving! Under all of that snow is a mound of anthills and polk salad waiting to accost me at first light of spring. That entire hill is a gardener's nightmare. Thank goodness that I am not the gardening primary. That battle belongs to my dear Hubby while I hold back on the porch simply shaking my head in dismay. Most often I look at the pile of clay and chert then run back inside where I often retreat to gorgeous gardening magazines while my poor husband pounds the ground with shovel and hoe with only the encouragement of my 9 year old "Garden Girly".

However, seeing the house in this light gave me hope. As an artist, the snow was like a
fresh, white canvas waiting for my brush and without the visual clutter, a vision was born. I can see it now, the waterfall of phlox, a weeping cherry, a pretty bench, and possibly a pond. Standing at the bottom of the hill and looking up at my house sitting atop that clean slate gave me a sense of contentment. I can do this if I just approach it like I do my paintings and designs. It's not an acre of weeds, it's an acre of canvas! It will just take awhile to "paint". After all, I don't have to rush this painting to be finished. A little bit at a time and maybe one day, my spring photo will be as gorgeous as my snow photo. I think I will make it a point to enjoy the journey.


Itty Bitty Pasta

Simple & Satisfying
Seriously, it's 3 ingredients - tiny pasta (pastina), bouillon, and butter. Ok, it has water too so that is actually 4 ingredients altogether. When I was a little girl, a visit to Nonna's house always meant that the special pink bowl would come out of the cupboard and that it would be time for pastina. It was something I always looked forward to and there was always room for one little bowl. It is still the ultimate comfort food and even now, my children head to Nonna's knowing that there is always room for pastina.

My favorite shape is the star but it has become harder to find...an all time favorite with the kids tend to be the alphabets. The key is to find one that you like to use. Ronzoni and Barilla both have their versions. Simply half a cup of pastina to 1 cup of boiling water, add one bouillon cube (we like chicken) then simply cook til tender. It takes about 10 minutes - tops! Add a bit of butter to the top and eat. Sometimes, we like to add a bit of Parmesan or Romano cheese.

Kids love this and so do adults.
Buon appetito!

Dear Diary...

When I think of a blog, I really just think of that little blue book with a small lock that I never really committed my time to as I always said that I would. It has more pages left empty than full and some pages have not more than 3 words gracing the page. It's sad that I never felt inclined to write things down because I had a rambling of ideas and events that shaped who I am today. A few entries of uninspired updates never exposed the mind that was constantly on fast forward and now 20+ years later, I wish I could recall the details.

I feel bad about that empty little book in the basement and feel the need to apologize.

Dear Diary,
I'm so sorry that I neglected you and now so many years later, your pages sit empty and lonely. I never understood the concept of writing things down to hide them under a mattress and even still, it makes no sense to me. I doubt that even now, I would be able to commit to a daily relationship of sharing my thoughts, only to put them under lock and key. I really don't have anything so scandalous that it would be worth hiding a key. If I had to do it over again, I would write my ideas, my poem, my doodles and sketches would belong to you. I would be more kind. I hope that you forgive me and now I wonder what will become of you. Shall you sit in the basement for many more years or will something better be waiting in your future? I have a plan for your empty pages and hope that you will, one day, feel loved.

P.S. My mindless wanderings will no long be confined behind a little lock but held accountable by this more modern version.